I imagine Joss Whedon is going to have a hard time picking up his comics at the local shop because of all the unsolicited hugs he’ll receive from the geek community. He pulled it off. He made a full-blown, unapologetic superhero movie. And he had the top opening weekend of any film, ever.
That means he’ll probably just send one of his Fembot Bodyguards to collect his comics while he stays home and counts his garbage bags full of money (and woe unto you if you try an unsolicited hug on one of those, fanboys). But still. He’s earned it.
There are many, many geeks out there giving their thoughts on the movie. I figured I’d join in. If you’re one of the last dozen people in the world who has not seen it, well, go to the multiplex. Everyone else, spoilers ahead.
I have a confession to make: I have no desire to see Kick-Ass. None.
If I’d gone to junior high in the aftermath of Columbine, I would have been locked up. No joke. I buzz-cut my hair, wore a black trenchcoat every day, and wrote violent short stories in bad imitation of Hunter S. Thompson where I used a bazooka to blow up the school.
So I think I get where Kick-Ass is coming from. And it’s safe to say that if I were still that same 13-year-old misfit, I would be camping out in front of a theater right now, waiting for the movie to open.
But somewhere along the line, I stopped wanting to see a little girl disembowel people with a samurai sword. I think Roger Ebert says it best in his review of the movie: “Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool?” (This is the same Roger Ebert who raved about xXx, by the way.)
I love Matthew Vaughn’s direction, loved his previous films Layer Cake and Stardust, and have little to no problem seeing grown-ups onscreen tortured, shot, beaten and blown up. I loved Mark Millar’s runs on The Authority and The Ultimates, and was even with him on Wanted, until probably issue four.
But Kick-Ass? Maybe it’s because I’m a father now, and I’ve grown just as compromised and old and hypocritical as a dad in a bad sitcom. But I don’t think so. Sad to say, I just don’t respect the effort very much. It’s a cop-out to claim you’re just following the rules of the real world — by showing mind-blowing violence — and then jump back when people protest and say, “Whoa. Just a joke, folks.” As if to say, “We think it’s realistic and gritty to show a dad shooting his daughter in the chest at point-blank range — unless, of course, you’re offended. In that case, we were only kidding.”
In other words, the whole point of the movie is to deny the very reason the filmmakers claim they made it in the first place. I have more respect for Romero and the Troma team, who at least admit they’re going for the gross-out.
My inner 13-year-old is kicking and screaming as I type this, fighting me every step of the way. He’s calling me a traitor and a hypocrite and many other things that I try not to say out loud any more.
I can see his point. Maybe he’s right, and Kick-Ass would be a great, fun movie. The one thing I’ve learned since being 13 is that I’m wrong. A lot. It’s how I go on learning.
But the little bastard is still going to have to wait to catch it on HBO, and then, only if nothing else is on the TiVo.
For the past thirty years or so, DC has been playing catch-up to Marvel. So it shouldn’t have been too surprising after the Disney-Marvel buyout, Warner Brothers suddenly snorted, woke up and remembered it owned a comic book company too. And hey, that company was supposed to be generating movie franchises, wasn’t it?
At least, that’s what seems to be behind the move to create “DC Entertainment.”1 Publisher Paul Levitz is out2, and the new entity now reports to Diane Nelson, who oversaw the Harry Potter franchise for WB.
I know I’m a few days behind the news here, but unlike the Marvel deal, where I have nothing but speculation and random guesses to offer, with DC I have a little experience, at least on the movie side. In the course of what I laughingly call my screenwriting career, I’ve had a surprising number of meetings with big-deal producers on the WB lot. (Well, OK — with their VPs. And assistants.) My life as a comics geek usually played a part; everyone wanted some of that franchise cash, and someone who’s actually read all the funnybooks can be an asset.
Without exception, every one of these producers talked about what a pain in the ass it was to work with DC on getting movies made. One went so far as to say they didn’t even bother asking about the rights to DC properties anymore.
I did several pitches for DC Comics characters, all with the same result. It was like throwing a stone down a well too deep to hear anything when it hit bottom. It’s entirely possible my pitches just weren’t that good. Then again, nobody has had much luck getting DC Comics characters to the screen, with the glaring exception of Christopher Nolan (talented bastard). Joss Whedon — the guy who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who introduced the concept of the ass-kicking female to an entire demographic — wasn’t able to give WB and DC a Wonder Woman they could live with. Joss Whedon. I suspect that’s a bug in the system.
Another problem was that projects were farmed out all over the place, which led to fragmentation of what should be a shared universe. (For instance, how do you do a Teen Titans movie without Robin, who belongs to the Bat-shop headed by Nolan? How do you put Wonder Girl in that movie if Wonder Woman doesn’t exist on the screen yet? Or Kid Flash, or Aqualad, or Speedy?) Without a guiding hand, stories were left to individual directors and writers. Sometimes that worked, as with Nolan. Other times, it didn’t: in Superman Returns, instead of a new way into the Superman mythos for a new generation we got a sort-of sequel to a movie from 1980. And Superman didn’t even get to punch anyone. We saw how that worked out.
On top of that, there’s the collapse of the Justice League movie, and the endless delays in getting Green Lantern and the Flash to the screen. Constantine. And Catwoman. We must never forget Catwoman.
Bottom line, there was no overarching vision — nothing like what Marvel has going for it now. The creation of DC Entertainment was meant to remedy that. Projects have been taken back from all the various producers, and DC is going to oversee the entire slate now.3
Despite what might sound like bitching here, I hope it works. I love Marvel, but I’m a DC fanboy first. My first comic was a copy of Batman my parents put in my hands when I was four years old.4 I would like nothing more than for Superman to sell a million copies a month while a line goes around the block for the latest installment of his movies. I want to see Nolan’s take on Robin, then Batgirl and even Ace the Bat-Hound. I want to see a “Beware the Creeper” TV show and a Metamorpho/Plastic Man animated series. I want Gail Simone’s Secret Six to have its own movies, DVDs and T-shirts.
And as always, I am available to write any of these things. Reasonable rates.
1 Yes, I know big corporate moves like this take forever and require lots of meetings and planning, but I think the Disney/Marvel deal forced WB to announce before everything was in place.
2I don’t see how this is good news for current DC executive editor Dan Didio. He wasn’t elevated to the publisher slot. According to this report, DC is looking for new feet in those boots, which means DD was passed over or forced to compete with outside candidates for the job. Didio wasn’t even mentioned in the press release. Maybe that’s because, with one or two monthly exceptions, DC has been getting crushed in sales by Marvel for a solid decade now. Maybe it’s because DC’s All-Star line — meant to compete with Marvel’s Ultimate line and provide new readers with easy entry into the DC Universe — fizzled out after two perpetually late series. (Even if one of them was brilliant.) Maybe it’s the failure of DC Comics to turn the biggest comic-book movie ever into more customers. Maybe it’s because DC’s big event of last year — Final Crisis — was a mess in both scheduling and execution. (I personally liked the actual series, but then I’m part of a very small target demo: Grant Morrison fans with an encyclopedic knowledge of Jack Kirby’s 1970s DC period. And even I was confused by the ending.) Anyway, I don’t think more attention from upstairs is going to be a good thing for Didio. Just my opinion, I could be completely wrong.
3DC has already moved to get some of its bench players into theaters and on TV: The Human Target, Jonah Hex, and a couple Vertigo properties. And it finally nailed down a script and a star for Green Lantern. More important, they’ve selected some of DC’s best writers to act as consultants on the big franchises.
4 This one, in fact.
The results are in: Ryan Reynolds will be Hal Jordan, if the Warner Bros. movie version of Green Lantern ever gets off the ground.
Reynolds seems born to play a super-hero — look at the abs and the chin, for Christ’s sake — but until now, he’s been stuck with C-listers. He played Marvel characters Hannibal King and Deadpool, and was rumored to be up for the part of the Flash when DC was straining to make that character into a movie.
But now, he’s got one of the big names. It should be interesting to see what he does with it.
Meanwhile, as they say in the comics, DC could lose the rights to Superman in 2013 when the copyright is due to revert to the estates of his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
“Why isn’t anyone freaking out about this?” asks Topless Robot, and that’s a good question. Warner Bros. has always had trouble converting the heroes it owns at DC into cash-money franchises, with just two exceptions: Batman and Superman, both gazillion-dollar properties.
It’s likely there are high-level discussions going on, but as TR notes, the bare-knuckles litigation tactics DC and Warners have used so far don’t make a lot of sense for future negotiations: “Hi, have a seat. Can we get you anything? Bottled water? OK, I know we’ve been fighting you tooth and nail over the Superman copyright, but now that you’ve got it back, can we have it again?”
I’m not a high-level executive, as I’m constantly reminded, so I’m probably not qualified to comment on strategy. And there’s the tangled question of what actually belongs to the creators, and what was added by years of work-for-hire artists and writers.
Maybe Warners thinks the families of Shuster and Siegel just don’t have anywhere to go. After all, DC has been publishing and protecting the image of Superman for over 70 years now. They’ve gotten pretty good at it. Look at all the T-shirts.
Still, I find it hard to believe Marvel wouldn’t at least be interested in making a bid. Which ought to set fanboys everywhere on another mad nerdgasm of speculation: how would Superman fit in the universe of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers?