It’s the summer of 2016 and comic fans and movie goers alike have been primed for what could prove to be the biggest year for comic inspired titles. We’ve already been treated to a surprise hit in the heavily under to no budget action laughfest of Deadpool and the masterfully crafted story telling of Captain America: Civil war. Why then are some of the most recognizable properties falling so short at the box office?
Without mislead you along, I’m talking of course about Warner Brother/DC’s ill-executed Batman v Superman and the latest installment in the X-Men franchise: Apocalypse. How is it that studios like Fox and WB can take the most household names in the comic world and continually slaughter their silver screen treatments? When will studio executives wake up to the demands of an educated, intelligent audience wanting more substance to go with the spectacle?
Barring your home being under a very large, wifi block rock, you should know that the much anticipated lead in to the Justice League franchise was wildly ostracized by critic and movie goers alike – the only constant exception are the select uber fanboys…err fan people…so in love with the idea of seeing JLA come to life that they will continually inflict their opinion as fact; ultimately trying to sway popular opinion by their undying will. BvS falls victim to the simple fact that it was much too big a story to cram into such a short run time effectively. With over two hours, you’d think that’d be more than enough to tell a concise, directed story from beginning to end. Maybe it was studio involvement, maybe it was a bad screen play but BvS is a hot mess of incongruent storytelling: dragging through yet another Batman origin-esque bit (how many times do we need to be told his parents were shot and killed in front of him?!) and trudging through the consequences of the events of Man of Steel all while sprinkling in build up for the unveiling of Wonder Woman – who was one of the few bright spots of the film. Take the hour and half build up and then shift gears and floor it to a very anti-climactic big boss fight and most left the cinema scratching their heads, trying to process what they had just watched.
When it comes to the X-Men franchise, I have deeply seeded personal interest in the characters and stories. Having spent most of my childhood earned lawn mowing money on comics and trading cards of their namesake and countless hours lost to the classic 90s Fox Kids cartoon treatment, there would be nothing more satisfying then a successful X summer blockbuster. Sadly, Fox has failed to deliver since the first movie of 2000. X-Men: Apocalypse was supposed to be everything a fan would ever want; from casting to the plot to the biggest, baddest villain in the Marvel Universe (maybe second only to Thanos.) What was delivered was a lazy, vanilla screenplay with too much reliance on spectacle rather than substance. Visually, the movie was amazing – from the costume design, to the color palette to the set selection. Unfortunately, this is all overshadowed by under developed throw away acting from beloved characters. These characters and the subsequent storyline(s) are the reasons we go to the movies. If flashy CGI and action sequences are a top priority, it’s just as easy to wait for clips to surface on our favorite websites and late night talk shows.
As a lifelong cinema junkie and self-proclaimed comic nerd, it’s a wonderful time to be alive. The simple fact that I can find reason to complain about the films being made is specials – gone are the days when all we had were C-list worthy treatments of Captain America, The Punisher and the never released Fantastic Four. To head off the impending doom of the comic book film, fans need to stand behind studios, directors, and screen writers alike and encourage better. In this day and age it’s very easy to get caught up in the negative (no thanks to movies like Trank’s complete bastardization of the Fantastic Four.) Sooner or later the honey pot of studio big budge financing will run dry if the returns aren’t there but the line in the sand must be drawn. The creatives must adhere to the source material and stop injecting the top brass mandated fluff put in place for cheap laughs and merchandising. I leave you with this: Hollywood, please treat comic book properties with the respect they deserve. Well-developed scripts with intelligent characters will go a lot farther than lense flares, big explosions, and generic shallow antagonists.