In an article appearing in the UK’s The Guardian yesterday, Joe Queenan gave a snarkly analysis of the recent run of superhero movies. Whereas he was spot on with some of his criticisms, I have the following to say to him:
1. Michael Keaton leaving Batman wasn’t what killed the franchise back in the 90s. It was Joel Shumacher. Keaton didn’t look at the scripts and say, “these aren’t getting any better” based on some high sense of intellectual superiority. He looked at what Shumacher was proposing, saw that Tim Burton had lost enough interest in the studio system that he stepped into a producing role, and realized that Shumacher was going to fuck it up. Which he did.
2. The romance between Tobey Maguire and snaggle-tooth Dunst “felt quite believable”? It was the upside down kiss that did it for you, wasn’t it?
3. Watchmen was inept? Avengers was “an aimless hodgepodge?”
OK, I get it that this isn’t your cup of tea (see what I did there?), but what I really want to say is this… in the beginning, we had comic books. These books made us dream of a world much more magical than the world we lived in. Superman was mighty and undefeatable, but that required the writers to invent villains who could actually challenge him. As children, our critical thinking skills were first tested with the argument: Who could beat up Superman? We were forced to research and analyse characters and situations, all in fun, to come up with our response. We also had the magic of movies, but to make a man fly on film was not an easy feat to accomplish. We didn’t want to see the wires, or see his abdomen compressed by the blue-screen bench he had to lay on to pretend to fly, but that was all we had, and we let it go.
Campiness took over the genre with Batman on television, and although Christopher Reeves’ Superman tried to take itself more seriously, there was an expectation of some humor and over-the-top situations in the films. Still, it was all we had, so we made the best of it. But we still waited for our heroes. We finally started to see that with the Maguire’s Spider-Man, and although it wasn’t perfect, it was a step in the right direction. Downey’s Iron Man sealed the deal for us and we finally saw a superhero movie that both a. captured the spirit of the comics and b. featured realistic effects.
So now that we’re where we finally want to be with technology and story, can you let us have it for a while? 75 years is a long wait, dude.