Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 91

We're starting a new season today and we're welcoming Floyd from threedonia! Big round of e-applause! Now for the question. Being a superhero is about perfection. Well, no, not really. And superhero films are faaaar from perfect.

What is your biggest pet peeve about superhero movies?


Panelist: Floyd

I don't know that I have one that really bugs me. From a narrative standpoint some films become too bogged down with multiple villains. Christopher Nolan has handled that well in the Dark Knight films as did Whedon in The Avengers. Other than that I'm just not enough of a fanboy to hate the efforts of most superhero films. In the early days giving them low budgets would drive me crazy even as a kid.

Panelist: T-Rav

It's hardly limited to the superhero genre, but why oh why does there have to be three of everything? It seems to be a rule that the original is okay, the sequel is really good, and the threequel sucks. I realize that Hollywood is out to make more money and not worry about things like this, but is it too much to ask for a little originality, and not fifteen "franchise installment number 3"s per year?!

Panelist: AndrewPrice

Personally, I’m sick of origin stories. They aren’t interesting and that seems to be all we get. We all know who Superman is or where he came from... tell us about his latest adventure, don’t try to teach us what we’ve already seen a million times.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Probably, my biggest peeve is there are too many of them? A close second is they keep doing the same guys again, and again (Superman and Batman … give it a rest, Hollywood.) Third peeve is too heavy a reliance on CGI over story, acting, etc. I'd like to see some films about non-super heroes again. Guys like Prince Valiant or Zorro or Sir Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox." Disney was a master at that kind of film.

Panelist: ScottDS

Lately, my biggest pet peeves have been a.) too many movies following the same template, to the point where you can set your watch to them, and b.) city destruction porn, where the heroes tend to do as much damage as the villains.

Comments? Thoughts?

49 comments:

shawn said...

Killing off the badguy. I understand some badguys are so bad they need to be put down, but come on guys- you are superheroes, try putting some in jail.

Next up would be mulitple villians, especially since there ususally isn't enough story to support one let alone two or three villians.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, We live in a murderous age apparently. If you ever break away from it for a while and watch some old films, it's really shocking how accustomed we are to killing being one of the first solutions we look for on film.

K said...

My pet peeve #1: movies where the superhero just happens to live in the same town with evil aliens and/or super genius insane criminals. What a coincidence. He/she can't walk down the street without gangsters or punks attacking some lady - who also happens to be either his girl friend or his aged aunt. This isn't the case of all superhero movies these days but enough to be annoying.

Peeve number 2 - The Seth Rogen Green Hornet movie. Too bad to watch without fast forwarding and not bad enough to be funny.

Dave Olson said...

Well, there are plenty of examples of Westerns in which the climax involved the Black Hat getting shot, clutching his chest dramatically, and then falling over to the raucous applause of the townsfolk. So "murderous" films are nothing new.

Basically, my pet peeves about superhero films are as follows, in no particular order:

1) There are too many of them. Did we really need Daredevil or Green Lantern? I mean, Superman and Batman have pretty deep cultural roots, and the X-Men and Iron Man were well handled (at least in their first two movies). (Yes, I liked Iron Man 2. Sue me.) But the blockbuster mentality currently infecting Hollywood has inevitably led to too many summer tentpole extravaganzas.

2) CGI, CGI everywhere, and not a writer to think. Thanks to modern effects technology, every movie can have "something we've never seen before." An aircraft carrier that flies. A giant green fist that helps you out of a jam in a dark alley. An alien terraforming device that wipes out a modern Metropolis block by block. And so on. As it gets easier to do impressive effects, it seems to be harder to construct a coherent, compelling plot.

3)Overdoing it. In The Man of Steel, Johnathan Kent is killed in a most ridiculous way: by a tornado. (Oh darn. Forgot to mention, Spoiler alert!) Anyway, the Donner Superman from 1978 has a much more compelling fate for Old Man Kent: He just drops dead of a heart attack, a few seconds after dispensing some sage advice to his adopted son. Young Clark laments at his graveside: "All those things I can do. All those powers. And I couldn't even save him." It's a far more moving death because in a fantasy about a superpowered alien from another galaxy, it's a real event to which we can all relate.

4) Out of order. Look, telling a story out of chronological sequence worked in Pulp Fiction. And it worked in Batman Begins. But I think it was a terrible choice for Man of Steel, and I'm getting damn sick and tired of movies that start off with a bang, then fade to black, then come back with the caption: "2 Days Ago..." or some such. I'll buy a couple of this season's cold opens from "Breaking Bad", because it's an episodic format told over a longer period. But I've only got 2 hours to spare for a movie. Tell the story and entertain me.

5) Origins. We didn't need to have the entire Superman origin retold. It could have been handled in three minutes' worth of flashback during the interrogation scene, leaving more time for either some character development, or scenes of Supes actually saving people, both of which were noticeably absent. My Super Ex-Girlfriend was hardly a good movie but the origin story for G-Girl was handled perfectly.

6) There is no number 6, which is good because we were asked for just our biggest pet peeve. Sorry, had to get all this off my chest.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Dave... re #3... I lived in West Texas for nearly 30 years... a tornado is just as real as a heart attack to me. :-) But your larger point is taken.

The whole Green Lantern movie was overdone...

I think I'm the only one who liked Daredevil -- I recognize its weaknesses of course but I always liked the Man Without Fear (not a fanboy so I can enjoy these things without picking nits). He could use a good low-key remake.

Kit said...

re Trilogies. First one is good. Second they still have fresh ideas and by the time of three they are just doin' it for the Benjamins.

I think the best trilogy out there (and one that got better with each) was Toy Story.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, Films are a LOT more murderous today.

For one thing, the volume of murder is something new: body counts have been rising decade by decade. This has long been documented. And the kills are being glorified today, which never happened in the past -- in the past, kills often involved simply falling or where even done off screen. There were no slow motion blood-splattering, body flying moments.

And while there were certainly old westerns where the bad guy got killed, there were way more where that didn't happen. Sometimes, the bad guys got arrested. Sometime they got wounded only. Sometimes they saw the error of their ways. Large numbers of westerns involved no killing at all. Killing was only a last resort for writers and even then it was done only to the worst, irredeemable characters.

Today, both the good guys and the bad guys go through these movies routinely killing people the whole way through the film -- that almost never happened in the past. It's done as a reflex for the good guy or a sadistic twist for the bad guy. It is presented as the first and best solution to a problem... and it's made to look cool.

Huge, huge difference.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I think the formula is changing on sequels. The first one these days is always the origin story. Those are generally formulaic and uninteresting. The second one is where they actually try to create a real story. The third one is the one no one cares about because they're all moving on to the next project.

That seems to be the new formula for trilogies.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Dave, I HATE CGI. CGI has destroyed the need for a director to tell a story and has ruined a great many films.

tryanmax said...

Currently, my biggest pet peeve is that there is no Flash movie. Maybe it's because every version of his origin sucks and that's all superhero movies know how to do. So put me down for being sick of repeated origin stories.

All origins should be handled as in the Burton Batman if needed at all. No more awkward teenagers discovering their powers as a metaphor for puberty, please.

Outlaw13 said...

If people didn't like the origin story they wouldn't make them. Sometimes you have to do it. How many people in the mainstream were familiar with how Tony Stark became Iron Man? "Kick Ass" was an origin story that was quite enjoyable to me. I could do without a Spiderman re-boot every 5 seconds though.

They do overdo it, just like just about anything else. The formula is to find something that makes money and repeat it until people are so sick of it that it doesn't make money anymore.

Case in point from my childhood...out of nowhere we had Star Wars. People loved it...a lot of people loved it. Loved it so much that studios said to themselves we need to get us some of that...so we got Star Wars knockoffs, really, really cheep Star Wars knockoffs made to cash in, and they kept making them till they quit making money. Same with CGI, same with any trend someone did it, it was popular and other want to ride the wave.

Tennessee Jed said...

got back to Tennessee today, but a tough ride so I am worthless today. There is a general, but solid commonality of the group on this question

ScottDS said...

I must point out that CGI is just a tool - it's the filmmakers and (more often) the studios who don't know any better. Some filmmakers (like Fincher, Nolan, and del Toro) get it, while too many are too reliant on the technology. And the studios are constantly trying to one-up each other in the spectacle department.

Andrew, if you need an article, it might be time to write about that FX roundtable discussion I sent you months ago - it will shed some much-needed light on this subject.

PikeBishop said...

Scott, I think you could argue the same thing about a changing moral climate and greater freedom doing the same thing to good writing these days.

Hey let's add a few more F bombs, blow some more stuff up, sprinkle in some more gun fights and a smidgen more of bare breasts and voila, we don't have to write as well anymore. The brain-dead suckers will lap it up at the box office.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That is interesting that they haven't tried the Flash again. They've tried him several times and they always include him in the cartoons.

If I was going his film, personally, I'd set it in the 1950s.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, The formula is to find something that makes money and repeat it until people are so sick of it that it doesn't make money anymore.

That's the formula all right.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Welcome home! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Well, obviously it's just a tool. But it's a tool that has allowed poor directors to hand over their responsibility for creating a compelling story to the cartoon department.

I definitely plan to write about that, but I haven't had the time to break it down.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I concur. The more writing crutches you make available and acceptable, the more bad directors will use them.

T-Rav said...

Welcome, Floyd!

I think a very understandable peeve lots of people have is how dark superhero movies have been recently--Watchmen being an extreme example, but hardly the exception. It's not a bad thing to be "somber" and "gritty," but a large part of the reason these became popular at all is their ability to show off cool heroics to the audience. If the "heroes" are all conflicted and brooding and metrosexual, that kind of takes away from the appeal.

Though I suppose this is as much applicable to the entire genre (comic books, etc.) as the movies per se. Guess they're not solely responsible.

T-Rav said...

And Dave, it most definitely is not implausible to get killed by a tornado. I know about thirty livestock that would beg to differ with you.

Anthony said...

T-Rav,

The Watchmen movie wasn't as dark as the graphic novel (or comics if one prefers) it was based off of. Also, I think a lot of movies are lighter than their source material. I think that is a good thing because most modern superhero comics are overly convoluted and overly grim.

Anthony said...

I don't have any big across the board problem with superhero movies. I do think they need to stop doing bits where being captured was part of the bad guy's master plan but that's a trope one sees everywhere.

tryanmax said...

Flash is always in the cartoons but he never has his own series. He had a live action show in 1990. Rumor has it the CW is working up a new Flash series. But I just want the 2 hour Hollywood treatment.

I don't care when it's set, as long as they do the Barry Allen Flash. But, like I said, his origin sucks. It's only worthy of a flashback, so it needs a talented writer to throw us in in the middle of things.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I'm kind of tired of the brooding metrosexuals too. Like grunge, the time for that has passed.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, That is kind of silly that so many villains now figure in getting captured as part of their plan. How about just being competent in the first place and not getting captured?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Maybe the problem is that there isn't much you can do with a guy who is just that fast? He might be hard to write stories for.

tryanmax said...

Maybe, but the "bullet time" thing introduced in The Matrix still seems to carry a lot of audience appeal, as long as it's used in novel ways. Also, Flash can also through walls, he can think fast enough to consider every scenario in advance (think Next or Premium Rush) and he constantly has to worry about overusing his powers lest he disrupt the fabric of time. I think there's a lot of interesting stuff there.

Barry Allen has a slow, methodical personality, the contrast between that and his ability has provided lots of narrative fodder for the comics. Plus, he's a forensic scientist, which is about half the shows on TV today.

The more I build the case, the more I come to believe it's just because his origin sucks: struck by lightening, doused in chemicals, wakes up super-fast. On film, it wouldn't take any longer than it did for me to type it. LOL!

tryanmax said...

Sorry, didn't mean to hijack this into the petition for a Flash movie thread.

AndrewPrice said...

It's ok. We're use to having Flash fans hijack the site. ;P

Actually, I didn't mean it that way. Flash has cool powers. The problem is probably in how you write someone who combats those. In a way, it's the same problem Superman faces. When your abilities make it impossible for people to fight you, then it becomes hard to write stories because you spend all your time trying to think of ways to prevent the hero from using his powers against you.

And in this case, you're talking about somebody who can take anything from your hand or block anything you've done before you even realize it. He's technically impossible to trap, impossible to hit, impossible to grab. Once he knows who you are, you are finished.

That makes it hard to write a decent villain.

tryanmax said...

Ah, got you! And maybe that's why they go with origin stories so much. The only decent chance the bad guys have is that the hero doesn't know what he's doing. After that, the villains basically focus on disrupting the hero's powers. That or the villains are supers, as well. Most of Flash's enemies have super powers. The exception is Trickster, who is basically an evil Batman.

AndrewPrice said...

That might explain it actually because that injects the sense of "I don't know what I'm doing yet". That lets you do a lot which the superhero should normally be able to stop, except they aren't up to speed yet.

As an aside, that was actually what I really liked about Greatest American Hero, that he had no idea how the suit worked.

tryanmax said...

I had to look that up. It looks like it premiered shortly before I did.

AndrewPrice said...

It was a fun show. It had one lousy serious episode, but otherwise was mainly just a stupid comedy with a fun premise.

Loyal Goatherd said...

What is your biggest pet peeve about superhero movies?

Reboots!!!! We here at thus and so comics are sorry you, the viewing public, did not like our latest version of Superhero guy. So we have fired the actor and the director and will now make the same movie again and see if you like it better! If not more firings and reboots will follow. As soon as we make some serious money, we will be happy to give you a second installment. Maybe, just, maybe the story is old, not compelling, predictable or (SHOCK) been done before!

There needs to be a reboot minimum time requirement, I say 10 years! Then we can say, sorry, thus and so comics, you latest superhero guy offering sucked and it will be along 10 years without him. You should make sure your product is good or suffer for it. No more re-do's.



Anthony said...

I loved the Greatest American Hero when I was a kid. I remember the theme song and the premise, but I can't recall a single episode.

Loyal Goatherd said...

Do I get a reboot? Dark brooding male is the typical super-hero guy these days. There is a super-heroine, in a nice skimpy outfit, who could hold my attention for 110 minutes. I would pony up my money just to watch her bounce, I mean walk around town. Mila Kunis is a wonder, wonder woman!!!

tryanmax said...

Loyal, I'll once again nominate Emma Stone for Batgirl.

Loyal Goatherd said...

I'ld by that for a dollar!

KRS said...

Andrew, Agree wholeheartedly - the great appeal in Greatest American Hero was the combination of an unlikely hero and the fact that he lost the instruction manual. He was a bit whiney, too, so I really enjoyed seeing him slap into walls.

However, I think the formula really rested on the shoulders of Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell. Not only was his performance outstanding, but Culp actually knew how to shoot a 1911A1 .45 auto. I remember him as the first actor I ever saw on TV who didn't "throw" his bullets out of a pistol.

It was cool that the GAH never got a supername - never was 'recognized' by the public.

AndrewPrice said...

Loyal Goatherd, Reboots are indeed becoming annoying. I don't mind one every decade or so, but every couple years is pathetic.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I did too. I loved the show and the theme song, but I don't remember much except the one episode about them starting nuclear war.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, I loved the fact he didn't know what he was doing. And it was funny to see him slam into walls. That was a great idea.

Agreed about Culp too. He was the guy who drove the show.

Loyal Goatherd said...

Trying out my new avatar: Allow me to repeat Mila Kunis is a wonder woman.

Loyal Goatherd said...

Damn! That looks good! Avatar or Mila, what difference does it make?

tryanmax said...

Ohm's Law?

Kit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kit said...

10 years sounds good. But we're lucky if we get 5...

re Greatest American Hero, I've never gotten a chance to see it (though I love the theme song) but from what I've heard it seems Chuck was the Oughts version of that show. Someone even did a credit mashup: LINK

Loyal Goatherd said...

Yes, ohm's law! Please note that resistance is in red. I have explained it before as V = how much the government wants to control our lives. I = how much we should allow the government to control our lives. Solve V / I = R, The resistance, we are the resistance, join us! The larger V is the greater R becomes.

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