Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Casual Comic Book Fan Weighs In

by Scott Adlerberg

So let's see where we are - I'm having trouble keeping up - in the world of TV and film superhero adaptations.

When I last looked at where we stand, this is what I found:

1) Deadpool (Marvel) opened a few weeks ago and has done great at the box office.
2) Daredevil Season Two (Marvel) started streaming on Netflix on March 18th.
3) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (DC) opens this coming Friday, March 25th.
4) Captain America: Civil War (Marvel) opens May 6.
5) X-Men: Apocalypse (Marvel) opens May 27th
6) Suicide Squad (DC) opens August 5th.
7) Doctor Strange (Marvel) opens November 7th.

I'm putting aside weekly superhero shows like Flash and Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Aside from these, as far as big superhero releases for 2016 are concerned, am I missing anything?  I might be, but in any event, that's plenty.  Or is it?  Because one thing I've come to realize is that it's tough being a casual comic fan in a writing community full of serious fan people. It's only over time that I've come to understand the intensity of the fan people's love for these characters and stories. Their love and their passion.  Their quickness to anger over what they dislike in these adaptations.  Don't get me wrong.  I like superhero narratives (I read comics as a kid; I was a DC person big time over Marvel), and I'm not saying anything here about the fan people to be critical or sarcastic.  It's just that...how shall I put this...As someone who doesn't take the superhero films and the characters and the universes created all that seriously, I've come to appreciate how others must feel who are, let's say, casual baseball fans when they get caught in a bar filled with baseball fanatics.  In that scenario, I'm the fanatic, ready to talk stats and minutia and history, I'm the person with opinions galore, and I can only imagine what I must sound like to the person in that bar who's thinking, "I just want to relax, have a beer or two, enjoy the game and go home.  Why is this guy telling me about the beauty of small ball, a player's OPS, and how that game and specific play reminds him of a game from 1978?"

But it's kind of fun listening to all the enthusiasm and debates on Facebook, the detailed analysis given to brand new superhero film trailers, the certainty with which it's stated this movie will be good and this one will stink.  (Captain America: Civil War, based on the trailer - thumbs up; Batman v Superman - tagged with a definite thumbs down).  And who knows? People may very well be right in their prognostications.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier was excellent, and I'm stoked for the coming installment. And yes, Marvel has been killing it on the big screen, while DC......oh, well.  But with a 10 year old son who's really psyched to see Batman v Superman its opening weekend, am I put off enough by what I see in the trailer to nix seeing it in a theater?  A better question might be this: does the portrayal of Superman, begun in the last Superman movie and admittedly not very much in line with the expected portrayal of Superman, bother me enough to damper my kid's excitement by disparaging the film within his earshot before we see it?  It does not.  Actually, neither he nor I liked the last Superman film, but he's still eager to see what's gonna happen when Batman and Wonder Woman enter the scene, and so what the hell?  As a casual comic book fan, I can't get all that bent out of shape by what they might do with the characters.  Damn, the Japanese created their own King Kong just so they could set up a fight between Kong and Godzilla. And if  the movie sucks, well, who's the loser?  The real loser.  Not the adult viewers. Not even the kids who watched.  Like with novels, the original sources are out there and you can always go back to those or direct your kid to those. (Or to the animated features DC does, which indeed are well done).   No, the loser, yet again, would be the DC company, and even my son wouldn't be shocked by that since everyone above 5 with half a brain knows who's winning between DC and Marvel when it comes to the big screen (and Netflix) adaptations.

Anyhow, I should wrap this up. So let me bring things around to where they started, and if I may, I'll give my take on the seven adaptations listed above.  Remember, this is coming from a casual comic book fan.  My knowledge and interest are akin to the knowledge and interest of the baseball fan who doesn't even know the meaning of the word sabermetrics.

1) Deadpool: Self-aware, witty, and clever.  I enjoyed it.  Proof positive that even when they make an R-rated superhero film, Marvel aims to make it fun, not gloomy.
2) Daredevil Season Two:  I watched a couple episodes in season one and the character and story just didn’t grip me. So no interest in season two. 
3) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Will it be good or bad? Who knows? Zach Snyder directs, so odds are it won't scintillate. But it's hard not to root for a movie so many people are convinced will be terrible.
4) Captain America: Civil War: Second film this year that will have two icons fighting.  Captain America wears blue, Iron Man red, so I assume the film about a team divided is a metaphor for the red state-blue state divide plaguing the United States?  Kidding.  That doesn't seem to be what the dissension in this story is about, but I do hope the film stays up to the level of its not afraid to be politically relevant predecessor.
5) X-Men: Apocalypse:  When I saw the trailer for this in the theaters, at least three other films previewed showed the world under attack or about to end, and all that utter destruction gets tedious fast.  I liked the last X-Men movie, though.
6) Suicide Squad: As director David Ayres said, this will be The Dirty Dozen with super villains.  Could be fun and deserves a shot.
7) Doctor Strange:  Hard to resist because of the cast.  But all I can think is what if you had Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejifor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelson, and Tilda Swinton in a crime film. That's something I'd be dying to see.

Well, let the annual superhero film festivities begin...


Rick Ollerman said...

Scott, the biggest issue I have with your post is the most obvious: DC over Marvel? What were you thinking? I liked my Captain Marvel with Nega-bands swapping places with Rick Jones in the Negative Zone, not the big red and yellow guy who fought a worm with a microphone. On the other hand, Neal Adams' art on Batman almost redeemed the tepid stories that were written. Almost.

I joke but I was Marvel way over DC, which I found sort of boring. But like many, comics informed a lot of my sensibilities and increased my vocabulary, despite the occasional miscue. For a while, Spider-Man made a lot of jokes about some guy whose name I pronounced "Urban Renwall." Eventually I couldn't take it anymore and went to my comics-despising father and said, "Who the heck is this guy?"

"It's 'urban renewal,'" he told me. "It's where they tear down old city buildings and put up new ones."

Having this sort of discussion with your father is a very good way to stop enjoying comic books, but I survived. And with a greater appreciation of architecture in the city.

Hope your fantasy draft went well.

scott adlerberg said...

Ha! I'm pretty sure I inherited my DC allegiance from my father who had been more of a DC person when he was a kid and he had these books around the house about DC characters from the Golden Age. But I do remember some pretty passionate discussions and debates with friends my age who were on the Marvel side.

Yeah, the fantasy draft was a marathon, all-day affair as always, but I came out of it with a pretty good team, I think.