Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Some comic book movies
[Moved up for purposes of shameless comment-trolling]
After watching the Japanese Avengers trailer, I went completely bananas and rented Blu-rays of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man 2 (as well as Batman Begins -- I already have a Blu-ray copy of The Dark Knight). The Marvel movies are all so good! It's such an amazingly high level of consistency and quality, combined with a fantastic diversity of style. Really, it's amazing that the Marvel Universe is getting such a cinematically high-toned treatment (with all these Oscar-level actors, great directors etc.) The pressure to make each movie a hit on its own (rather than, say, simply as parts of a "Harry Potter" sequence or whatever) has created what the Avengers fusion retroactively makes into a series (or anthology) of movies of unusually high quality; they fit together like contrasting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
The DC movies (from the 1970s through the 1990s), by contrast, are pretty weak stuff. I mean, Richard Donner's Superman remains a classic film, very well done, but by modern cinematic standards (and modern comic book movie standards, which have risen to ridiculous levels nobody could have predicted back then) it's pretty childish, with absolutely no attempt to reproduce anything "real" from the comic books. Also, there was no CGI, so rather than (for example) Kenneth Branaugh's amazing Asgard, we got a "Krypton" that was basically Logan's Run-level sci-fi, with "ice crystal" prop walls and obvious miniatures. (The rest of the Christopher Reeve movies are just awful--he's great, but what a bunch of crap!) And the less said about Tim Burton's Batman movies, the better (I feel vindicated in that I was one of the few people who hated them at the time and didn't understand why they were getting so much credit for being "dark" and "visionary" when they were just more Tim Burton toy-store fetishism and Nicholson's ridiculous performance that was as far from the Joker as you can get while using the same name). (With the "built-in smile" prosthesis...and remember him and his henchmen formation dancing to the Prince song? Heath Ledger didn't do any dancing.) I was a little overdosed on The Dark Knight, but watching Batman Begins again (which I'm doing right now) is getting me psyched for the third one. I'd forgotten what a truly fine movie it is.
If anyone had told me back decades ago that comic book movies would ever get even close to the artistic heights they've reached (as well as shaking off every vestige of their former "campiness") I would never have believed it.
P.S.: For those of you who dislike origin stories, I refer you to Tim Burton's Batman, wherein they just skip the part where he, you know, becomes a superhero. Christian Bale's first "I'm Batman" -- a full hour into the movie -- is so much more satisfying than Michael Keaton's "I'm Batman" in the first five minutes of Burton's silly version.
P.P.S.: Remember how Michael Keaton's Batman suit was made in such a way that he couldn't move his head? His entire neck and skull were fixed in place within that rigid cowl/collar piece--in order to look upward, he had to tip his entire torso backwards. That's got to be great in a fight, or while driving, or, really, doing anything. (Keaton worked it, though; he did lots of great silent-movie-style eye moves and sidelong glances, trying to make his immobilized neck look natural. Despite my dislike of those movies, I've always genuinely admired his performances.)
P.P.P.S.: While on the "costume" tip: Remember how, in Batman Returns, when he tore off his cowl at the end of the movie (to reveal his face to Catwoman), all the black makeup around his eyes suddenly went away? And, when Catwoman was doing flips, her high heels suddenly became flat shoes, and then turned back into high heels when she landed? Because, who cares! It's a Tim Burton movie!
P.P.P.P.S.: Ed Wood was pretty brilliant (and beautiful to look at). I'll totally give him that one.