Sunday, June 23, 2013

COMIC BOOK CULTURE: AN OUTSIDER'S OPINION or WHY SUPERHEROES BORE ME.




One of my earliest blogposts, whose link you can find below, was about my experiences with comic books, what little there was. It may seem unbelievable to some, but until I was in 11th or 12th grade, I didn't realize they actually existed. Comic books that is, it sounds bizarre I know, and it was even stranger when I was got a rare acting job, playing a comic book fan who worked in a comic book store. A lot of this, is documented in the link below, I know most of you probably haven't read it:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/08/comic-books-actually-exists-and-other.html

Also discussed in that piece is a lot what I'm talking about now too, this over-saturation of the film market with these giant comic book movies, particularly superhero movies. I was getting tired of it then. And you know, despite everything, a part of me, is still dumbfounded by their ever-increasing popularity. I guess that, to some accept that I'm in the minority on this, seems unfathomable to me. I had a friend of mine, FB about her experiences being at the local Comic-Con the other day. I couldn't believe there was a local one; I thought it was only in San Diego, and apparently there's another one later this year. Well, not a Comic-Con, but essentially, another kind of comic book convention of some form. I'm sorry, it's disconcerting. And very strange to me. I understand certain appeals of comic books. The art for instance, in certain cases the stories and some of the characters, but on some level, I just don't understand.

I started thinking about this again, after recent article from "The Guardian", about how Hollywood, perhaps need saving from superheroes; I appreciated it, because the author, tended to take the same kind of perspective I take on superheroes, which is one, well-, I'm just gonna say, I really don't get the appeal of them. Here's the article below: 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/jun/11/man-steel-hollywood-break-superheroes

I think the writer is wrong about Michael Keaton, and a few other things, but there's actually a lot of the comic book culture, that's overtaken the film industry lately, and I just don't get it, frankly. I get some of the fantasy aspects of the superhero genre, and even some of the appeal of being a lover of comic books, but, even if I was a superfan, but I don't think I'd go to a convention to celebrate it, or admire it. I also don't tend to flock to the movie theaters for every film that's based on some Marvel, or any character, really. (Granted, I look for good reviews first, before I check out any film, but still...) I guess an obsession or two with something is okay, some of my friends would probably argue, that while I lack, whatever joys and wisdom they get out of comic books, that I probably found something else to replace it, a different film/TV genre perhaps, or even complete separate outside activities, which they probably missed out on, in favor of comic books, but when an obsession takes over a population, and spills over so heavily into, all aspects of entertainment.... It just seems odd to me. When I choose to make film my life's work, I thought their would be, more people with the sensibilities and interests that I had, and that the people who like these, cult-ish fantasies, wouldn't be so prevalent, and it would be more of the people, who may still admire and adore a Kevin Smith, but from the same high-brow perspective that makes me admire the Aaron Sorkin's and Edward Albee's and David Mamet's...- Alright, I'll be blunt and put it another way, I thought going into film, meant that there'd be less "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans, and instead, they're a bunch more of them than I could ever have imagine, and they're all my friends now. (That's the one who's popularity always annoyed the hell out of me, you can insert your own, into that sentence. "Star Wars", "Star Trek", Stan Lee, zombie movie fans, whomever/whatever one fits for you best.) I guess, shame on me, I should've thought, that since, the people that make those things are making film, that they'd probably be in film school/world that I was jumping into, but keep in mind my perspective, someone apparently blind to this for so many years, I hear people racing to  "Iron Man" or "World War Z" or J.J. Abrams, latest "Star Trek" bastardization, and I'm wondering "Where the hell did all these people come from, and how did there become so many of them, that Hollywood, can basically cater to them, because they'll know it'll make a profit?

I mean, when I was six, I liked the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" too, when I was six, and that's only including the original TV series, but certainly not enough for, one, two, and soon-to-be, three generations of trying to adapt it to film? (Which they really should stop, it's barely worked as a Sunday morning cartoon, and besides, I could never figure out how to get past level three on the old Nintendo game.) The point is though, that they've taken over, and frankly, I'm a little annoyed by it. I mean, is this what I have to look forward to, every 5-10 years, a new "Superman" or "Spider-Man" franchise begins? Oh and btw, that's odd, the multiple universes and versions of stories that comic books are filled with. I mean, it's not exactly original, I get that. Even Jesus's death got four different versions in the Bible. And, yes, we're all influence by certain stories, and we pick, grab and borrow, most of us, from other literature, and try to make it our own. Even Hamlet, was probably a remake of a Ben Johnson play, that frankly, wasn't as good, so it's not worth mentioning, (Might not have been Ben Johnson, but some other playwright of the era.) but what is there, dozens of different versions for practically every superhero, or at least the really big ones, most of them done by different people, but all basically telling the same story? Yes, we adapt stories to film all the time, and we often change things from original stories, but, these multi-verses, where else in literature, does that happen? Seriously, there's like a dozen different Spider-Man, eh-I don't know what they're called, "universes", maybe? Twelve different Spider-Man universes, can you imagine if there was like, a dozen different versions of "Oliver Twist" like that? I mean really, people read Dickens, got inspired, and then, soon, bookstores would be flocked with ten or twelve diiferent versions of "Oliver Twist"? Some beginning with him as an orphan, some showing him a wronged man, out for vengeance on those who took his parents away, some where he has special powers, some where Fagan adopts him.... In the strictest sense of the word, literary, meaning, "That which is to be read," this isn't in any other,  literary format? That doesn't even make sense, does it? I mean, you like a character so much, but you insist on changing it, so that you'd like it more; if you actually really liked it, why would you change it? I mean, fan fiction, especially for like, a serial piece like "Star Trek" or something, I kinda get that. 'Cause if you like something so much, you'd want to inevitably, put yourself into the universe of that world in some way, while still having the world remain as it is, that I get. Doing these multi-verses, whether they're better or worse than the original, it's basically saying, "This thing kinda sucked, so I'm gonna make it better, or the way it should be." I guess it's not done with that conscious pretense, they're probably done out of admiration, but still.... Godard often quoted by saying, "The best way to critique a movie, is to make another movie," and in that sense, I would've just created my own characters and superheroes and world. I guess there's a lot of that being done too, but quantum physics aside, that troubles me. I can see the argument for it; I can make the argument for it as well, but it's peculiar.

Don't get me wrong, a good movie is a good movie, and to me that has nothing to do with genre, and there's certainly been plenty of good or even great films based on comic books, and/or about superheroes. Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy, alone, all them of them are great. "Watchmen" made my Ten Best list a few years back. "Thor" was damn-near great, a lot of others are good, this is kind of the golden age for these films, I'll give you that. Yet, basically, if we, just simply keep going through comics again and again, and the same comics at that, we're just gonna be watching the same things all over again. The graphic novel adaptation I tend to like most, aren't the superheroes, they're ones that, don't even feel like they started as graphic novels, like "From Hell", "A History of Violence", "Ghost World", "American Splendor" for instance, the ones that seem to be the opposite of the mythological superheroes and sci-fi/fantasy comics that oversaturate the tentpole movie release schedules. But mostly, it's the same structure, mostly the same stories, half-the-time now, it's the same characters, and I go to films to see a lot more variety. Fantasy is part of that, but it's infuriating to see the same films, over and over again. Blockbusters aren't really that enjoyable, you know, especially if that's all you see or seek out. Superheroes, saving the day; that can get tiresome, and boring. The Guardian's right, there's too many of them, and frankly, with Spielberg's recent predictions about the movie industry, being two or three flops away to becoming a Broadway-style, attraction, in terms of price and availability, especially from a Hollywood, where even, the Spielberg's, have to now fight to get their films into theaters, instead of on HBO it's not that far off; it's not great for the film industry, to be so reliant on such a cult-ish demographic, even a popular one like comic book adaptations, and frankly, for the people who aren't so devoted to the genre, they're giving us less of a choice. There's a reason I call my Movie Review blogs, "Random Weekly Movie Reviews", the films are "random", and I'm willing to watch almost anything, and frankly, I want a mix of movies, and not just the same ones all the time. (I do prefer that they're all "good" films, but lacking that, I'll settle for a bunch of different films) I don't think Spielberg is right about the direness of Hollywood, after the hypothetical multiple-flops fiasco which he claims will happen, as I think cinema will adapt, and start funding and promoting more adventurous and challenging films as the superhero and sequel hangover vehemently approaches. Maybe we're both wrong, and this new massive ComicCon audience, will keep going and basically fund Hollywood forever, as they await anxiously for their favorite characters to come to life on the big screen, and fill them with joy. Or anger, which some of them seem to prefer, as they seem to enjoy criticizing and over-analyzing them to death, as they compare the comics to the movie, and what they kept and didn't and etc. etc.

It strange enough that Hollywood, basically controls my viewing choices to some extent to begin with, by pushing and promoting, whatever "Fast and Furious" they're onto, or whatever tentpole films they're shoving down the public's throat, but now I feel like, those aren't even being control by Hollywood. Now, I feel like my film choices are being controlled by peoples' fetishes. They're not even my fetishes either, so I gotta pretend, and just to get into it the best I can't. Sometimes I can't though, and frankly I just end up looking over at everyone else, all excited, and like any fetish that isn't your own, everybody else's just seems weird and odd, and worse-of-all, funny, and not in the intentional and self-conscious way either, funny in the "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to laugh, you're penis is fine" way. It's a formula, it's just a genre, it's just another way of telling a story. Some are great, some are shit, some are something in-between, and everything else is somewhere between them, like all the other genres. They shouldn't be looked upon as though they're as special as they are, especially by their fans. 
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