One Damn Thing After Another

Listen, Mr. Luthor, maybe this guy that flies is just sort of passing through, you know?

We love third-string Marvel characters, the ones who aren’t big enough for movies or networks, and so end up dwelling in the Netflix basement. We love them because Saving the World has gotten pretty boring at this point in cinematic history — Superman reversed time forty years ago, after all, and after you’ve shown that you can rewind Earth’s spin without throwing everybody into space, you’ve pretty much established that the planet won’t blow up next time.

Besides, Beneath the Planet of the Apes blew up the planet forty-five years ago, so no point going there either.

The Marvel bench lives in the world the first-string saved, satisfying the Gods of Continuity, but their problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in it. That actually makes them more interesting in practice, since their writers have to stretch to make them even worth watching. We have no inherent reason to care about street crime in Hell’s Kitchen. Unless you provide one.

Case in poi—


Internet Manners dutifully observed, case in point: Daredevil, a blind Catholic vigilante who observes the Batman Code of Restraint — no killing — gets into an extended argument with Punisher, a sighted atheist vigilante who blows people’s heads off, about the comparative ethics of extrajudicial justice.

This is awesome.

Okay, we’re a childhood Batman nerd with a master’s in philosophy, so of course the writers created this scene with the express purpose of pandering to us. But it’s not just seminar chat: It’s important to each of them, important to their souls, whether the moral thing is to waste a child molester or merely severely disfigure him for life. And the theme established, it recurs throughout the season.

You have space to do that when your Deus isn’t Machinating up the joint.

Heck, you should have space to do that in a two-and-a-half hour movie. Just eliminate a couple of superheroes, a couple of superhero cameos, and a dozen plot points.

Buried amid the clutter and Even More Disaster Porn in Batman v Superman is a very interesting idea: What if Superman did come to Earth? Would we trust him enough to save us? And even if he did save us now, would we trust him not to turn against us later? Superman has absolute power. How do we know it won’t corrupt him absolutely?

The movie elects Batman to represent the prosecution, and sure, if you need to shoehorn him into the story, there are worse ways to accomplish that. Well, except for the part about that Wayne skyscraper being in Metropolis when Gotham is just across the bay (Gotham is in Jersey?), but let’s not go there.

The Versus here is that Batman doesn’t trust Superman, and actually has the resources to put up a decent Climactic Battle, which we get halfway in, just where you’d expect a climax to be, followed by an hour-long trailer for a Justice League movie.

Okay, let’s not go there, either.

But that’s the problem: The movie does go there, and everywhere else, in the modern Blockbuster Picaresque style, a series of random events whose sole narrative purpose is that one follows another.

All that plus Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Jr., because apparently Whiny Millennial Villains is The New Thing.

Years ago, standing outside the theater after Tim Burton’s Batman, we told a friend that despite our snobbish pretensions, we enjoyed a good Hollywood Ride. And we still do. But we fear that in the past thirty years, Hollywood has forgotten how to make them.

Except for Netflix, of course. Because there your superheroes can beat the shit out of each other and have a good conversation. And really, what more could we want?


1) It’s the curse of Ben Afflack.
2) THIS! IS! BULLSHIT! Zack “300 Abs” Snyder did the DC version of Sucker Punch but with dudes.
3) DC picked the wrong director… again.

@ManchuCandidate: Much to my surprise, Affleck is blameless here. Not that he’s good, mind you, but the character is so ill-conceived it’s not recognizably any Batman you know. There’s reinventing, and there’s just slapping a name and suit on whatever strikes your fancy.

So, yeah: This one’s on Zack. Again. His love of empty disaster porn and neglect of story and character exceeds even that of the Master, Michael Bay. I swear, at moments I thought I was watching a Transformers movie.

It’s making money, but DC is going to play 2nd critical fiddle to Marvel till comic book hero movies die their inevitable death.

I suspect it is not Batfleck, but he was shit as Daredevil.

@ManchuCandidate: True, and it reflects the DC/Marvel rivalry going back fifty years.

All those whiny Marvel superheroes make better movies, since they all have built-in Issues to work through, and thus stories to tell. DC has tried retrofitting this character and that with Emotions, sometimes very effectively, but it’s not fundamental to their conception.

Thus, the Captain America trailer was more interesting in three minutes than BvS was in the 2.5 hours that followed — because the Marvel characters are better drawn, so to speak.

But the Suicide Squad trailer was also great fun, in the third-string Netflix way: Nothing at stake, no marketing to protect, so let’s just go for broke.

I have almost nothing good to say about Zack. I hate his movies except for the Watchmen, but even then there were portions that made me roll my eyes. He produces eye porn with no money shot or drama like Bayhem. If he made a rom com he would still throw in slo mo and sepia filters.

I laughed all the way through 300. I laughed even more when RW bloggers lauded it as a US Amercia metaphor till someone pointed out that the very gay (and vicious) Spartan Army was not a “don’t ask don’t tell” kind of army.

@ManchuCandidate: Much as I’d love to blame Zack, the fish rots from the top, and he’s just a victim of poor executive casting.

The real failure lies at the feet of whoever at DC fills Kevin Feige’s role at Marvel, the Suit who’s running the show.

The MCU (Nerd Alert!) is extraordinarily well-conceived, and obviously not easy to replicate. But look as well at the unconventional choices of directors and stars over the years, people you would never entrust with a tentpole blockbuster, but who, like I think was said of Jon Favreau or Sam Raimi, find the little movies in big ones, providing interest and character between Blowing Shit Up. DC sticks in a thoughtless 9/11 allusion and calls it a day.

Really, DC is Microsoft to Marvel’s Apple: No imagination.

@nojo: Much to my surprise, Affleck is blameless here. Not that he’s good, mind you, but the character is so ill-conceived it’s not recognizably any Batman you know.

Bisco Jr and I agreed that he was a passable Batman done in by horrid scriptwriting and – most egregiously – departing from the Code.

Oh and, +1 for choosing an Ay-rab femme for Wonder Woman. Both audacious and bodacious.

My prob with these movies is that they’re just not fun anymore and haven’t been for years. The DC and Marvel superheroes–and even Star Trek–have all been given the dark ‘n gritty treatment. As a result, I leave the theatre feeling depressed, aggravated, and exhausted.

They say that movies are a reflection of the times, frequently veering into screwball comedies and musicals when the national mood is foul, but this trend of the last decade is something else entirely. When it stops being fun, give it up.

I liked the second season of Daredevil, but there were too many ninjas. Way too many ninjas. I never imagined such a thing, but, yes, ninjas out the ass.

Maybe Black Panther won’t suck.

@¡Andrew!: Yyuup. I’m looking for a terrorist and an ocelot. Not necessarily in that oder.

@ManchuCandidate: Sucker Punch was a stylized piece of shit. Watched that and Red Riding Hood the same day, and lived to tell about it.

Heston blew up the earth in Battle because he didn’t want to do a third movie. Somehow (hint, with time travel) they soldiered on without him.

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