Quick: describe Superman’s origin story as briefly as you can. Where he came from and what his deal is.
Did you do it? Great. If your description included the words “alien”, “Krypton”, or “American way”, I can almost guarantee you got the basic gist of it correct. If you said “I don’t know” then congratulations, you don’t exist.
I mean, am I wrong? Is there anyone who doesn’t know the very basics? If so, here they are:
That’s Superman tossing off his entire origin in a thought bubble. Not much more to it than that. But if you really hate reading…
My point is this: I challenge you to find any potential moviegoer who was unaware of the above premise, and yet the new Superman reboot, reportedly called Man of Steel, will be yet ANOTHER origin story.
I’ve mentioned the origin problem of superhero movies on the podcast before, and written about it in one of my first articles for the site, my review of The Spirit. The issue is that these films feel the need to give you a detailed walkthrough of the hero’s early years, partially because it establishes their character motivation, and partially because the fact that Daredevil was blinded as a child, or that Plastic Man used to hate broccoli until he tried it in olive oil may be vital to the plot. That’s all well and good, and I love a well-told origin. The problem comes in when the origin overtakes a huge chunk of the movie, eating up precious time that could be spent on the actual story.
Now, I’m not talking about a film like Batman Begins which is really and truly ABOUT the origin. In that case, the origin itself is the entire story. I’m talking about movies that could have been tighter and more focused if they weren’t saddled with all that setup up front.
And even if you yourself are from another planet and have somehow avoided hearing Superman’s backstory. Guess what? It doesn’t matter that much. You can still enjoy a Superman movie.
You don’t need to spend thirty minutes watching Superman grow up on a farm just to establish his homespun American ideals. Maybe instead, Superman is flying over Kansas and offers to help the locals with some superspeed harvesting, after which he reminisces for a second about his own cornfed upbringing. You don’t need to actually see Krypton explode to get across that he feels alone on Earth. Maybe he’s invited over to Lois’s parents’ house for dinner and is reminded both of his own adopted parents and the biological ones he never knew. Two scenes and a few lines of artful dialog. Less than ten minutes of screen time where you’re also moving other plot elements forward instead of wasting time hashing out stuff we already know.
I just realized that I don’t even know if Lois’s parents are still alive in the comics. And I don’t really care. It’s nice trivia when you’ve got the time for it, but it’s not that relevant to understanding and enjoying the character.
So please, Man of Steel, I know Chris Nolan and David Goyer are involved, so I don’t want to tell you what to do. But please. Please can you spare us another origin story?
I was at the movie theater this weekend and saw this…
It’s an ad for X-Men: First Class and it isn’t new. It’s been standing there for more than a month, but its importance only struck me recently.
Blade was probably the true beginning of the modern resurgence of superhero movies, but for me, the most important was X-Men in 2000. As a longtime comic fan, it seemed crazy to believe that Hollywood was not only capable of taking superheroes seriously (Singer’s movie was about social equality as much as guys who can shoot lasers from their eyes), but that they could manage to turn a profit in the process. In other words, the people who scoffed at spandex and capes went to see the movie too. The casting of Patrick Stewart, literally everyone’s first choice for Professor X, put the icing on the cake, proving that those involved were fans themselves.
After X-Men, came another Blade, Spider-Man (finally!), Daredevil, an even better X-Men, Hulk, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy, Punisher, an even better Spider-Man, Catwoman, yet another Blade, Elektra, Fantastic Four, and the most well regarded of the lot, Batman Begins. This was all in the first five years of what was then still being called a fad, even by me.
Certainly these are not all excellent films. I had forgotten Elektra even came out. But to a lot of fans it was important that they simply existed and be just good enough to prevent the critics from saying “Well, that’s it for superhero movies! Trend’s over! Pack it up, Hollywood, this cash cow is dry.” Because then the party would end and we’d all go back to the universe we came from, where superheroes are silly. Neither profitable nor respectable enough for theaters.
We endured Singer’s yawnable Superman reboot, as well as the film it spawned through neglect, the bitterly disappointing third entry in the X-Men trilogy. We cringed nervously at Ghost Rider and hoped Nicolas Cage would shoulder most of the blame. We had high hopes for the Fantastic Four sequel. It looked better than the first one. And it was. Though not by much.
We pretended Spider-Man 3 was “fun”. Then we saw Iron Man and remembered what fun actually meant. There was another Incredible Hulk for some reason, but that was okay because there was another Batman too. A dark and moody (as well as long and preachy) tale of the Dark Knight we knew from the comics. Re-imagined for the screen, but only by degrees. The tone, the themes, and most importantly the characters that made Batman great were present. And right. And the rest of the world liked it too.
There were others, of course. Niche ones like Watchmen and Kick-Ass. Flat-out imitators like Sky High and Zoom. Blatant cash grabs like My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Superhero Movie. But the point is this: It’s been over a decade since X-Men was released. And amazingly, we are still here.
I just paid good money to see a movie about Thor (hear my thoughts on this Wednesday’s podcast!) Not the regular old Norse god, I mean Marvel Comics’ Thor. What’s more, Sam Jackson shows up as Nick Fury, and there’s a three-line cameo by an Academy Award Nominee playing Hawkeye. GODDAMN HAWKEYE. The high school version of me never thought he would see anyone play Hawkeye outside of a convention.
And more are coming, folks! We’re going to see a Captain America movie that contains the line “A weak man knows the value of strength.” YES. They get the character. There’s a Green Lantern film that not only acknowledges the cinematically expensive proposition that there are thousands of other alien Green Lanterns, but actually makes them a central part of the plot. The guy who did Firefly is directing an Avengers movie that will actually attempt to tie together Marvel’s cross-movie continuity in the same way the comics do. These are pipe dreams made manifest.
That ad for the new X-Men prequel (which I hope is as weighty and thoughtful as its most recent trailer makes it out to be) made me realize that for ten years I’ve been holding my breath. Waiting for the other shoe to drop and the superhero fad to end. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think, at least for now, the dream has come true. Superhero films are just another sub-genre. An offshoot of fantasy, sci-fi, whatever you want to call it. There will be good movies. There will definitely be bad ones. But there will be movies. For the first time, we live in a world where it’s possible for the heroes we love on the page to come to life on the screen.
If this is just one big What If… story, nobody tell me.
…at least that’s what I assume he decided to do halfway through developing Wonder Woman for television. And I think he’s really got something here. Adrianne Palicki only MOSTLY looks like some nerd took a nude photo of her from Playboy and photoshopped his fantasy on top of it.
Here’s a sneak peak of the sense-shattering first episode!
Happy Monday, kids. Here’s another batch of stuff that fell through the cracks…
Badass Digest reports that Shane Black, writer of Lethal Weapon and writer/director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang may direct Iron Man 3. Good news, I say. I’m usually a fan of Black’s stuff, and he’s got just the sense of humor (and reporre with Downey Jr.) for the job. Of course, this would be his first comic book flick. But as you can see below, he’s been studying up:
Speaking of comics, /Film reveals that the producers for that Godawful Spider-Man musical have hired a new writer to fix it. They wanted someone who really understood the character of Spider-Man. What makes him appealing both from a visceral, action-focused perspective, as well as an emotional character-focused perspective. With that in mind, they’ve hired ANY 15-YEAR-OLD IN AMERICA.
I’ll tell you who needs his story rewritten (segue!), Tommy the Green Power Ranger AKA Jason David Frank. And yes I knew that name from memory because I saw it every weekday morning for a good four years straight. Sadly, according to Geekologie, JDF’s in a bit of a jam after cracking some dude in the jaw so hard, his teeth came out. To be fair, this was during an officially sanctioned mixed-martial arts bout. To be EXTRA fair, this was NOT the guy he was supposed to be fighting, but some random employee of the gym. Apparently he forgot the Power Ranger’s rule of escalation: start out with harmless gymnastics, wait for the bad guy to power up BEFORE you morph.
Hey, know what else was green and a part of my childhood? Gremlins, which was a horror comedy directed by the great Joe Dante. And now it looks like Dante may be returning to the genre with a new Vampire/Werewolf comedy called Monster Love. Yeah it’s kind of a tired concept at this point, but if anyone can inject some new life into it, it’s him. /Film’s got the pres release.
It’s a great video, but of course it’s missing one of Logan and my favorites, featuring a very-pre-famous George Clooney:
Let’s ease into this week shall we? Don’t worry, we’ve got two, count ’em two podcasts coming to you in the next couple days, but until then how about we all enjoy the comedy stylings of Donald Glover talking about the short-lived online campaign to make him the first black Spider-Man.
Hey folks. It’s a short week due to Thanksgiving. No podcast and we’ll just be posting today and tomorrow. So, before the holiday break, I wanted to clear out a couple things I meant to post about last week:
First up, here’s some long lost footage from Back to the Future Part II. It’s the full video loop that plays outside the Biff Tannen Museum scene in alternate 1985. There’s definitely more here than we see in the finished film, and it sounds like the narration is still temp. So, I guess that makes this the version from alternate alternate 1985.
[/Film via BTTF.com]
While we’re on the subject, check out this very interesting article where BTTF scribe Bob Gale debunks some common misconceptions about the trilogy.
It’s old news now, but here’s the full Green Lantern trailer. Everything about it pleases me except the costume which was created entirely by CG rather than physical material. It looked great on the cover of Entertainment Weekly awhile back, but it’s kind of fakey when seen in motion. Hopefully they’ll give it one more pass before it hits theaters.
Here’s a publicity shot for the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark wherein Nicole Kidman from Moulin Rouge! is terrorized by a slouchy, bipedal version of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Badass Digest has three others, each goofier than the last.
And finally, if you’re spending Monday counting the hours until the Thanksgiving holiday, embrace your frustration with this video compilation of every violent, primal, non-lingual utterance Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever committed to film. See you next week!
Guess what, you guys? Marvel has dropped Edward Norton from Avengers, meaning that a THIRD actor will be called upon to reboot the characters of “Bruce Banner” and “Guy Whose Face Serves as The Very Loose Basis for a CGI Hulk Puppet.” Now, Marvel’s probably going to go with an unknown who they can get for pennies on the dollar, but there are plenty of alternatives they’re not even considering. For example…
By the time they film Avengers, Schwarzenegger will be out of the governor’s office and raring to return to acting. Clearly, the Incredible Hulk is the perfect comeback role. Well into his sixties, Schwarzenegger will bring a more mature, world-weary quality to the part. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ryan, you sexy bastard, Arnold may have the Hulk’s physique, but didn’t Batman and Robin prove that he can’t play a nerdy scientist?” Well, I’ll answer your question with one of my own. Which is more expensive: creating a CGI Hulk that rips a helicopter in half? Or creating a CGI Bruce Banner that sits pensively in a lab, contemplating the duality of man? Exactly. Let Arnold play the hulk, and leave Banner to the boys at ILM (and Rainn Wilson who will provide the nebishy voicework.)
The biggest problem with Bruce Banner? He’s so depressing! “Oh woe is me! I can’t control my darkest urges! The inner-torment is unbearable!” SHADDUP ALREADY! Jonah Hill’s unique brand of offbeat comedy (being fat and saying “fuck” a lot) is just the refreshing tweak this character needs. Imagine the Hangover-style hijinks he and Tony Stark will get into! Plus, instead of being insanely muscular and driven by rage when he Hulks out, he’ll be morbidly obese and driven by his insatiable craving for KFC. Product placement!
It might be time to go a whole different direction and throw She-Hulk into the mix. Heigl’s a big box office draw (especially for the lady types that typically pass on superhero flicks). And she’s sure to do it on the cheap, because she’s so notoriously difficult to work with that the only way for her to guarantee a longterm career is to attach herself to a franchise where she doesn’t actually have to appear on-set with any of her costars. All the action will be CG, and whenever she’s Jennifer Walters, she’s got to be completely isolated due to…her…contagious radiation sickness! Done.
The possibilities are endless. Actually they end right there. So, pick one and get back to me, Hollywood. I’m sure we can negotiate a reasonable fee for my services (whatever Edward Norton wanted, double it.)
Here’s the first pic of Captain America’s suit from the upcoming movie. Thoughts?
More at Ain’t it Cool News.
Here are some things that happened recently that I never got around to posting!
Shia LaBeouf wasn’t thrilled with the last Indiana Jones either, and he refreshingly blames himself. To be fair, it certainly wasn’t all (or even mostly) his fault. Uninspired writing and terrible CG did most of the work. But it’s still nice to read this:
You get to monkey-swinging and things like that and you can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on Steven. But the actor’s job is to make it come alive and make it work, and I couldn’t do it. So that’s my fault. Simple.
Speaking of travesties wrought by George Lucas, the director recently had some words of advice for the produces of Lost:
Congratulations on pulling off an amazing show. Don’t tell anyone … but when ‘Star Wars’ first came out, I didn’t know where it was going either. The trick is to pretend you’ve planned the whole thing out in advance.
It’s nice of him to share his trade secrets, but it seems unnecessary. From what I’ve heard, the writers of Lost have already usurped Lucas for the title of laziest hacks in the business.
In happier news, Critical End! favorite John Landis is reportedly going forward with a biopic of Bill Gaines, the man behind E.C. Comics and Mad Magazine. I can’t think of a better director for the project. Hopefully this, along with Burke and Hare will represent a return to prominence for Landis.
And finally, this re-imagining of the classic Sesame Street Pinball Number Count (AKA “11, 12!”) is a must-see. Have a great weekend, kids!