Our Megan Byrd, Mai Pucik, and Ashley Schmuecker, along with guest commentators/hecklers Shannon Rahe and Vicki Essex joined me to talk about summer movies. In this part we discuss Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Wolverine, and the state of the comic book movie. You can find part one here.
We haven’t talked at all about Wolverine, Iron Man 3 (a double sequel to IM and Avengers), and Man of Steel. IM3 was an unqualified success. MoS did good box office but disappointed the studio enough that the sequel is going to be a crossover. Wolverine was generally a critical and audience favourite, but didn’t get nearly as many butts in seats, as Fox hoped. So how is the superhero movie doing these days? Still going strong? Struggling to find new things to say? Are there still superhero movies you long for, or are dying to see? Or are you about done?
Mai: I don’t think moviemakers care whether superhero movies have anything “new” to say as long as they make money–which is frustrating to a superhero fan like me who thinks they have very interesting things to say in the stories that… never make it to the big screen because we’re rebooting one of the big three for the nth time. Even in the Supes/Bats/Spidey canon there are so many stories with great adaptation potential that are being overlooked because they come way after the origin stories. Under the Red Hood was a great animated adaptation of a decent comics storyline, but it could easily have been a live action blockbuster–“Batman thinks the Joker killed Robin, but he’s still alive and has come back for revenge” wouldn’t be a hard premise to sell. Instead, The Yawnworthy Knight Rises and now Ben Affleck as Batman.
Superhero movies have been good in pushing forward some characters who were previously B- or C-list, most notably Iron Man, but most characters getting the push are still straight white guys. Where are the Wonder Woman and Black Widow movies? What about the Heroes for Hire or Daughters of the Dragon (hello, like audiences wouldn’t go see a superhero/martial arts hybrid action flick)? When non-straight white guy heroes should be appearing, they get pushed aside–written out, like the Wasp and the Guardians of the Galaxy ladies bar Gamora (though, props for casting Zoe Saldana), or whitewashed, like Scarlet Witch.
I’m not done with superhero movies any more than I’m done with superhero comics, but I’d like to see more kinds of characters and more kinds of stories than just the “iconic” ones, which still have their charm but shouldn’t be the only narratives on offer.
Megan B: I will theorize that audiences are tired of superhero origin stories. Iron Man 3 built upon a story that was already established, and we didn’t have to sit through the same character arc for the upteenth time; it also helped that the franchise saw new blood in director Shane Black. I think the superhero genre in general is doing just fine when helmed by talented folks, and formulaic and likely to underperform when rushed to the screen. These characters have so much rich history from which to build stories, so when I see yet another hero’s journey of one man learning of the responsibility of his powers, I want to hit the movie snooze button. I absolutely cannot wait to see Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man. Even without seeing any footage or knowing the casting, he is a director that continues to create innovative films; his Scott Pilgrim proved he could create an adaptation that stood on its own, while embodying the spirit of the source material. I can’t wait to see what he does with a big(ger) budget Marvel property. I am cautiously optimistic about Guardians of the Galaxy as I am not as familiar with James Gunn’s work, but the cast has me excited. Basically, the superhero genre is alive and well in Marvel studios, and wildly inconsistent at DC/Warner Bros. All is right in the world!
Shannon: I actually went back and rewatched the original Christopher Reeves Superman as well as Wrath of Khan right after sitting through the reboots this year. What struck me is the originals managed to go for over an hour without someone getting punched in the face. There’s actual characterization and plot. You know, compelling stuff that the reboots seem to be missing. Obviously I’m a fan of action in my summer action films but not at the expense of more compelling storylines, characters and so on. Hollywood seems to be rehashing ideas but at the expense of well rounded storytelling. After all, why do you need that when you can just throw in some special effects and drawn out fight scenes?
I like how Wolverine attempted to do something more along those lines. You have Wolverine dealing with the consequences of his actions and the characters are given motivation that the audience can understand. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people remembered Wolverine: Origins and avoided it, which hurt ticket sales. Interestingly enough, I remember reading reports that the studio was surprised Wolverine didn’t do better because Origins did so well opening weekend. I think that goes to show a big issue with how Hollywood judges success: by the numbers only. They seem to have completely forgotten all the hate Origins got simply because it did well opening weekend. They seem to have conveniently forgotten how the numbers tanked the following weekend when word of how bad it was got out, or that people may be wary of another Wolverine movie after that film.
Even with what Wolverine did right, we definitely need to see some new ideas injected into superhero movies. The fact that we’re rebooting Batman AGAIN while Wonder Woman has yet to have a film is just frustrating.
Vicki: Whether or not you consider this a bad thing, I am forever going to compare superhero films to The Avengers and its franchise films. Whedon set the bar very high, so every superhero flick to come is going to have to measure up to that and accept that it may simply be the rebound superhero flick, or the superhero flick between Avengers movies. Even the Iron Man, Captain America and Thor sequels are just filler, though they will likely lay the important backstory to the world’s greatest heroes’ plotlines.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen the Spider-Man reboot, and I have no interest in doing so. Man of Steel was Meh of Feels for me. And Batflleck? Really? There are only so many versions of straight-white-guy-turns-superhero-in-overproduced-origin-story-or sequel I want to see. Even Wolverine felt a little tired to me, as much as I love the Canucklehead and Hugh Jackman.
That said, I really want to see a Wonder Woman movie. And a Black Widow/Hawkeye movie. I really hope Hollywood takes its chances on more diverse superheroes. There are tons of great stories out there, but studios are balking at female superhero films, citing Catwoman, Suckerpunch and Elektra as flops, even though there have been a ton more male-led blockbusters that have flopped worse. Wonder Woman, guys. Bet you’re kicking yourselves for dropping Whedon’s script now.
MeganB: Vicki, I think you nailed it, in that Whedon has definitely upped the ante. Ten years ago it was enough to just see these characters on screen, but that is simply not the case anymore. Character team-ups, ensemble casts, star power that extends beyond one actor, these are the norm now. When it comes to superhero movies, a female lead may be the only area where getting it on screen is still impressive!
Ashley: Superhero movies, and by extension superhero merchandise, have been making bank. I mean, have you been to Hot Topic lately? I think Megan B got it right when she said it’s not enough to see the characters on the screen anymore. Similarly, Mai’s discussion of the need to adapt stories like Under the Red Hood for the big screen is right on target. I am a huge superhero fan, but am getting bored. I am desperate for a Wonder Woman film, and I’ve always wanted to see Batgirl on the big screen.
Let’s talk about upcoming blockbusters. Batfleck, more sequels, Guardians of the Galaxy. What’s on your radar for next summer, or the summer after? What recent movie news was exciting, disappointing, or hit you in the feels?
Mai: Despite reservations outlined in the last question, I’m looking forward to Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier; Hemsworth’s Thor and Evans’ Cap are charming, and I want to see more of Jane, Sif, Black Widow and Bucky–not to mention the Falcon. Fresh from seeing The Cornetto Trilogy back to back, I’m also intrigued by Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man. I’m not sure how I feel about the Pacific Rim sequel, because the film seemed complete in itself, but on the other hand, more Mako Mori? Hells yeah.
Despite being my social circle’s “Spider-Man” person, I can’t muster that much enthusiasm for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The cast is obviously bloated–and yet, missing Mary Jane Watson, because it’s obviously more important to have the Rhino and the Vulture on top of Electro–and the late-date addition of TASM 2 to the line-up suggests that Sony is pretty much flailing around throwing spaghetti at the wall. At least I know the acting will be good.
The film I’m looking forward to the most right now is Belle, a historical drama about Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed race daughter of a British admiral and an African slave. It recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and I’m crossing my fingers it will make its way to Switzerland soon. I also really want to see 12 Years a Slave and Kill Your Darlings.
Shannon: I have zero faith in Zack Snyder so I don’t really have much hope for his Batman/Superman crossover. Even if another director was at the helm, I’d still be kind of exhausted with Batman. Bale just finished with the role a little over a year ago. I’d love to see Hollywood try something new but I know money talks and the Batman films make tons of it.
I’m interested to see what will happen with Star Trek, with another director at the helm as I really did not like JJ Abrams vision of the franchise. Maybe we’ll now see women doing something more in the reboot then bicker with their Vulcan boyfriends and stand around in their undies.
Marvel definitely has some potentially fun films coming out though. Edgar Wright has proven himself so I have hopes for his Ant-Man.
I’m also hopeful for X-Men: Days of the Future Past, since I thoroughly enjoyed First Class. Not to mention, both young and old Magento and Xavier are cast brilliantly. Bryan Singer being back as the director is the only reason I’m a bit more reserved in my expectations.
And, hey, we’ll have another Fast and Furious next year! Vin Diesel and Jason Statham in one film is enough to get my butt into a theatre seat.
Vicki: I was skeptical about The Avengers and now I can’t shut up about it. So I’ve got high hopes for Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier, and mediocre hopes for Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, and any other superhero offerings Marvel is willing to pull out of the vault. X-Men Days of Future Past is definitely on my to-see list.
I’ll probably see Catching Fire more out of obligation than excitement. The Hunger Games was solid, but just didn’t live up my expectations of the novel.
I’ve given up on the Star Wars franchise, even though I used to be the biggest Star Wars nerd during the days of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. Frankly, even with Disney’s backing and JJ Abrams’s direction, I’m having a really hard time getting past the trauma of the prequels.
I am really looking forward to Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, said to be his final release before retirement, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon. JGL wrote, starred and directed this flick, and it looks phenomenal.
Ashley: Super excited for Thor: The Darkworld (It may or may not be because I am in love with Loki) and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Shannon Rahe works in social media and once had a bit walk on role on Falling Skies. You can find her on Twitter @Hokuboku.