Thursday, August 6, 2015

TL;DR - why, no, I'm not going to see "Fantastic Four". Or "Deadpool".

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we got a comic book-related movie maybe once every year or three.  Marvel had, basically, no feature films at the theater, and even their attempts with The Punisher (1989) and Captain America (1990) went to home video or less.  Superman IV came out in '87, and Batman came out in '89, and as we entered the 90's, it seemed like there was a gradual increase as stuff like The RocketeerThe Phantom and The Shadow got movies as well while the Batman franchise metastasized.  But it wasn't a full genre of tent-pole movies quite yet.

Circa 2000, I remember being shocked not just that someone made an X-Men movie, but that it wasn't absolutely horrible (it's not actually that good, really, but it's very watchable).  Really, that was the expectation.  If you went to see a comic book movie, you were going almost as an investment, not believing it would be good, but that if the movie made enough money, it would pave the way for better superhero movies.  And, in a way, it was a novelty.

People forget, movies like the Affleck Daredevil were way more common even then than a watchable Ant-Man is today.

And then Sam Raimi's Spider-Man demonstrated how you could do this if you really wanted to for the first time since Donner's Superman: The Movie.

Of course in 2015, there's no dearth of superhero media available between the offerings in both TV and movies, so I don't feel like I'm missing anything at all, or even part of the conversation when I skip a movie or three (not that the conversation is relevant to me, but...).  This summer, I saw about two or three new movies in the theater - two of which were Marvel flicks, and yet, I live!  I'm fine.  I can go to my grave okay in the knowledge that I did not see Jurassic World on the big screen (a movie that, by all accounts, is terrible, but the same people who told me that also said "but you should see it".  People - you have a problem.).

Ten years ago, I took the day off work when the first FF movie hit the big screen.  It was utterly disappointing, and when I've tried to watch it again on cable, it just gets worse, and the sequel is somehow even more painful.  Both are just straight up uninspired.  It's lazy movie making that seems to completely miss much of the charm of the actual comics, and where they do kind of get the broad strokes, they just mangle it in delivery, playing too juvenile or too...  schticky.

When it comes to the comics, I was never a huge FF fan, but everyone kind of liked and respected the comics in some form and my brief forays into the main continuity FF have generally been enjoyable.  Conversely, I have a multitude of issues with comics writer Mark Millar's Ultimate Fantastic Four as mostly just boring, joyless garbage comics.  Everything about it just screamed "appeal to a demographic!  Bow down before the 20-somethings!", and it came out when I was basically still in that demographic.  It just felt like... pandering.  The FF was supposed to be fun-ish, explorer, weird science stuff.  Ultimate FF seemed to invert that idea and make it about boring sad kids.

From the moment I heard about the Ultimate FF inspired version of the movie during casting, I was pretty sure I could skip this one.

Of late, it's become hip to say that The FF is a product of the 1960's and should be put to rest in both comics and movies, and to that I say:  Son, you sound like an idiot.

If Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men can all be made relevant, you need to separate the failure of vision of Fox Studios with what it means for an idea to no longer make sense as an enterprise.  I don't buy the idea that mad science, family dynamics and one of the best villains in comics has gone stale.  If we've really raised a generation of people who absolutely cannot tolerate seeing movie characters who are not teenagers or 20-somethings... man...  that's really, really weird and messed up.  If the concept of pioneers who challenge the unknown is really that irrelevant to today's young adults...  I give American civilization about another 40 years.

Mark Millar has some contract with Fox to shepherd their superhero properties, which is kind of like asking a pyromaniac to please watch your house while you're away.  So, of course we got his Ultimate Fantastic Four in response to the train-wrecky Fantastic Four movies of a decade ago.  It's young, it's gloomy, it's somehow more serious than a rocket launch, and lifts from teen-angsty stuff rather than sci-fi movies about scientists.

I just can't do it.  It's not The Fantastic Four.  It's something wearing the likeness and names of the FF, but hollowed out and replaced with demographically-pleasing corporate robo-narrative.

As per Deadpool...

As a reminder, "Deadpool" isn't a word.  It's a meaningless name left over from the, ahem, transitional era of comics known as The Chromium Age and better known as "The '90's".  During this weird bacchanal of artist trumping story, Rob Liefeld was drawing pouches and hash lines on everything, and, as has been widely noted... had some issues with anatomy.

Of course the folks who were flooding into comics at the time LOVED IT.

Deadpool wasn't conceived as a jokey character, he was one in a long line of Rob Liefeld's poorly inspired creations, using the basics of the Spider-Man design with ninja swords and guns.  And he had to have an edgy sounding name.  The 1990's saw a bunch of "hard-edged" names, often spelled in odd ways, but not always.  From "Spawn" to "Stryfe" to "Bloodwynde", everyone was trying to have a name as cool as "The Punisher".

"Deadpool" was not a common word, but it was part of the title of the 1988 movie Dirty Harry: The Deadpool which was about people betting on which celebrity would die next, and someone rigging "The Deadpool".

So, there you go.  Almost 30 years later we get a movie about a character named after the Dirty Harry movie that killed that franchise.

My understanding is that Gail Simone, who had risen to 1990's internet fame with her online column You'll All be Sorry (which coined the idea of Women in Refrigerators and fired the first real cultural shot in the ongoing discussion of gender and treatment of non-white-male characters in comics), was hired by Marvel to yuk it up in the pages of a Deadpool standalone comic - the reason for existing, I do not know.  Maybe the character had some heat, I have no idea.  Frankly, I was reading JLA and Vertigo at the time.

In general, comics writing is extremely hard, and comedy is even harder.  Whatever alchemy Simone and whomever pulled off became the typically lazy comedy writing in comics that has tumbled along by telling jokes from internet memes for the past 15 years now, and shows no signs of slowing.

It's just not been my brand of humor from day 1, and that's okay.  I find Donald Duck comics from the 50's hilarious and still think the quickly canceled Heckler comic did everything you need to do with a comedy superhero.

I'm more than willing to accept that there are better comedic writers (and writers in general) out there, and they likely make money working in Hollywood rather than page rates for comics.  And, thus, I gave the red-band trailer for the movie a go.

And... nope.

Ryan Reynolds remains as annoying here as everywhere else in his career.  Everything about it just reminds me of a 15 year old trash talking in a game of Halo.

I wanted to go in with an open mind, but it's just not for me, and that's okay.  I don't like Dane Cook, either, and to quote myself from twitter a few days ago - Deadpool is the Dane Cook of superheroes.  He can fill a stadium, so someone is digging it, but when I watch his routines, I just sort of want to change the channel or poke out my eardrums.  And that's true of  a whole lot of other comedians I avoid as well.  I am sure people feel the same way about Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford and Louis CK.

Further, I am positive, because nobody really pads how they phrase it when talking to me, that most people in 2015 seem to think liking Superman is just about the dumbest thing you can do when there's Batman out there.  So we all have our thing.

To me, Deadpool is one of the dead-ends of the badly learned lessons of the 1980's.  It's faking maturity via immaturity and smearing blood around to make sure the audience knows "this ain't for kids!".  I can safely skip it.

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