Tagged: Rotten Tomatoes

Mike Gold: The Great Superhero Movie Backlash

Mike Gold: The Great Superhero Movie Backlash

Over the millennia, I’ve written enough reviews to denude the Shoshone National Forest. My fellow commentators here at ComicMix have as well, and some of my best friends have been critics. So, as you read the following rant, please keep in mind I am not referring to those people… but I am referring to damn near every other critic practicing their arcane craft these days. From reading their recent criticism, I have come to the following conclusion.

Most critics seem to be sick to death of superhero movies and teevee shows. Even many of those who are enthusiasts of the superhero genre.

It’s not hard to understand this. Even if you have seen 90% of all the superhero movies and teevee shows released in the past decade and enjoyed most of them, there’s an important difference: you made the choice to see them. For critics, it’s their job. They are more-or-less forced to watch these productions, usually in exchange for a paltry paycheck. I am sympathetic to their plight, although I do not believe anybody is writing criticism to fulfill their court-mandated obligation to community service.

If this was a reaction to Batman v Superman or the Fantastic Four movies or Amazing Spider-Man 2, I’d be more understanding. Now that the embargo has been lifted, I’ve read the “advance” reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and, while it did garner some very good notices, it is clear to me that a rather large gaggle of such critics really went far out of their way to put some hate into their criticism. The comment most typical to these writers is some variation of “Well, yeah, it’s fun and entertaining and the performances are solid, but it’s too much like the first one.”

By this, I gather they mean that Star-Lord, Rocket (he will always be Rocket Raccoon to me), Drax, Nebula and Groot are in this movie as well. Well, they are the Guardians of the Galaxy, so they’re in the movie. That’s the deal. National Periodical Publications once made a Superman movie without Jimmy Olsen and Perry White; that was as wrong as it was cheap. Critics who feel Guardians 2 was overcrowded with already-seen characters are missing the point… and went to extremes to damn it with faint praise.

If you think Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 sucks, fine. You’re the critic; tell us why. But if you think a movie is “fun and entertaining and the performances are solid,” then don’t hold your dissatisfaction with the quantity of superhero movies against any one movie. It is obvious that professional critics have minimal impact on box office – at best – and by putting a movie you found to be enjoyable in a negative context, you are doing absolutely nothing to reduce your forthcoming superhero movie burden.

Besides, I doubt anybody ever told John Wayne there were too many westerns. Well, maybe John Ford, but I certainly doubt anybody ever told John Ford there were too many westerns.

Are superhero movies a fad? I don’t think so. We’ve always had a lot of them, but the passage of time has painted them with a nostalgic afterglow. Zorro, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, James Bond and their ilk have been in the theaters for over a century, and the industry is still making movies about these same guys.

Each movie should be evaluated on its own merits. If it’s a remake of a great movie, okay – the bar is higher as the filmmakers must justify why they’re remaking a great movie. But the argument should be about quality and not quantity. When it comes to sequels, let us remember that there have been quite a number that many critics define as superior to the original. Godfather II and From Russia With Love come to mind. Rotten Tomatoes gave Spider-Man 2 (the one that was good and not Amazing) four points over its well-received predecessor.

There’s a more direct way to say all this.

Before sitting down to watch a movie, pull that stick out of your ass. And don’t get wrapped up in the capes.

Mike Gold: Iron Fist – Your Mileage May Vary!

I must admit, I agree with Roy Thomas and Larry Hama.

Unfortunately, this puts me in opposition to at least three of my ComicMix fellow travelers – Martha Thomases, Joe Corallo and Adriane Nash. And, probably, many others who occupy these premises. That should make our next staff meeting amusing.

Iron Fist – I’m talking about the Marvel/Netflix series – most certainly is not The Prisoner of 21st Century. It’s not even as good as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. But from reading the reactions of the aforementioned critics and many others, I do not find it to be the You’re In The Picture of the 21st Century, a show so obscure and godawfullousy that only Bob Ingersoll remembers it.

To be fair, I’ve only seen the first four episodes. Then again, Martha’s only seen the first four as well. But those critics who have been vocal in their distaste for the show seem to take umbrage at a number of the show’s elements:

  • It moves too slowly.

Yeah, well, there’s some truth to that but, damn, BFD. Epileptics deserve the opportunity to watch heroic fantasy without going into a seizure.

  • The lead, Finn Jones, sucks.

Maybe, maybe not. Stephen Amell was pretty lame when Arrow got its start, and he got a lot better. While Jones hasn’t quite reached the level of, say, Peter Capaldi, I’m willing to give him some time. How old is he, anyway? About 11, I think.

  • The plot is a rip-off of Arrow, isn’t it?

This particularly bothered my pal Joe. I respond: “Nope, it’s the other way around. In Arrow, Oliver Queen got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and came back five years later as a world-travelling, murderous superpowered member of the Russian mob who was cut off from the family fortune. Danny Rand got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and he came back some 13 years later a fully-powered superhero who was cut off from the family fortune. The difference is, the storyline in Arrow was mostly original to the teevee show – yes, Oliver did disappear for a while only to come back as a costumed non-superpowered, non-murdering hero­. But Danny Rand did it first: when Roy Thomas and Gil Kane created the character, at that time Oliver Queen was nothing more than an occasional back-up feature in Action Comics. So there.

  • Shouldn’t Iron Fist be Asian-American? After all, it’s 2017, damnit.

Yeah, well, here I agree with Roy. You want an Asian-American character, go create an Asian-American character. In fact, you should. Somebody should. And, get this, Joe – ComicMix’s diversity columnist – made this same point a year ago. Iron Fist was created in (arguably) less-enlightened times. You can’t change the past but – and here’s where I differ greatly from some of my revisionist brethren – you can learn from it. They call this a teaching opportunity.

There are many positive elements in the Iron Fist teevee series. First and foremost: there’s the character of Colleen Wing, as performed by Jessica Henwick. She is not a side-kick. She is her own person, a fully capable young woman struggling to make it in the Big City. Yes, I’d love to see her spin-off into her own series, but let’s face it: a Daughters of the Dragon series with Colleen Wing and Misty Knight (Simone Missick) would kick-ass. Quite literally. Besides, Tony Isabella could use the check.

The bad-guy, Harold Meachum, is wonderful. Sure, we figured out he’s a finger in The Hand roughly well before the first commercial, but his motivations and his truly bizarre technique in handling Rand are fascinating. Better still, actor David Wenham is wonderful in the part.

The Netflix crew, under the direction of Marvel’s own Jeff Loeb, understands the need for and the approach to Mighty Marvel Continuity. We’ve got Madame Gao as the big baddie. We last saw her in Daredevil. Jeri Hogarth appears in three episodes; she was the lawyer who didn’t get along with Jessica Jones in the series of the same name.

Rosario Dawson is in this show. Of course, Rosario has been in just about every superhero show or movie since Kirk Alyn hit puberty, and the world is a much better place for that. Her Claire Temple is the glue of Marvel’s Netflix miniverse and I enjoy seeing her move about the continuity.

I appreciate that Rotten Tomatoes has an 81% audience score but only an 18% critics score. This has nothing to do with your opinion. I mention this only to point out that the critics are sick and tired of being forced to watch all these superhero programs and movies, but they do not pay for the privilege. The audience does. It is their money that shows up on the balance sheets, and thus far, the audience seems to enjoy the genre greatly.

I have done little but give Iron Fist faint praise – Larry Hama, who knows something about martial arts heroes, liked it more than I did. Maybe my opinion will change when I finish watching the first series. Yes, there will be a second – it’s already been picked up.

But, as Dennis Miller used to say (and might still, but hardly anybody cares), “your mileage may vary,” and that’s totally cool.

John Ostrander: Run, Squad, Run!

ew-suicide-squadAs I write this (Friday), the Suicide Squad movie has grossed $318, 779,276 domestically and $413,000,000 internationally for a total worldwide gross of $731,779,276. It’s been playing since the start of August and, in the U.S., it’s still on the top ten list.

It has now out-grossed the first Iron Man film. It has also out-grossed Iron Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, Thor, Ant-Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Incredible Hulk. It has also out-grossed all of the X-Men films, the Wolverine films, and The Amazing Spider-Man films.

And Suicide Squad did not access to the #2 market in the world, China. (Why won’t the Chinese let it in? Beats me.)

It means that not only a lot of people have seen the movie, but many have seen it more than once. (I’ve seen it three times so far but you’d probably guessed that I would.) I know it’s still in at least one movie theater in my remote vicinity.

This is for a film that rates a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I still don’t understand. Did these disapproving critics and fans see the same film I saw? That all these other people saw? Yes, I know it’s not the Citizen Kane of superhero flicks; I know it’s flawed and I could recite some of those flaws. But, as I said before, I’d give it a good solid B. It’s a fun summer popcorn entertainment and it’s just different enough from other superhero films to deserve the attention it gets.

I saw at last one online poster sniff that, yes, it has had a lot of customers but, then, so does McDonalds. I’d hasten to point out that there are food critics who have praised McDonalds french fries. The fact that something is popular does not mean it isn’t good. (Ook. Two negatives in one sentence. Ah well.)

There are things that are different in the Squad film – I heard one millennial cite the coloring, the use of music, the pacing, and the central idea of bad guys being made to do “good” (“good” being a relative term). It is something different.

It’s something that the younger generation seems to be hooking into. The ad calls them the Worst. Heroes. Ever. – and they are. You wind up rooting for them anyway. As twisted as it is, the central romance in the film is Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The film is a different take on the superhero genre.

Look, I’m not going to try and tell people that their opinion of the film is wrong. They react according to who they are and how the film strikes them. I might suggest, however, that they might want to give it another chance. Sure, I’m biased and, yes, I have a (tiny) vested interest in the Squad’s success but I think the movie might be better than some people give it credit for.

So get a ticket, grab some popcorn, and meet me at the Cineplex while the Suicide Squad is still playing. I’m ready to go see it again.

Marc Alan Fishman: No Star Wars for Old Men

Star Wars

I know, I know, I know. Two Star Wars articles from ole’ Fish in the same number of weeks. He must be off his meds! Well, I was perfectly content to drone on this week about Jessica Jones, or really phone in my column with some generic platitudes of geekery for the new year ya’ll are celebrating here on this, the second day of 2016. But nay, I must dust off my hatespew bomber jacket and launch a complete snark to nerd strike like I haven’t had to do in the longest of times. Strap in – this is gonna be one Sith of a ride.

George Lucas came out to Charlie Rose’s Hulu series to declare that Disney – the “…white slavers that takes these things” – has shat the bed on his magnum opus, Star Wars. Yes, you read that clearly, Maz Kanata. Lucas believes that J.J. Abrams and Mickey are guilty of warping the intended vision of franchise with their “retro movie”. Per Georgie:

“They looked at the stories, and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans’… They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway.”

Let’s make it clear before I take my gloves off – Lucas is at peace with the sale of Star Wars. Per the interview (and others both at the original sale of the franchise and multiple since) he proclaimed his desire to move on. All he wanted to do then with Rose… was take a teeny tiny shit in the corner of the room before he left the house for good. Note that he has since redacted the “white slavers” phrase, so no hard feelings, right?

Well, maybe there weren’t any before. But now, I’m seeing red as well as Kylo Ren does in his daydreams.

It’s clear from the interview that Lucas is still very much in love with Episodes I, II, and III. His desire is still to stretch the boundaries of CGI in film. To explore new planets, new ships, and new aliens. This far surpasses any desire for good story, good performance, or good filmmaking. In his mind – per the childish retort – Abrams’ film is somehow pastiche or homage at best. That by starting from the perspective that the fans should be catered to, Episode VII is somehow a lesser product.

Of course, George Lucas is entitled to his opinion. Rare that I’d dare say this without jest behind it, but truly, his opinion is just wrong.

Beyond the overly syrupy glorification that was my column last week, I’m fairly certain most everyone has left the theater renewed in their love for that galaxy far, far away. And with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so too, would the critics agree. It also doesn’t hurt that at the time of writing this article, the flick has grossed $1,200,000,000 – not counting any of the tie-in merchandising and futures to come. Are we all just blind? No, we’re not.

What grinds my gears to a screeching halt is the “have your cake and eat it too” attitude being presented. George Lucas walked away with four billion galactic credits with the sale of his epic franchise. And with it, should have gone his right to say anything short of a wookie moan of utter pleasure. Episode I, II, and III were a cacophony of wooden acting over thin plotting with a greasy sheen of CGI gloss so thick the 2-D prints came with a Z-axis. That here, in the wake of near global cheer over the apology that was The Force Awakens, we learn that deep down, George had his fingers crossed the whole time. Not that it matters. I think one of the better parts of this interview dropping has been my Facebook feed choked with support for the new film – and the expansion of the Star Wars brand now firmly in the hands of artisans who will bring back the spirit of collaboration that made the original trilogy the success it was in the first place.

This leads me down the path towards the bigger question of creator rights. Simply put: how well can we truly part with our creations? In the face of a big fat paycheck, can we look the other way as our brainchildren become the pawns of a new master? And regardless of whether our intellectual property is handled well, or becomes 2015’s Fantastic Four, are we allowed to publicly offer a cold shoulder and a smirk? If the blaster were held to my temple, I’d quickly say no. The check cleared, and with it any right to be involved in the conversation any longer. Especially if with that deal came the feeling that there were no “keen” feelings to share with one another once the ink was dry.

George Lucas now is akin to Anakin Skywalker. He is too worried about his own ego and power – sounding less like a Jedi master, and more like an immature child complaining about the feeling of sand in his shorts.