Christopher Farnsworth

Author of Blood Oath, The Eternal World, and Killfile

Tag: comic book movies

The Avengers

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.

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"Kick-Ass" and the Death of My Inner 13-Year-Old Sociopath

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.

You Don't Tug on Superman's Cape…

Geoff Boucher at the LA Times has an excellent piece about the problems facing Warner Bros. and the Superman franchise.

It should be surprising that Warners can’t turn one of the most recognizable fictional characters of all time into a successful movie. After all, we’re talking about a property that’s already brought in billions of dollars for its parent company.

But despite his popularity — in the 1940s, Superman sold over a million issues per month — the Man of Steel has never been easy to write. Even the most talented scripters seem to struggle with him.

(Minor tangent here: today, a top-selling issue of Superman sells about 100,000 copies — usually, it’s less than half that. Compare that to the Golden Age sales, and you’ll see how comics have gone from a product with mass appeal to a specialty item for a narrow demographic. It also means a big loss in dollars. Way back when, one issue of Superman, at 10 cents apiece, brought in about $100,000, or the equivalent of $1.4 million dollars, adjusted for inflation. Today, at $2.99 per issue, it brings in about $300 grand, gross.)

But even back in the ’40s, Superman wasn’t particularly well-written. He was first, and he always had the brand recognition. But his main rival, Captain Marvel — the one who says “Shazam!” — was always better-written. In movie terms, Superman was a Bruckheimer film, Captain Marvel was one by Spielberg.

The first Superman movie paved the way for the recent cavalcade of comic-book heroes. (Seriously, if I were 12 years old, I would have been wetting my pants at the multiplex this summer: Iron Man, Hulk, Hancock, Hellboy, Batman…) Even though geeks like me run the movie studios now (or at least have development deals), Superman hasn’t been able to cash in. Superman Returns was a disappointment, both critically and financially, and it’s a safe bet that you won’t be seeing Lois’ little super-mistake again.

The question is, how do you make Superman relevant?

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