A recent top 10, courtesy of the guys at watchmojo.com, reported the top 10 most eagerly awaited movies of 2016.
In no particular order, they contained the expected adaptations of movies such as Deadpool, The Suicide Squad, X-Men, Captain America: Civil War and Superman Vs Batman.
Yep, I think it’s safe to say that the accountants in Hollywood are firmly in the grip of comic fever. And when your income involves making money in the nine-figure range, financing what is popular, rather than what is groundbreaking or innovative will win out every time.
In fact the only title in the top 10 not a comic adaption was the Star Wars spinoff. And that’s only there to placate the masses until Star Wars Episode VIII rolls out across the world in 2017.
Now before anyone wonders if I’m going to moan about these movies, I’m not. I like these movies. I’m definitely going to see… some of them.
First, a bit of backstory.
As a millennial I grew up with the X-men. First the cartoon, then the comics, then the original comics shipped over from the US. Scott Lobdell and the nineties style of drawing and colour design will forever be the comic style that I associate with Marvel. When the movie hit in 2000 I was psyched! A little wobbly in the SFX dept, and the wire work was ropy but it didn’t matter cos the story was good, and the follow up (X2) three years later was even better.
Then in 2007, it happened. Iron Man.
And from that movie on the Marvel Comic Universe (affectionately known as the MCU) was born. And we’ve been in lightspeed ever since.
As it now stands we are in the 3rd stage of the MCU, we have a timetable of movies up to, and including 2020. Multiple Avengers movies, multiple Captain America movies, Ant Man, Thor 3 (I think!) Guardians of the Galaxy sequels, and on, and on, AND ON…
Using the above top 10 as a point of reference, I think it’s safe to say the attraction of comic adaptions shows no signs of slowing down. And the only franchise to rival the MCU would come from a galaxy far, far away.
Many non-comic reading fans (i.e. the fans that saw the movies first, before reading the comics, or just don’t read them at all) have noticed that it’s a strange world/America where one group of super humans are lorded and work with the government, whereas the other hide their activities from public view, masquerading as a school, permanently at risk of abuse, assault and murder at the hands of the general population.
Odd state of affairs, isn’t it?
It’s no surprise that creators Stan Lee and the late Jack Kirby, modelled the concept of the X-men on themselves. Teenagers, whose mutancy triggers in adolescence? For many contemporary readers it seems like a direct link between superpowers and sexuality. I.e. mutants were really a fantasy equivalent of the LGBT gang.
Actually it’s the Jews. You bar/bat mitzvah at 12/13 years of age. Thus you become an adult, and can partake in a lot of grownup Jewish culture. Oh, and the world hates you, your homeland and all that you stand for. Congratulations!
Now I know the world doesn’t out-and-out hate Jews. Although in a recent poll by the UK paper the Telegraph, Israel was ranked second, behind North Korea, in a list of countries UK people tend to dislike.
As the X-Men work at arm’s length with the government, and recent movies portray them as either CIA projects, condemned masses or in the forthcoming film fundamentalist accomplices to the end of the world, it’s not difficult to see how the public doesn’t understand them. And the public tends to be fearful of that which it doesn’t understand.
And as both a Jew and a member of the LGBT I can relate to the franchise a lot easier than I can to the rest of the “ordinary” MCU.
There is a vulnerability in the universe that the others lack. With the possible exception of Bruce Banner, the man trapped between his own ID (Hulk) and the government trying to recruit/detain/kill him, who only wants to be with both the woman he loves, and to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone.
I think the second hesitant stance I have with the rest of the comic adaptations, beside X-men, and to a degree Deadpool, (who also is Marvel but not attached to the MCU scheme, at least not directly) is the reality that the deck isn’t stacked against them to the same degree.
Thor’s a god, Hulk’s invulnerable, Tony Stark is a billionaire and a genius, Captain America is a standard for all that’s good in the US democracy. These are lofty pillars. It’ll be interesting to see how Civil War plays out the conflict between Cap and Iron Man, a movie adaptation of an amazing comic series (seriously! Go read!) And the questions of what happens when political opinions conflict the innate desire to do good, within the superhero community.
But all of these characters are amazing. They’re going to win. Even before the movie begins the audience knows that. The only downbeat in the series I can think of is when Coulson dies in Avengers….
…And is brought back to life for the subsequent TV show, nice one guys….
They’re great movies, but a great deal of their angst, their otherness is glossed over. And although I try not to seem jaded and weary in everything I watch these days, it does take some of the depth out of the story. The creators replace this depth with editing, quips and explosions. Which is great for a day out at the cinema, but it’s not something I would necessary want to watch repeatedly. Nor is it terribly inspiring. This depth is prevalent in the source material And while I will continue to watch… some… of these movies I can’t help but wonder if we as an audience have chased the dragon with Avengers #1, and now every subsequent movie is both Hollywood and the audience trying to recreate that feat?
Don’t misunderstand, the X-Men movies are hardly Oscar material (Brett Ratner? *shudder*). But there appears to be more of a depth there. This could be for a number of reasons.
Their primary director, Bryan Singer, also ticks the boxes of LGBT and Jewish. The character of Magneto is wonderfully conflicted, in both in portrayals by McKellen and Fassbender, of someone who is in their heart a morally good person, but recognises the duplicity of the world and, as someone who’s experienced the darkest parts of humanity’s history, has no desire to experience them again. It’s this stubbornness that is present in the current right-wing Israeli government. That any small compromise might be a slip to something terrible, and accordingly the thought of change, both internally and from a government perspective is brutally suppressed.
There are also several X-Men storylines over the last years that are aching for the movie treatment.
AOA, Age of the Apocalypse, has been adapted for the big screen and is the closest we will get to the original story. 21 years old this year, it is a broad story, projecting a world where Professor X is dead, Apocalypse rules North America, and Magneto is the head of the X-men trying to stave off nuclear war. Villains are heroes and heroes are villains in this fascist state. The bodies of humans lie unburied, everyone from Gen X to X-Force to X-Factor make an appearance and the bodycount of characters is considerable. Few survive to see the A-bombs fall.
This was the first time Marvel went really NASTY. I hope the Apocalypse movie does the idea some justice.
Other ideas would be The Legacy Virus storyline (an obvious parallel to the AIDS virus) and my favourite, the idea of The Morlocks/Gene Nation. The Morlocks are those mutants who can’t pass for ordinary humans, and subsequently live in the sewers of NYC. They come to realise humanity’s disdain for them is no fault of their own, and begin to make waves for their own stake in civilised society. With predictable results.
Deadpool, tangenting wildly, looks awesome. But it won’t surprise me if it’s the only Deadpool movie made. One of Deadpool’s greatest assets is that he never wins. He is therefore relatable to the readership. He tries 110% and life usually kicks him in the conkers for his trouble. It’s recognised that life does that to us too. We all will lose a lot more than we win, we fail more than we succeed, but it’s that failure that gives us perseverance and makes us better, tougher, thicker skinned.
I’ve seen the trailer for the Batman V Superman movie. Well, it looks good, but besides giving away 75% of the plot in the trailer it doesn’t seem to be that emotive. Both leads will fight, but neither will die, and probably neither will lose either. The presence of an ‘evil’ third party will unite them, and goodness will prevail. Roll credits.
Deadpool has a cert 15 rating, loads of juicy swears and an unmarketable antihero; it’s not something Hollywood can sell boatloads of merchandise with.
Which I think is what the MCU is, at the end of the day.
It’s a cash cow. And while that is a great thing for a while, everything reaches critical mass eventually. And I’d rather remember Iron Man and The Avengers in their earliest incantations.
Comic adaptions are becoming the opiate of the cinema goer, with apologies to Star Wars and a tip of the hat to Karl Marx. Distraction from real life. Which is fine, and I have no problem with this. But they should still have a principle, if not a moral, behind their story.
And it’s just a bit disconcerting that in a time when politicians are still untouchable for their former actions (Gerry Adams), banks and corporations dodge tax laws or fiscal responsibilities with little or no regulation, refugees are demonised by the popular press and those in power treat the sick and afflicted like something they have to scrape off their shoes I’d like my superheroes to relate to me.
They should be aware of what I’m going through.
To give me the mental strength to go that extra mile, to fall and fall and fall again, and still want to get back up and argue my case. And even if I fail, and get kicked in the conkers at least I know I tried.
“If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do” – Angel