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A thought about superhero movie reactions


#1

Something I’ve noticed is that people get very upset and polarised on the DC movies in a way they don’t on others. And I include myself in this btw, which is interesting as I’m very laid back.

As fans we’re precious. It’s part of who we are or else we wouldn’t be spending our spare time talking and thinking about this stuff. But why do DC creations evoke a much stronger reaction in other media than Marvel or Millarworld or Hellboy or Sin City or Turtles or any of the others that made it into the screen?

I have my own theory about this and it’s a combination of the fact we have a multi-generational fan-base coupled with the fact they feel they’re being ignored. Marvel likewise has a 75 years history, but the movies are generally pretty true to the comics and especially accurate in terms of characters. I think the characters feel very, very like the comics we grew up with in a way Reeve’s Superman was, but the current movies aren’t. Have a look at the DC movie threads. I love them because they quickly get out of control every day and I love the fact that it gets like that so don’t stop.

But that’s my guess. What’s yours? Why does this get so much more passionate every time?

MM


#2

I think there’s a lot of things going on here.

First of all there’s this whole nerd identity thing. Even when you read comics by both major cape publishers, frequently one is your team and the other isn’t. So if DC is your team and their movies are getting panned in a way Marvel’s haven’t (though it’s worth noting that a lot of Marvel’s films have not great ratings on the review aggregator sites), then that gets people angry. And you end up with craziness like the people who claim that Disney have paid off critics to give DC movies bad reviews, or start petitions to get Rotten Tomatoes shut down.

Tied into that is that when we were kids, nerds were the weirdos and we were bullied for it. So there’s a strong desire ofr acceptance now, especially as everyone loves the Marvel movies, Star Wars and Star Trek. And that shifts from needing acceptance to needing adulation. So when a movie gets overwhelmingly bad reviews, it’s seen as a rejection - even when it’s still popular.

Then there’s cognitive dissonance to take into account - being unable to divorce the idea that a film you like isn’t necessarily a good film. There’s plenty of movies I love to death but are just awful, but am able to recognise as such. Similarly there’s movies that are critically acclaimed that people don’t like - I know plenty of people who think Citizen Kane is boring. Hell, I know SF fans who don’t like 2001.

There’s other elements to the critical failures of the DC movies which are more subjective - I think going as grimdark as they do, even with Batman is a misstep. But to me DC is the less realistic, closer to 4-colour hero sterotypes, and whenever they do dark and gritty it feels like a kid putting on their parents clothes and playing grown-up, and it seems like a lot of critics feel the same way.


#3

I think you’re absolutely right there. DC always had an air of whimsy about them which they have railed against on and off since 1986, but the perceptions of what the characters are like remains.

I think that Mark said it in another thread that DC are presenting the deconstructed characters in their current movies (BvS and Suicide Squad), without showing the functional heroic versions. That is going to be a big gulf for people not steeped in the norms of the comic world to cross. We still get articles entitled “Sock, Pow. Comics aren’t for kids anymore”…presenting an idea that Batman or Superman might be anything less than a paragon is going to be a stretch for some people.


#4

I think it’s partly a quality thing - there are people just as invested in both sets of characters and want to see them faithfully and brilliantly adapted to the screen and DC just aren’t doing that as well - but also there’s an attitude to DC’s movies since Snyder took over.

It’s not just that there are changes - Marvel make plenty. Look at Guardians; none of those characters has the same personality as in DnA’s comic, not even Groot. But the changes broadly work, the film’s both good and fun so it does well and becomes popular.

But DC’s changes for screen seem to be of the “we know better than you” strain. There’s always an odour of condescension when they do things like make Superman dark and broody or his father somewhat amoral, like that they think they’re making these characters valid for the first time and if you don’t like it, it’s because you just don’t get it. It’s the same vibe I get from Michael Bay’s Transformers. It’s divisive and causes entrenchment with half the audience feeling like they’ve just been given the finger and half having their egos stroked from “getting” it.


#5

Yeah, the fact they’re referring to the death of Robin when nobody under 40 has seen Robin in a cinema, people turning on Superman when we never saw them love him, etc, seems to me that the people behind it are completely missing the general audience here in a huge way.

MM


#6

I’m not convinced we wouldn’t see the equivalent from Marvel fanboys if those movies were getting the same scores the last three DC ones have.

For lots of people, there’s built in expectations that getting to see their favourite characters on screen, doing big budget things, that means that these movies are good and it’s frustrating to see that not reflected in reviews. With that said, no one was crying spilt milk when Green Lantern turned out to be utter dross because it’s hard to argue that that film is anything but pure cinematic shite. The recent DC films have found their audience who like this rendition of their characters and don’t understand, or are frustrated, that others don’t. Whether or not it’s technically not a very good movie can fall by the way side when they love seeing their character behaving in a way that they want to.

So yeah, when Ayer and Snyder say: “they made these movies for the fans” that’s probably true, but they’re talking about a very specific subset of fans that love this version of the characters, while the rest of the audience is unmoved, or even reactionary, and that means we get low scores even though the B.O remains fairly strong for the first three weeks.


#7

There was a moment in, 52 I think it was, or maybe Countdown. Black Adam had set up a kingdom and one of his advisors was a talking humanoid alligator (Adam’s counterpart to Captain Marvel’s talking tiger, which I was shocked to discoverwas in the comics and wasn’t just an invention of the stupid fucking cartoon) who betrayed him and savaged his son during said betrayal. And I’m meant to take that seriously? It’s a giant talking alligator for bob’s sake!

Another thing to consider is that DC are trying to do a full universe right out of the gate, when Marvel did 4 years of mostly self-contained movies before the Avengers. And one of the biggest complaints about the latter-day Marvel movies is when they work to tie them into the bigger universe instead of being their own thing.


#9

I think it’s because DC has been in the general consciousness through film, TV and even radio (not just comics) longer. So over the years people have had 4 Supermans, 6 Batmans and 2 Wonder Womans to compare to the current ones and that’s just in live action. When you bring in animated, you’ll never get over the juggernaut that is Super Friends with Batman: The Animated Series sneaking in as well. So you have a stronger sense of “not my [fill in character’s name]” that doesn’t even have a link to the comics.

Conversely, most of the Marvel characters haven’t had that much time in public consciousness. The versions that have been chosen are true to some comics, mostly Ultimates and a few other smatterings, but they are far from Stan and Jack’s characters.

Where you can see the cracks with Marvel’s characters are the ones who do have a history. I think the Hulk has had difficulty because of the TV show still floating in people’s consciousness. You can also see it with Spider-Man. Amazing Spider-Man wasn’t a bad film but it wasn’t Tobey Maguire.


#10

I think it’s because there’s a lot more of a hype game going on.
While I don’t like Marvel’s movies outside of maybe 3 of them, I have to admit that the advertising has never gotten overbearing or over the top. Unlike BvS or Suicide Squad.

That’s the sort of thing that breeds a level from which to drop.


#11

This is a great post Ronnie and covers a lot of what I was going to say.

I would add that DC has a weird dichotomy going where a lot of people know it best from its cartoons and all-ages stuff from the 1960s through early 80s, yet its biggest stories in the comics are nearly all grim and mature-aged.


#12

When did we, as the geek community, get so conceited that we take pleasure in knocking ourselves down rather than celebrating our successes?

For weeks before BvS was even released, Comic Book Resources was full of doom and gloom articles knocking the film. Comic Book Resources, FFS.

Ignoring the validity or prescience of those articles. BvS was arguably the biggest, most important comic book related film ever (or at least since Avengers). Shouldn’t the geek community have been excited about this?

Clearly not.

I’m not saying that we should just blindly accept crap, just because it’s comic book related. But, our community seems to relish the prospect of tearing stuff down, and to do so in the loudest way possible. And, the DC films have the bigger target on their backs currently.

Appearances to the contrary, we are still a minority. These movies are our out reach program. Our means to connect with the broader unwashed masses. For us to shoot ourselves in the foot each and every time is just really frustrating, and every action results in an equal & opposite reaction.


#13

Since forever.


#14

That’s probably a part of it. I think you see the same thing with the James Bond movies. A lot of people can’t get into the Daniel Craig movies because he’s just not their James Bond.

I think that’s fair as well. There seemed be a blanket bombing approach for postering for Suicide Squad.

I’m agreeing with @Tom_punk on something…Should that worry me? :wink:


#15

As a stone cold, lone wolf, operator I figure that most of my opinions will be vindicated with time :wink:


#16

Possibly even geological time… :wink:


#17

I do play better in Austin, I admit. :smiley:


#18

I think it’s simply ‘That’s not my Superman.’

You can’t stray too far from the source material in comics adaptations without offending the comic buying crowd. I think there’s a frustration as they always believe the change is for the worse. Change is comics themselves seems to be fine, just not in the movies. I think we saw a similar mindset with the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, so it’s not just comic people.


#19

There are things to pick apart from DC movie for sure but I don’t at all get the “odor of condescension.” It’s just storytelling. Maybe it says more about you than the movies if you feel you’re being condescended to.

BTW this whole passage I’ve quoted here could be verbatim what the John Byrne forum says about every comics writer born after 1968 and every comic book made after 1987.


#20

I think it goes further than that.

Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are some of the biggest pop culture icons created in the last century. (You can even throw the Joker and Lex Luthor in there, too.) There are tens of millions of people around the world who know who they are (they even wear the t-shirts!) but have never read the comics or seen any show or movie with them. They have created an idealized version of them based solely on their own perceptions. Their only reference point to these characters is merchandise that uses images created in the 60s and 70s. They go into the theaters and see the characters in action and they don’t match the mental image they created based on the t-shirt they’re wearing.

Yes, it is a case of “that’s not my (character)!” but coming from a very different angle. BvS (alnong with MoS) should have done twice as much as it did based on name recognition alone. These are globally recognized characters! The fact that it didn’t shows how badly WB/DC screwed up on bringing these characters to the big screen.


#21

I read Glen Weldon’s book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture earlier this year, and one of the things he goes into is fan reactions to the various adaptations over the years, from the 60s show through to the modern films.

Attacking the critics, rather than the filmmakers, for a comic adaptation is a fairly new thing, pretty much just going back to Dark Knight Rises: