|Posted on April 30, 2013 at 5:15 PM|
Lots on my mind these days, but also lots in the news. So let's go.
People Should Give Guillermo Del Toro More Credit
I took the time to sit down and watch Hellboy the other day. No reason, really. I was just kind of in the mood for a fun movie and I've always liked Hellboy. It occurred to me as I was watching it that it came during that superhero renaissance back in the early 2000s, yet nobody really ever mentions it as a great "superhero" film. Maybe they don't consider it a superhero film, but they should at least consider it a comic book film. Hellboy came out in 2004, about a year after X2 and the same year as Spider-Man 2. So it was right there in the mix of it, but nobody ever gives it any of credit. This needs to change.
Here's the thing: you look at Spider-Man and you think "yeah, that'll make a movie. It's all right there for you." The same with X-Men. To me, those are as obvious as Batman to be a movie franchise. Then along comes Guillermo Del Toro with something that absolutely should have not been adapted. It was crazy and weird and not exactly something people think of when you say "comic book movie."
But that's why I like it, if not outright love it the only way a man can love something that doesn't end with a mess. It's not the obvious choice, and because of that, out of all the early superhero films from that era that "rebirthed" the genre, Hellboy is the most ambitious and most visionary to me. Go back and look at it. The script has flaws, don't get me wrong, but from a "world creating" standpoint, it's at the top of its game. It's a masterpiece of visual creativity and damn good action set-pieces that even the Spider-Man and X-men films didn't strive for at the time. Guillermo del Toro already earned his laurels with action in Blade II, which is another underrated gem of the era from 2002, but he went all-in with Hellboy which was, flat-out, a better directed film than any of the Spider-Man or X-men movies that people herald. Seriously, go and look at the action sequences in the X-men films, they're amateur by comparison, at least Raimi did a hellluva job with CGI action but Hellboy had some damn good blending of computer and real people/monsters as well resulting in some incredibly wonderful use of camera, in-action effects and CG fight scenes.
So, between Blade II and Hellboy, I find it strange that so many people give so much credit to Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer and their contribution at the time and del Toro isn't in that same breath. Sure, those movies made more money, but let's give a little credit to a guy that took more risks and showed more creativity for once. He's consistently overlooked and should be in the discussion as a major figure of that early renaissance of genre filmmaking that we take for granted these days.
I guess it doesn't matter. He'll own both with Pacific Rim anyways. I mean, Bryan Singer hasn't made a good film in years. Why people think he's good for the X-men sequel is lost on me. Did you not see Jack the Giant Killer or Superman Returns? A lot of hype around a guy who hasn't done much. Del Toro is the opposite. He's done a ton yet I never feel he gets enough credit outside of film nerd circles. I'll put his movies up against any of that time period, and certainly give him more credit based on creativity alone.
Ego Internet or "Hey Look at Me I'm Different!"
The internet has already propagated and promoted cynical thinking to a point that's pretty disgusting. Seriously, if you go online there's only three things a) people complaining. b) people downgrading and bashing someone or something or c) cats. Lots of fucking cats.
Most of people's negativity online seems to just stem from wanting be a contrarian to get noticed. A contrarian is, as the dictionary notes, is someone who takes a contrary position or attitude. More specifically, is that it's an attitude that goes against the majority. Even more specifically than that, is that it's an attitude that goes against the majority for the sole purpose of being "different" and trying to get noticed for being so different. It's a rather selfish way to approach things that boils down to someone thinking "oh, this movie/game/book/son is really popular and being lauded left and right, but I'm going to not like it because everyone else likes it and I'm going to go off on a rant about how wrong they all are."
Plus, the "angrier" they act and pretend to be, the more they assume people will listen to them.
Add in all the hyperbole that most "criticsm" is they're trying to express, then you just have what boils down to whiney children.
Yeah, something like that. Want internet fame? - which is an oxymoron if there ever was one, then find something that people like and make a video or write a big article about how awful it is. See a number of movies or games from the past few years (Avatar was a popular one at the time, for example, and recently Bioshock Infinite seems to be the straw man)
The thing is, I have to read and watch some of these videos. Not because I want to see their points, but because I know their points are, often, so juvenile and just flat-our wrong that I have to bear witness to their fallacy. A great example is the recent post I did about plot holes. People just put a bunch of photos together with made-up facts to try and get noticed. That's it. Yet nearly all of those were so blatantly wrong that my quick brief link on twitter turned in to a multi-page blog calling out how wrong they are. People just make stuff up to try and get noticed.
Hell, I saw another one the other week that said "Did you know that Glenn from The Walking Dead was also Short Round from Temple of Doom?"
Someone put that up and a ton of people "liked" and commented on it how amazing of a fact that was. Except it wasn't a fact. Steven Yeun was one year old when Temple of Doom was even out in theaters, and it also makes me sad that nobody remembers Jon Ke Quan. He was friggin Data and Short Round, damnit. Not that hard to realize that he's not Glenn considering those movies are from the 80s and he'd be in his 40s by now.
See? Just make shit up, no matter what, to get noticed. That's one way to do it too. Call something that everyone loves "bad" to get noticed because most people won't say otherwise if it's not true or point out how wrong you are when trying to prove how right you are. Make up stuff up to try and "prove your opinion" to get noticed or just downgrade everything at every turn. It's pretty pathetic, but people should also consider this:
1) Double check stuff. Just a quick google search will fix most things that people try to pass off as real.
2) Know who you're listening to/reading/watching. If you like someone's opinion on things, then maybe the fact that they dislike something is worth your time. But if they're joe-nobody with few credentials or have a track record of just constantly being negative, then why waste your time? They're just wanting you to feed their egos, and being a contrarian is the easiest (and laziest) way to get an ego fed.
3) Understand it's natural human instinct to go the snarky, worst-case-scenario "I'm going to shit all over everything" route over the praising/just learn to have a good time route. Everyone is a pessimist, some just love to shout it from the highest mountaintops. Add in the fact that we, as humans, are either using "Amazing" or "Shit" when it comes to how we judge things because we love hyperbole like a cat who just discovered the amazing invention called a cardboard box, and just realize that things usually aren't as bad, and in fairness not as great, as some make it out to be.
4) Ask yourself: do you really care what so-and-so has to say anyways? Because...
On A Side Note
Speaking of contrarians, I was talking with a friend in the office the other day and he wasn't too sure on the new Star Trek. I asked him why and he said he didn't really enjoy the first one (first one being the first rebooted one, of course). Fair enough, but I was wondering why because, at the end of the day, Star Trek (2009) did a good job reinventing an entire franchise while still retaining a lot of that classic "trek feel."
"lens flare" he said. He didn't like the excessive use of lens flare.
I've heard this before, and honestly I don't get the complaint. To me, that's just a lazy criticism. So I said the following.
"Did you like Looper?" I asked.
"Yeah, loved it."
"Then lens flare isn't your problem."
Looper is full of the effect. It's just an aesthetic, nothing more. I'm fine if you don't like it, but "lens flare" being your entire point about something being "bad" has the depth of a ten-year-old's book report on The Cat and the Hat. He hasn't gotten back to me about what he really didn't like about the film, but if I hear "lens flare" as a critique again, as though a film is somehow "bad" because of it, I'm going to respond with a simple "Grow up, please."
I think that when someone doesn't like something, they'll just find anything they can to try and use that as evidence to their view, no matter how insignificant it is when you really lay it all out there. Plus, when there's something you don't like, you tend to over-exaggerate to begin with and try to go out of your way to find a flaw. Maybe in Looper he didn't notice all the lens flare because he was more engaged with the story whereas in Star Trek the story he didn't like at all - if that's the case then tell me why you didn't like the story, not that you didn't like lens flare. Misdirected criticism if there ever was one.
Die Hard is a Flawless Script
Speaking of movies I sat down and watched again recently, I popped in my nice awesome blu-ray of Die Hard and just fell in love with it all over again. I've always loved the movie, but I felt like I was watching it for the first time again.
First thing I forgot about, it's a brutal, violent flick. Honestly, they don't make them like they used to. That sounds so trite, but it's a very visceral movie. There's plenty of action flicks, then and today, that are violent and bloody and graphic, but Die Hard had a "raw" sense to it that's incredibly rare. The only other film that comes to mind that shares that is Predator and maybe First Blood, if we're talking classic action flicks of course.
The second is just how damn well the whole thing is written. Not just with great characters and great action and great concept and incredibly paced (nearly two hours that just flies by), but it has what a lot of action films lack these days: subtlety. Also layers, but subtlety in the writing is what creates those layers.
1) In a small, casual conversation with a guy on the flight to LA, McClane is told that if he takes off his shoes and walks around barefoot, making fists with his toes, he can get over his jet lag. You think nothing of it at the time, but that's the entire reason he's barefoot for the duration of the film. A small seed planted turns in to a major plot point from beginning to end. Hell, Hans's first introduction to McClane is when he sees his feet first, so he notices that which plays in to the "shoot the glass" scenes later on.
Also in the whole conversation, and in the carride with Argyle to Nakatomi, we know everything we need to know about John McClane. We know this man in the first ten minutes of the movie and are already on board.
Want real subtlety? How about this: during this first five or so minutes, we know John is having problems with his wife. Not because he says so, but because Holly McClane isn't in the touch-screen registry at the Nakatomi building. McClane doesn't say a word, he goes up to it, finds the "M" while calling it a "cute toy" and we see there's no McClane. He stops, thinks, then goes to "G" and clicks on Holly Generro. Again, he doesn't say anything, just shakes his head. We know the story here without once being told anything. It's brilliant, and again this is only in the first ten minutes of the movie.
2) McClane is a conflicted character. A brash New York cop that stayed on the job in New York because he thought his wife wouldn't make it in LA. He plays this as "I'm right" for much of the film, that is until he's thinking he's about to bleed to death and admits that, instead of saying "I love you" all the time, what he should have said is "I'm sorry" because he fact was, she was right, and he was wrong. It's called a character arc, and is one of few action movies I think actually had one.
3) Which leads to another great script moment: Holly's watch. It's a symbol. A metaphor. A major thematic representation of what the film is all about (and why the sequels undermine it). When she left John, or John refused to go with her I should say, to move to LA for the new job, she was given that watch as a gift for her service with the company.
That watch, a Rolex, is a symbol of what Holly gained as well as what John lost. We don't even hear about it again until the end, when Hans is pulling Holly down with him off the side of the building. What happens? John reaches in and unhooks her watch, letting it fall, and they both walk out of that building together. What does that mean? Easy: it's a re-affirmation of two spouse's vows. Holly put aside the family for the job, and John put aside the family because he's kind of an asshole (and admits it and, beautifully, shows relectance in never admitting it to Holly).
I can't think of an action movie where the central thematic narrative centers around family values and being together (for Christmas on top of that...Die Hard too place during Christmas, the most family-together-time there is)
4) A complaint about the last two Die Hard movies is that McClane seems to be a "superhero." In many cases. I don't think that's the case, he's always done some pretty crazy non-realistic stuff even in the first film, but what the first film had that none of the others really did is that is showed McClane vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. I suppose it's hard to keep showing him vulnerable in those ways in subsequent stories, but that's why Die Hard was such a brilliant movie. Not because he was an "everyman" but because he was beat down in every single way and rose above it.
There's this beautiful scene late in the film when he's talking with Al, and he literally breaks down and is near-tears. Shit, when was the last time you saw John McClane near-tears. They'd never do that in an action movie today.
It's funny, First Blood is the same way. John Rambo is a seriously screwed up person in that first film, some might say "human" actually, and he also breaks down emotionally. Those first movies seem willing to do that because they can. Sequels, I guess, can't go that route again which is why that first film is always great. But I also think when you start "franchising" something, you have to make compromises. If the first film writes a character as an actual person, you have to up the ante on each film after and writing them as though they didn't go through the craziness of that first film can't happen again. I mean, why did the Rocky movies go from what was essentially a character drama to camp silliness - becoming sillier and sillier as they went on? Because you can't do the character drama anymore and all else is just watered down. So you have to go in the opposite direction.
Look at every single major franchise and you'll see that. Even today. If they start with a "human" character in the first film, they have no choice but to be more focused on action and goofiness as it goes along ultimately ending with a Gruber-like plummet to the bottom.
And let's face it, every villain in every movie since has tried to be Hans Gruber and still haven't fully nailed it.
Everything Hinges on Supes
And lastly, that new Superman movie is coming out. Everyone is hyped up about it, as well they should be because that last trailer was damn impressive, but it occurred to me that they're not just hyped for The Man of Steel. They're hyped for what that film represent and how much hinges on it. Think about it, DC and Warner Brothers have nothing else in the pipeline yet. There are talks. Rumors. But everything depends on how Man of Steel turns out. Want more DC Superhero movies? Want a Justice League movie? Want DC and WB to get their heads right and take the Disney/Marvel route with their properties? Then look to Man of Steel which will determine everything that comes after. Future movies. Future franchises. Future direction for the studio and IPs. Everything.
But...what if it fails? Let's face it, there's been a lot of hype in the past for DC movies, Green Lantern and Superman Returns, and they were big presences at comic conventions and marketed to no end. Those movies were just as built up as this one, and both turned out pretty awful. As much as people want to say "Nolan. Snyder." people were throwing around "Singer" and "Campbell" just as much when those movies were getting ready to come out. Singer had the Xmen movies under his belt, and Campbell two of the finest James Bond movies at the time.
So despite the hype, it really is more hype about what the film represents: possibility. There's so much here and with the success Marvel has had with their film franchises, it's difficult to nail down where it all went wrong with DC and Warner Brothers (recent reshuffling has obviously been a response to how well Marvel is doing). Let's see what happens. The film will perform well, Superman is a brand in and of itself, but if it leaves a bad taste in mouth of fans, then you might as well call DC Comic Book movies dead. Outside of Batman, nobody has been able to really get it in the past 30 years.