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Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Unbearable Lightness of Heroes

Hollywood just doesn’t get it! Recognizing this fact has forced me into deciding not to spend my money on Superhero movies anymore. I’m just not that desperate to see these characters on the big screen if they are not in fact the characters I want to see.

If the majority of comic book fans were honest with themselves and others, they would have to admit down deep they don’t like these films and TV shows either. What the comic book fan has been reduced to is accepting what they give us in the movies because we want to see our heroes in live action.

Take a film like Iron Man 3—I don’t know a single comics fan that liked what they did to the Mandarin—Not one person! What the producers of Iron Man 3 pretty much said was: “What you’ve liked in the decades since the Mandarin was introduced was silly, so we will remake him to suit our tastes.

I’m not certain whether it was laziness, cheapness or utter contempt for the genre that lead them to realize Iron Man’s most important villain in the fashion they chose—but it well and truly sucked. That I am sure of!

The producers robbed the audience of the opportunity to see something a great deal more interesting and fun. Instead of giving us a battle between old’ Shellhead and a multi-effect, ring wielding Mandarin—Impact blasts, electric blasts… We were treated to the Mandarin as a powerless, washed up actor/dupe.

Imagine the Mandarin using his black light ring to blind Iron Man, then bombarding him with flame rays alternating with cold waves making the armor brittle—as Stark activates night vision, the Mandarin starts giving him Karate chops, shattering pieces of Iron Man’s suit. Iron Man is much stronger than the Mandarin, but the Mandarin has greater hand-to-hand fighting skill using leverage and speed against the Golden Avenger.

That would be a lot more interesting visually and thematically to watch than a bunch of exploding “Molten Man” rejects who can somehow, (inexplicably) immobilize armor by merely touching it. How many sets of Mandarin rings do you think Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart would have sold?

Conversely, if they had put Jeremy Renner in a mask playing Hawkeye and had the Black Widow taking out aliens with her golden (not flat black) Widow’s Bite bracelets instead of a pair of mundane Glock 26s. They aren’t even cool looking guns, serviceable weapons, but lame. Or if the Widow used her widow's line and the ability she has to climb walls like Spiderman, a lot more little girls would want to be her and a lot more boys would want to be Hawkeye on Halloween.

Thematically the Avengers sucked! I liked the movie because it happened to have enough comedy, shield slinging, hammer pounding, repulsor ray blasting and Hulk smashing action to transform me back into a little boy while watching it. But it would have been a hundred times better for me if they had simply stuck to a truer interpretation of the characters.

Most of the changes they make are so silly, but each one makes the true fan wince a little—Cap’s shield is just Vibranium in the movies and not a mixture of Adamantium and Vibranium as created in the comics, the product of a unique and non-duplicatable accident. Anyone with access to Vibranium can have a shield like Cap's in the Marvel movie universe.

Why is a Viking warrior not wearing his helmet in battle? Why would you put Dr. Doom on the ship with the Fantastic Four and make his armor organic? Why imply Stark’s repulsor technology was stolen from the soviets? Why not call the “Cosmic Cube the Cosmic Cube?”

Why make the Joker a guy wearing white makeup with a bad green die job? Why make Jarvis a computer? Why make Speedy Oliver Queen’s nickname for his non-existent sister instead of Roy Harper? Why make Hal Jordan fearful?

Why is the Black Canary someone other than Dinah Lance? Why make Nick Fury black so he can’t be Sgt. Fury and the leader of the Howling Commandos on film? Why does Gwen Stacy have to be a scientist too? Why is it only one Agent of Shield on the TV show wears the Shield uniform?

None of these changes make the stories more interesting nor do they advance the narrative in any appreciably improved way, they are changes for the sake of change and useful for cutting corners. For example, putting Doom on the ship with the FF eliminates the need to give Victor Von Doom an origin story. I would rather you simply have Doom appear whole without an origin—no one needed to know what happened in Hans Gruber’s past leading to his attempted robbery of the Nakatomi Plaza.

We saw the introduction of Sebastian Blood and the Bronze Tiger in the second episode of the new season of Arrow. They made the same mistake the Agents of Shield TV show is making—they are taking the fun out of the genre and what you are left with may as well be a rerun of Knight Rider or the A Team, any 70s-80s adventure TV show.

It would have been way cooler to have the Bronze Tiger wearing a CGI Tiger mask—much more dramatic and visually interesting than Michael Jai White in a brown leather jacket wielding cestus. He could have gotten some face time talking to China White between confrontations. Why doesn’t China White wear white?

What would be more fun to see, this? 

Or this?

I can hear the Tinsel-Town besotted and bewitched fan boys saying in unison: “That would be great for the fans, but not for regular people who don’t know the characters—It’s not realistic enough.” To that I say: Stuff and nonsense!

People have no problem with talking werewolves or walking dead—No one ever complains it’s not realistic when someone crushes the skull of a zombie whose body should have atrophied to a point of immobility months earlier due to a dead metabolism. Why do comic book fans accept the Hollywood meme that people will cluck their tongues at a guy fighting crime in something other than Kevlar reinforced plate armor?

This article is not meant for regular people, it is written to the true comics fan in an attempt to detox us from the alluring Kool-Aid served up by the Hollywood elite who look down on us to begin with. They always have. And they resent the power Comicon has grown into.

The Hollywood types fall into two categories when it comes to these films—you have the pseudo fans like the Whedons who think their version of the Marvel Universe is superior and are driven by their overstuffed egos. You then have the types who do these films and make changes because they don’t like the source material. These sorts make the films because they make money and are also driven by their overstuffed egos.

Most of the changes they make in the name of realism are anything but realistic, at least no more realistic than what is already presented in the comics. Batman’s cinematic armor would be a disaster in real life. The comic’s explanation that he wears the yellow insignia to allure criminal gunfire to his center mass where he does wear protection makes much more sense.

Meanwhile a true fighter has to be able to move freely—There has not been one person in the movie armor that moves like he could defend himself in a real fight. Most of the people Batman faces are run of the mill gunsels. We see Jason Bourne or James Bond take out scores of gun and knife wielding villains while wearing street clothes.

How about the “Arrow” smearing green makeup over his eyes instead of wearing a domino mask? Which would be easier to remove if you have to make a quick change between identities? My true feelings on the subject of “Realism” in these films and shows is realism be damned! Superheroes by their very nature are not real. If you want realism go see The Hurt Locker or The Butler!

Iron Man 3 was the last of these films I will pay to see. I’ll watch them, but I won’t pay to see them. Not as long as they exhibit contempt for the genre and heroes I have always loved. The days of signaling my approval by mindlessly walking like Frankenstein’s Monster to the movie theatre and the store to buy these films the day they come out on video are over!

It may seem like I’m being petty, but each one of those insoluble changes diminishes the memories of that little boy I used to be. I’d rather pay to see a film like Pacific Rim that pays homage to monster movies in a new way, or even a bad film like Hancock, with it’s version of a superman than to see a bastardized version of well-established favorites.

Digital Publius