I just got back from The Avengers, a movie I’ve been cutting snide remarks about on my Facebook for the better part of three weeks. I don’t know if this is the chicken quesadilla or the beer I pounded four hours ago, but I felt the movie was all right. And with it, I felt, maybe that’s were comic books movies are now in general, just all right. I think we can agree that this could be a peak summer for comic movies, with the aforementioned Avengers, the final Christopher Nolan Batman film, and the new Spider-Man film. But maybe, that’s a good way to send it out, with a final swan song of a new set of movies for Spider-Man and Superman. Almost poetic, I think, the two characters who helped spark both birth and the re-birth of the genre should be the ones at it’s end as well. Sure, there will be more movies past that, but I think those of us that have grown up on them will safely be able to say, “they don’t make them like the used to.”
Before the first Superman film, movies based on comics or sci-fi were considered B-material or children’s movies. But Superman made them bigger and more popular and as more of the films were made, they sought to distinguish themselves from each other by seeking their identities and challenging the classifications of the genre. What so may failed to understand was that what made the movies unique was what made them movies in the first place – that is, their content. Modern comics drew a thin line between our reality and our fantasies like no other art form had managed to achieve. They came loaded with backstory, a built in audience, plenty of opportunities to market and an endless resource for sequels and spin offs. Comic movies became great business.
So, we got more comic movies. And we craved even more comic movies. And they were given to us. And we demanded better comic movies. And we got them. They’ve given us all that we have asked and what have we ever done for them? We lack the basic respect of what we claim to love. The Spider-Man trilogy undoubtedly led to many comic books movies being green-lit and for that alone fans should be grateful. But, we’re all too ready to tear it to pieces and praise the new film as it’s superior and successor, blazing a swath while indifferent to what it has left in it’s path. I should know, because I am totally one of these people who is constantly beating up Sam Raimi on the internet. Like, at the drop of a hat and for no reason at all.
But comic movies should’ve stopped themselves instead of listening to us. As so many people flung themselves to the street like people escaping a burning building or a small child who isn’t ready to leave Chuck E. Cheese because… only a TRUE FAN… who respects the ART… and is in it for the LOVE… of COMICS!!! should direct The Avengers!!! And that was where I immediately lost interest. Somewhere out in the internet, is a podcast episode where I talk with Nick Jobe and Tom Clift about Joss Whedon directing the movie and I make my feelings known. How I’ve never really been a fan of Whedon and often assume that I’m just missing the appeal, about how I think a non-genre director makes an interesting choice, how you would want to see an Aquaman movie if James Cameron directed it, how I’d love to see Scorsese do a comic movie and by appealing to a core audience, you lose out on a larger one. Clearly, we know that doesn’t matter and that as long as you have likeable enough actors in the roles, the movies just don’t have to be too bad. You can say that either Captain America or Thor was good, but you cannot say both, because then you would be lying. And to suggest that Iron Man 2 was just as good as the first one is like saying that any cartoon you watched as a kid that had the word ‘New’ in the title was as good as the original. It might have seemed better, but it wasn’t. In fact, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous and probably had you laughing from the start. A few cool geek moments could not make up for the lack of a solid story throughout. Although, I will say that the Hulk was perfectly cast, finally, in Mark Ruffalo – an actor was found who you could have a really hard time believing might freak out at any moment, because nothing ever seems to really faze Mark Ruffalo, like not even getting blown away in Collateral. But, after so many hits and misses by Marvel, of course they would stumble onto the perfect recipe for their biggest film yet. And that’s what the movie was, a thoroughly enjoyable ride where you saw every turn before you hit it, but it just helped keeping the train running more smoothly that way. The movies no longer challenge us, we are challenging the movies. Sadly, we are winning.
For me, nothing will ever come close to these three Batman films and I make no apologies for it. Hell, I’m even glad this is the last one. I’m almost thirty one and I’m tired of marking out at the theater every Thursday at midnight in the summer. That’s how excited I was for Dark Knight, how excited I will be soon for Dark Knight Rises and how I feel I might never get as excited for regarding anything ever again, especially something as subjective as a movie. There’s been some great times, like Dark Knight, Sin City or Iron Man. But there have been far too many more low points, awful movies of perversions SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here. We’ve had it all now and it’s maybe time to put the comic book movie to rest. I’m sure they will be back, of course, probably in a time when we need them more than they’ll need us, back in a time to inspire us with hope and courage. They’ll come back to save us if they ever need to, for they will never be too far away. The comic book movies we deserve, but not the ones we need right now.