03 May 2010
In the week leading up to Iron Man 2 comes the anticipation and dread: how is it going to be? Is it going to be The Dark Knight or Spider-Man 3? That is not a fair comparison at all. One was close to a masterpiece and different and the other, well, what a mess. With great power comes great responsibility. With great anticipation comes the possibility of a great letdown. Poor Jon Favreau must be under a lot of pressure. If you have read this far and wondered, why are you so concerned about this? It's only a movie!, please move on! Haha. This post will bore you. But for those who really like superhero movies....
I was indifferent to Daredevil and thought it was just plain awful. Loved the book, didn't like the movie. Ben Affleck with his hair in his face the whole movie, the flirtatious martial arts scene with Elektra on the see-saw, the constant night-blindness and too-close-to-see action ruined the movie for me. I don't have a sacred cow fetish for the heroes. I'm not a strict tradionalist but I want the movies to make some sense. I could take The Fantastic Four even though the movie was miscast and Reed was a pussy. Reed Richards is a smart guy, not a doormat. Jessica Alba (I can't believe I'm saying this) didn't look super-hot in that movie, nor does she come across as the science-ey type, but I sucked it up and watched and was entertained. I liked the Silver Surfer in FF2. Not bad stuff.
Ghost Rider is a movie that I didn't hate. I had no expectations for it: it was cheesy, over-the-top, and light but it was entertaining. Maybe because I watched it with my nephews. It's hard to be a cynical old bastard when they're sitting next to you. Superman Returns, Hulk, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man 3: those movies got to me in a bad way. They left the comic behind somehow. S-M 3: Peter Parker playing bad like he's on his was to an emo concert; Harry vascillating between being a good guy and an enemy; Topher Grace playing Eddie Brock like he's a smoother version of Eric from That 70's Show: that's not who these guys were in the books. More than anything the architecture of Spider-Man 3 was just way off. The light touches that Raimi added in Spider-Man 2, Peter walking down the street to "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", the "oww, I hurt my back" reference to Tobey Maquire's alleged stalling to step onto the set of S-M 2, the scene in the coffee shop when Peter throws himself over Mary Jane: Peter was real. He was kind of a buffoon in S-M 3 and it killed the movie. And why did he keep taking his mask off?
Try to get too cute and the lions will eat you. I could put up with Nick Nolte's howling in Hulk, and Ang Lee's pretension to create an art house film out of a comic-book movie, but that doesn't mean I had to like it. Which I didn't. I also don't want to see a soldier, a regular guy, going toe-to-toe and hand-to-hand with the Hulk. The laws of the Marvel Universe must apply. If the Hulk could crush Spider-Man, or Iron-Man for that matter, then please don't have him fight some guy Spidey could backhand in two seconds flat. And why was Bruce Banner wearing a bicycle helmet around the office? Not dorky enough just to be a scientist? Which gets to the architecture problems with Hulk:
First, the name. Just Hulk. Remember: too cute equals lions. Ang Lee cited influences from King Kong, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Beauty and the Beast, Faust, and Greek mythology for his interpretation of the story, but guess what: there's a whole comic book about the guy! Why not base it on that? When an interviewer asked him if he had read the comic books as a kid, Lee said, "No. I did see a little bit of the TV series in the late 70s (cheesy fun but a weak facsimile of the books), but I didn't pay any particular attention to it. But then when I came to the States, I found that there was such a character in the comic books (Really?! The Hulk was a character in the comic books!). Then when I saw the big green guy it clicked right away. I saw it as a psychodrama."
Lee's partner discovered a book in which David Banner, Bruce's father, returned and after that the movie became a father-son story about experimenting with Bruce's DNA and yada yada yada, we're three steps away from the source material and the Hulk is getting attacked by overgrown poodles. Fans take this stuff seriously, maybe as seriously as Twilight fans take their stuff or as the leave-Britney-alone guy takes Britney Spears. We want one thing: Do Not Screw Up Our Movies!
Two years ago when George Lucas was making the rounds promoting Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Lost UFO's, or whatever he called that movie, he sounded bitter. "I've learned (I'm paraphrasing) that no matter what you do, people aren't going to like it." Apparently he was jaded from his experiences with the second round of Star Wars movies and their rejection by the adult fan base. Remember: cute equals lions. Someone get the lions and feed them Jar-Jar Binks already (tastes like jerked chicken!). These were not good movies. People didn't take down their expectations from a jar on the top shelf and say, Ahhh, this is what the movie is going to be, and when it wasn't they were disappointed. He had a chance to create The Godfather Part II of movie serials but he didn't have it in him. That's where the disappointment lies. Lucas reminds me a little of Jay Leno: a guy that became wildly successful with nowhere to grow. His empire expanded while the thing that got him there shriveled and shrank, and he's left with nothing but memories of his sled Rosebud (or was it Sleddie?)* and his billions of dollars.
A lot of bad superhero movies have been made. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace consistently comes out on top in the internet searches, but there is also Catwoman, Batman and Robin, Steel, Barb Wire, Supergirl, Judge Dredd, Captain America and who could forget (the original bomb!) Howard the Duck. But of all these movies Spider-Man 3 has to be the worst. And do you know why? Because I cared. All that being said, Iron Man 2 arrives soon. On Friday I'm gonna open my mind, leave my expectations at the door, walk into the theater, sit in the dark and wait to be dazzled. No pressure guys!
*Please note that the "Sleddie" joke was stolen from last week's episode of 30 Rock. Please don't tell Joni Mitchell.
at 6:28 PM