Wars and Windmills

13 April 2007

Too Kitsch Or Not Too Kitsch?

Since my dad bought me my first comic book, The Uncanny X-men #279, comic books have run thick in my blood. Those were the arcadian days when only in the greatest of geek dreams would there be a super-hero based film that met the dogged expectations from the nerd populace. However, the technology was weighed, and found wanting. Attempts were made, scenes were shot--things were said, fists were thrown...now we should just try our best to move on and forget about it.

But who could honestly forget the spurious "BIFF" "POW" "BOOM" of the Batman series, or The Flash TV series form the early 90s, or Superman 3 and up. They, like many attempts after, missed the mark because they emphasized too much on the comic in comic books. For me the comic book film potential breached in 1989 with Tim Burton's first installment (and maybe the second) of Batman. It completely regenerated the image of the Dark Knight from campy blue tights and shark fighting, to a conflicted persona in a gritty cowl...that completely restricts head movement, which is besides the point. It was a harbinger of great things to come...unless you count the subsequent movies in the series, then it is a step backwards and a sign of degeneracy and perversion.

I say that because comics are read for the visual stimulus as much as for the story, in fact it could be said that the art drives the plot along as much so as the writing. This is what makes the appeal for moving pictures to tell the story so appealing, but at the same time difficult to recreate. So while Batman 3 and 4 had plenty of visual stimuli...neon, chest-plate nipples, and wobbly bat-ears abound in those films...they weren't coupled with even decent writing. The stimulus was pure sugar, offering no real substance not unlike Daredevil and other feigned productions. Other miserable attempts are movies like The Hulk, Catwoman, the unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four, the released Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, The Hulk, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Punisher, and, did I mention Daredevil?. Sadly the list of movies that fall under this feeble category is far longer then the list of the opposite.

This atrocity happens when the studios see Spider-man have the number one weekend box office opening of all time, then realize what they have been missing and then all of a sudden fecundity is the name of the game, and the quicker the better.

The difference between a movie put out solely to capitalize on the market and the ones that just do capitalize on the market lie in the hands of the director. Sam Raimi, Brian Singer, Christopher Nolan are massive comic fans, and the result is obvious: films the previous untapped nerd viewers can feel excited about. Not ones that rape plunder and pillage the precious version of things just to sooth Hollywood's seething comic-book-movie-teat that was left unmilked for far too long. Just because studios can make a realistic looking and action packed super hero flick, doesn't mean they should; as seen with the aforementioned debacles. The milking should be done by folks who know what they are doing and care that the essence characters remain intact, as seen with Sam Raimi's Spider-man and Brian Singer's X-Men and Super-man Returns.

Case in point: Ang Lee. Bless his dumb dumb heart straight to heaven. He knew more about gay cowboys then The Hulk, and he should have stuck with that. That way other directors wouldn't feel the need to pretend Lee's version never happened and start fresh with a new version...Nolan wouldn't have had to reinvent the wheel when Schumacher bent the spokes--though the result of the latter was (as I push the nerd glasses up my nose) was pretty stellar...and Singer wouldn't have had to write his movie to take place after Super-man 2, disregarding that others were ever made.

The maxim movie studios should live by: A good comic book in the right hands will yield a great movie.

  • Road to Perdition
  • V for Vendetta
  • 300
  • A History of Violence
  • The Crow
  • Batman (1989)
  • Batman Begins
  • X-Men 1-3
  • Super-man Returns
  • Spider-man 1-3
  • Sin City

    Basically, this whole rant is to justify my nerd fueled trip to Colorado to see Spider-Man 3 with Dan and Nate and Dan's two (or three) brothers, and a theater full of strangers.


    1. Now that was indeed worth waiting for.

    2. Holy comic goodness Robin! Excellent choice of imagery.

      I love the franchise reboots that are taking place (Batman, Superman, Hulk), giving rise to well-funded reincarnations that - at least for the time being - are in good hands.

      It is surprising that the comic-film genre hadn't exploded sooner. Film is such a natural medium for the translation of a comic book. There are volumes upon volumes of quality storyboards to draw from, and one can know from the outset where the popular pieces lie.

      12:00am on May 4th will be a glorious time indeed.

    3. ya forgot about seein the movie with me too asshole.

      ps. hey,i liked batman forever.
      you're a jerk.

    4. Nate:

      Sorry for the neglect...problem fixed...well one is fixed, I can't bring myself to renounce my disdain for Batman 3, it was terrible, and YOU KNOW IT. You just like it for Jim Carrey.

    5. That Bruce Wayne was some uncanny riddle solver.

      You're right. It was all Carrey.

    6. Great post. I remember not being able to wait until you were done with the latest and greatest comic so *I* could read them. Or spending hours rifling through your collection trying to get a picture of the HUGE multifaceted world they came from and intertwined with. It is because of you that I loved them so too. Thanks for always sharing. :)

      P.S. You forgot Spawn in the list of miserable attempts. Gah.

    7. No, Batman Forever is cool because of Tommy Lee Jones. Okay, and Jim Carrey. "I'm...sucking up your I.Q., vacuuming cortex, drinking up your brain!" It's better than Batman 2 anyway, Danny DeVito should have quit his career after Taxi.

      MY qualm with the new Batman is Heath Ledger doing Joker. Sure his smile is creepily large, but nobody, and I mean NOBODY is going to charm his way into my heart as terrifyingly as Jack Nicholson with a retro boombox and flourescent spray paint. So pervertedly sexy. This new Spiderman better be good. I hated 1, surprisingly loved 2, and I admit with some hesitancy that I'm excited to see 3.

      P.S. I like your nerdy posts the best.

    8. Thanks Gillilland...i love your new picture...very becoming.

      And, I too am apprehensive at the new Joker choice for the same reason you are...and you can bet there will be NO Prince playing even if they decided to include the massive boombox.

    9. i am ashamed to know you

    10. as I knew you would be Young Joseph, as I knew you would be.

    11. then again...

      i would be a liar if i denied ever being caught in this silky web of which you speak

    12. I totally used to subscribe to Spiderman. I got it in the mail! I loved those days.

    13. Nice post, Von Darren. Anything in defense of the forefront of nerdiness is good for mine ears.

      Do you think Iron Man is going to be good?

    14. James:

      i don't...but i hope it will be. perhaps my low expectations will make it better when i watch it.

      Robert Downey Junior as Tony Stark.

      Either/Or: Jon Favreau. Though Swingers is hilarious, he is not my favorite director..but he is a huge nerd, so it could be in good hands; i am more then happy to be proven wrong.

      Negatives: Gwyneth Paltrow. Sans Tenenbaums, i can't stand her.

    15. I miss the Adam West series.

      My favorite parts of your YouTube link: of course, the shark exploding on impact with the sea, but I also like that the cockpit scenes appear to be shot in the shadow of a languishing ceiling fan.

    16. A good point Joe. While West's Batman series may not have fully grasped the complexity of the character he was representing, the show remains a classic; and were capital in mainstreaming comicdom. Though the character of Batman has evolved since, the show was made in the 60's, the Batman comic books of that time were almost as campy as the TV show. Perhpas they did that to polarize the character because the original Batman written in the 40's was not hesitant to kill if he felt it necessary. He even used a gun to shoot down a large group of villains.

      I think the mean we have today is a great middle ground. So yea, hats off to Adam West and crew for a fine job, but also hats off to whomever decided to take it a different way.

      "Sometimes you just can't get rid of a bomb" --Batman: The Movie

    17. My favorite Batman movies in order:

      Batman Begins
      Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
      Batman Forever
      Batman Returns

      Oh, and I don't count Batman & Robin. Because I'd rather lick a magma lollipop.

    18. Batman is such an exquisite character that he flourishes both in bright caricatures and dark crusades.

      Long live the Batman.

    19. Spidey 3: too kitsch...and I hate to bag on Raimi.

      I was bored by it, except for Bruce Campbell's french cameo...

    20. the camp was set for high in that film, that is for sure and i even expected some camp. I really enjoyed the action sequences, but am saddened by the fact that i have to compartmentalize the film.

      Bruce's cameo was a highlight...

      As an appology for Raimi, I have read that Raimi had less to do with the 2 villains (making the film stretched too thin, a lesson one should have learned from the Batman series) and the camp then did the producers. They were relentless, and Raimi was forced to buckle. Which is sad. If that isn't the case, then my whole theory of "in the right hands" is shot to hell.