Thursday, April 11, 2013

Like What You Wanna Like! Defenses of Underappreciated Films (And More!) Part 1!

Last week I asked you all to write in with media and franchises you love that seem to have a sizable hatedom (aside from I-III, since I always talk about them). I swore that I would talk a little bit about each with the following rules:

1. If I liked it too, I would praise it for its greatness.

2. If I didn't like it, I would be honest with my criticism while still emphasizing both your right to like it and its right to exist, plus finding at least one genuinely nice thing to say about it (and not dismissing it as alltogether "bad" regardless of how I feel).

3. If I haven't seen it, I'll explain why while refusing to pass too much judgement and, again, emphasizing both your right to like it and its right to exist.

You all gave me a lot of great things to talk about that fall into all three categories. You gave me so much that, while I envisioned this as a single post, Blogspot wouldn't let me put all the necessary tags on it requiring me to split it into two. This actually worked out for the best, since about half of the suggestions came from Superhero stuff. I'll start with that and give the rest of you a little more time to suggest more.

Some Spoilers ahead.

Now, these are all my honest feelings. I invite you to disagree with any of my assessments because, let's face it, taste is subjective. Still, even if I dislike something, I recognize it gets far more flak than it deserves.

Marvel-ous Movies

Once X-Men finally got off the ground, Marvel let open the floodgates and finally gave all our favorite characters a decent film adaptation. Of course, some people didn't think so...

Howard the Duck - I already spoke about this one in one of my SW-related articles, but I love Howard the Duck. It's not a great film, but it's not the terror people make it out to be. Like I said before, it's just generally weird. I like that weirdness, but I get why a lot of people don't. Still, a few special effects failures and odd readings aside, it's a fun flick.

Daredevil - Again, I spoke about this during its anniversary, but this is one of my favorite Marvel adaptations. Despite the aesthetic changes, this is a great streamlined version of the character. Yeah, the CG stuntpeople aren't stellar, but then the CGI blindsense is. Plus, you've got great performances. I don't know what it is general audiences have against Ben Affleck as an actor. I mean, I'm sure not all his chosen roles were great roles, but I've never seen a performance from him that I disliked because of him. I suppose people might have been upset that we didn't get the R-rated version they were making before Spider-Man hit it big, but I have no real problem with the PG-13 we got. Again, not a life-changing flick, but still a good one.

The Hulk films - A lot of people were down on both these movies. They're not my favorites because The Hulk is not one of my favorite characters. I'll admit that 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" left very little impression on me, but I don't think it was a "bad" movie. It was obvious that a lot of work was put into it and for a movie trying to be a sequel where everyone was recast (one of my pet peeves), it was okay. I did really enjoy Ang Lee's 2003 "Hulk", though. I appreciate what it was trying to do. It was an art film version of a comic book movie, and that was a fresh and interesting new take. Again, not my favorite, but I pop it in once in a while. Plus, Nick Nolte rocked in it.

The Blade Sequels - I only ever really got into the original Blade, and found the other two underwhelming. However, I didn't think they were bad movies. Not as good as the first, but not bad as action movies. They did have some merit, and 3 had Ryan Reynolds. I love that guy. Stay tuned for more of him. I've only seen the other once or twice. Probably won't watch them again, but I am glad I saw them the first time. That's more than I can say for some films.

Fantastic Four - Again, neither of these films are my favorites but only because the heroes themselves aren't my favorites. But given the subject matter, I did genuinely enjoy these movies. I didn't quite like the way Doom or Galactus were handled, purely from a lore point of view, but that's just a nitpick. "Rise of the Silver Surfer" is one of the few I haven't re-watched since the theatrical run, but I did find more things to like than dislike in it. Plus, c'mon, Chris Evans as the Human Torch was awesome. I had major problems with him being cast as Captain America because he'll always be the Torch to me (not that he didn't absolutely nail Cap too, he did).

X-Men III: The Last Stand - This is my least favorite of the X-Men franchise, and I haven't seen it from beginning to end since the theatrical run because of what I felt were needless character deaths. But aside from's still a pretty freaking good movie, or at least on par with the other two. Angel was underused, but Kelsey Grammar's Beast was just pitch-perfect. It did resolve a lot of storylines fairly well, and even left us with a bit of a sequel hook.

Ghost Rider - By the same team behind Daredevil, and I think this one is just as awesome. This one's a little more supernatural, like it's supposed to be. I love Nic Cage, he always makes me laugh and I have a lot of fun with him. Eva Mendes is also a lot of fun. Peter Fonda and Sam Elliot were just inspired casting. Plus, as much as I miss the awesome monster-Blackheart from the comics, Wes Bently played the part perfectly. I admit I do prefer the Director's Cut, but as much as it clears a few things up it's not technically necessary. I was upset that I missed the sequel in its theatrical run, and I can't wait to see it.

Spider-Man 3 - This, to me, is the most egregious example of a Marvel movie with a hatedom, because this movie is just as good as the others in this series. In fact, I think it's better than Spider-Man 2, which people were lauding it as the "greatest superhero movie of all time." And  I never understood why, because it repeated too much from the first movie and didn't gave Alfred Molina's incredible Doc Ock nearly enough screentime. But I'm not here to bash, I loved 2 as well. I just think that, as a whole, 3 is better (though 1 is still the best). 3 got me to feel invested in Sandman, one of my least favorite Spider-villains (and his "birth" scene is one of the greatest in cinema history). It brought the Goblin legacy back, and gave Harry a touching sendoff. Venom was PERFECT - I never really liked the musclebound comics version or his flimsy motivation, so Topher Grace's stalker-with-a-crush made him a great foil in all areas. My only real major complaint with it is that it felt a little rushed, but I still loved it. Actually, Peter David's novelization of it fills in a lot of that stuff (I recommend all of David's novels of the Spider-Man films; they're awesome). I'm still upset that Sam Raimi wasn't allowed to do 4 with the same cast, because I still feel it's too soon for Amazing (but anyone here who liked that movie: that's awesome too! I haven't seen it, so I don't know).

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - I loved it. I didn't expect to, but I did. The story was great. Liev Schriber, while creating some continuity snarls, was a good take on Sabertooth. It was cool to finally see Gambit. Seriously, this wasn't Citizen Kane, but it was a good X-Men movie. I liked it a hell of a lot better than First Class (which was very well-made, but left me feeling sort of meh). So why don't people like this one? Most of the specific complaints I've been able to squeeze out (and those are few and far between) have to do with how Deadpool was handled. And, as a Deadpool fan, I would honestly feel cheated if this was the only cinematic representation of Deadpool we ever get. However, this is a GREAT origin story for him if we get the Deadpool movie later on. It shows how he goes from a wisecracking mercenary to a screwed-up mutant because they totally mess with his brain. Plus, Ryan Reynolds was PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT! He was perfect as Wade, and that moment in the Stinger where, as Deadpool, he reaches for his own severed head and shushes the audience - AWESOME!

Iron Man 2 - I was asked to do this one. Do people really hate it? I mean, it wasn't as good as the first, but it was a good movie. Mickey Rourke was cool. It went into Stark's demons a little more. Who didn't like this one?

Now it's time to go to...

The Distinguished Competitor

This one will be set up a little differently, not by media so much as by character. I like fewer DC things than Marvel things, but what I do like...

Superman - Okay, here's where I lose some of you. I don't really like Superman. I never did. Do I enjoy some Superman-related media? Sure. But I've never really gotten into him as a character or his mythology. Closest I ever got was the Superman TAS and that's only because it was the Timm-Dini team again which made the Batman one so awesome. Again, that show had some great moments, and the original Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve film is a classic. I just never found the character all that interesting. Well, except for a certain twist illustrated in Kill Bill:

"Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red 'S', that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He's weak... he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."

Now that's a very valid point and proves that, much as I don't like him, there is more to Superman than being a broing Boy-Scout.

All that being said, again, I can't think of a Superman-related piece of media that I completely disliked, even 2006's Superman Returns. It had a lot going against it, being a sequel to a several-decade-old film that already had two sequels which this one was trying to replace (and I can see why, though there were some interesting ideas in Supes 3-4). It was an all new cast trying to ape the old ones. Bryan Singer got some flak for abandoning X-Men. Even with all that against it, it still turned out a decent movie. Not great, but Decent. Kevin Spacey was awesome, but he always is. I also really liked Brandon Routh. the Lois in this was kind of forgettable outside of the plot twist, but she wasn't bad. I mean, I can see why someone getting all their hopes up for a Superman revival might be disappointed in this, but it was still a decently-made movie.

Last thing I want to mention is that someone brought up that the Death of Superman story arc (you know, the one featuring Doomsday) actually has a sizable hatedom. I rarely if ever read issue-to-issue comics, and I never read a collection from this arc. So this is one of the few things to fall into that thrid category I spoke about in  the opening.

Deaths of main characters are one of the reasons I don't read issue-to-issue comics, because A) they rarely result from anything unavoidable and just come off as a deliberate attempt to shock us, and B) In the case of a long-running hero or villain, it's often reversed within the year anyway and using more and more unlikely means, making the entire story it happened in completely pointless.

That being said, never having read the arc, I can't speak to how well it was written. But it must have struck a good chord to have the story be adapted as many times as it has. Doomsday finds his way into a lot of Superman interpretations such as the TAS and Smallville, so he must be popular. Outside of the "Likely-to-be-reversed-hero-death" angle, I've never heard anyone badmouth the story itself and actually by all accounts it seemed to be pretty popular. So really, what would be the point in bashing it?

Batman - Now THIS is what I'm talking about. This is the DC mythos I truly love. Not the issue-to-issues, mind you, but everything associated with them. And they all seem pretty popular, at least when they came out.

Yes we all know the Adam West show was campy and ridiculous, but that's why it was fun. Plus, for better or worse, that's kind of what Silver-Age DC was like.

However, the big point of contention seems to be the film series from '89-'98, especially in the wake of the Nolanverse films. While I believe the Nolan films are better representations of the Batman mythos, the others were still great movies. Well, two and a half were great movies, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, the 1989 Batman, which was such a screaming success that I have trouble thinking anyone would seriously hate it enough to form a hatedom at this point. It does show its age more and more, but Tim Burton's first foray into Gotham still hold up. Micheal Keaton, while not looking the part at all, does convey the soul extremely well. It has the best Batmobile, and the best Bat-theme, of any of the adaptations save maybe one (more on that one later). Jack's a great Joker, the other supporting cast is great. Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale is kind of useless, but whatever. It's a nitpick.

Of course, we all know what I think of 1992's Batman Returns: Best Batman Ever! Okay, liberal artistic licence was taken with the source material on that one, but judged not as a Batman film but as just a film: it is one of the most beautiful, haunting, funny, scary, deep, and fun character studies in the history of cinema. I can't say enough good about this movie. This and Edward Scissorhands are truly Tim Burton's magnum opuses, and along with Nightmare Before Christmas, are also where his style reached its zenith.

Sadly, the execs didn't like the fact that they made Happy Meal toys out of this and went for something lighter-and-softer, to whit Joel Schumacher was brought in. Schumacher gets more flak than Burton ever did, and honestly I think a lot of it is undeserved.

Were there things wrong with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin? Sure, but most of it was executive meddling. And even then, the plots of the films were good plots, just mishandled by the shooting script. And even then, there's some good performances. Jim Carrey was a perfect Riddler in Forever. Val Kilmer was decent, and George Clooney is, to me, the only film Batman that actually looks the part. Chris O'Donnel also did the best he could with what he was given, and the "Holy Rusted Metal" line in "Forever" is a classic. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy? I don't think they were great, but they could have been if with better material. And EVEN's obvious that WB was forcing Schumacher into a tone more like the Adam West series, and in that regard "Forever" and "& Robin" were complete successes. I still enjoy both films today on the same level as I enjoy the West show, even though I think they have no business being in the same movie universe as the Burton films.

But, geeks are fickle. Even Nolan doesn't catch a break because "The Dark Knight Rises" was seen by many as a big step back. And I agree that it was a tad underwhelming compared to Dark Knight, but aside from the Nuclear shenanigans at the end it's still a good movie, on par filmmaking-wise with the other two.

Still, much as I love all the movies, the definitive Batman for me and many others is without a doubt the original Batman the Animated Series. In my mind, no other superhero piece of media will match the perfection that the original seasons of BatmanTAS had. Though they do try. There have been a number of animated Batman shows trying to pick up TAS' audience while going in a different direction. I haven't liked a single one of them, but that's okay. A lot of other people do, and I would never dream of taking that away from them. Plus, they should be commended on having new takes on old characters, even if it doesn't strike everyone's chord.

Green Lantern - Finally...what is up with the Green Lantern hate? I'm talking about the 2011 Ryan Reynolds vehicle. I saw it, I loved it, it tanked, people started saying it sucked....WHY?! What about it didn't grab people? I honestly don't know, I thought it was fan-freaking-tastic. Good effects, good acting, interesting storylines, and probably the best "Take that" at the Domino Mask I've ever seen in a serious superhero flick. It was fun, well-done, and a good movie. What problems do people have with it, honestly? I can't fathom.

Well, with the superheroes out of the way, I'll pick up with other films, books, and franchises tomorrow.


    I knew you would do a great job on this article!!!!!!!!!!! Fantastic points on everything!!!

    I think the only problem most fans have with BATMAN 1989 is the plot twist of having the Joker being the Wayne family murderer; to the contrary I thought that was a great idea, if that doesn't make the Joker Batman's #1 enemy then nothing does! (I also profess to being one of the few fans who actually likes Batman & Robin; mostly for Arnold's Mr. Freeze and the late great Micheal Gough's Alfred)

    I'm not offended by your opinion of Superman; I actually harbor similar feelings about the X-Men. Oh well, At least you nice and honest about it. as for Superman Returns: I thought everything (except for the plot-twist with the kid) was great. Superman and Batman are on equal level as my favorite Superheroes; they're not called the WORLD'S FINEST for nothing!

    I look forward to your next article!

    1. Micheal Gough is quite awesome, no doubts there.

      I'll admit, I didn't see the SR plot-twist coming, though in hindsight I really should've.

    2. I think the people who complain about Joker being Batman's killer miss the point of that in the first place- it's paralleling them and making each one reflexively create one another. Let's not forget Burton did this because of how much he loved Moore's "Killing Joke".

    3. Not to mention the other common complaint: Batman killing. What most fans tend to forget was back in the first year of Batman comics in 1939, Batman had this nasty tendency to hurt the henchman and not care about their safety( letting them fall of the building, etc.) the modern Batman is more careful than that. Since Batman 1989 is inspired by DKR KJ and the first year of Batman comics in 1939, Micheal Keaton's Batman lets the henchman get hurt and not care about their safety.

    4. Actually, the gun thing is a sore spot for me regarding these films, but it's not nearly enough to detract from everything they do right.

    5. Does he ever actually use a gun, though? I know he kills quite a bit, but I don't remember him specifically using a gun.

      Nonetheless, though, that's another thing that's quite intentional in the films, in that Burton deliberately sets up Batman to be a rather dark and twisted character, and one we're not really supposed to trust (though funnily enough I think that's what prevents the '89 film from quite working as well as it should, and makes Returns the better of the two).

    6. The Batmobile had machine guns, at least in the first one.

    7. Right, but that was only used to shoot through the AXIS door. I don't believe he ever actually shot anyone with it.

    8. No, but it was possible, which is why Batman historically has never used guns, being the weapon that killed his parents. Again, it's a minor point against everything the movie does so well.

  2. Your opinion on Spider-Man 3 is the same as mine.

  3. The Green Lantern film was a bit too dark for my taste.

    1. Really? I guess it was a tad dark...

  4. As a Green Lantern Fan I really loved the Ryan Reynolds movie. I thought it was more accurate to the source material than any of the Batman and Superman movies. It didn't feature anything stupid in it (aka: Bat credit cards, Bat Nipples, Cellophane "S"s, amnesia kisses, etc.), and made few changes to the canon. All the performances were great (especially Mark Strong's Sinestro) everything about was great. Sure it had it fair share of problems, I think the running time was too short and we could have spent more time in space, but other wise it was great. If there is room for a million different takes on Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, why can't we have the same for Green Lantern?

    1. Really. GL is one of the more interesting concepts.

      Plus, in the 2011 film, he gets his power from Jango Fett. That has to count for something. ;-)

    2. I remember looking at the Abin Sur action figure that came out with the film, the figure got a MACE accessory.

      Jango Fett with a MACE. GET IT?

  5. I unfortunately know about the backlash on The Dark Knight Rises. I don't like it when critics and fans call it out for being flawed when it was packed with same problems as the other two movies. In all fairness, same thing happened to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight; some people didn't like those movies, pointed out their flaws and called them bad because of that. There are actually some people on 'net who will *still* insist that they are terrible overrated movies. Oh, well I don't care I love Nolan's Trilogy, especially RISES

    1. For Begins and DK, I fully expected to dislike it only to be blown away. Fortunately I learned my lesson for Rises.

  6. "Yes we all know the Adam West show was campy and ridiculous,"

    Minor nitpick here, but the West show actually doesn't qualify as camp, since it's supposed to be silly and comedic.

    1. Since when can't camp be on purpose?

    2. It's actually a major part of the aesthetic- camp is supposed to be something that's extremely sincere but also so indulgent and over-the-top that it's hard to take it seriously. The West show doesn't have that sincerity, thus it doesn't qualify as camp.

      I used to get that wrong all the time before someone who knew the aesthetic explained the difference to me.

    3. Actually, that's not widely considered a caveat. Most camp is specifically made to be camp, making the West show a quintessential example of camp in "modern" culture.

    4. To put it another way, according to Susan Sontag: Kitch it naive, Camp is deliberate.

  7. There is a director's cut of Ghost Rider?! I didn't know that. I know that there is an extended cut of Green Lantern on Blu-Ray and it is supposedly a better movie because of it.

    1. Really? I'll have to check that out.

      Yeah, the Ghost Rider extended handles Blackheart's exposition slightly better.

  8. DC: "Distinguished Competitor"

    I love that.

    May I steal it?

    1. Ask Marvel. They've been using it for years.

    2. Really? This is the first time I heard it.