An Open Letter to Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty

In the June 6th, 2008 issue of Entertainment Weekly, in stores now, writer Chris Nashawaty provides us with a page and a half diatribe on how he hates superhero movies. You can read the article on the EW website here.

Now, putting aside EW’s love/hate relationship with comics (they cover the San Diego Comic Con each year, with a bigger article each time, but liberally sprinkle “nerd” and “geek” in the text to keep comic fans in their place), this just appears to be one man’s personal feelings on the topic.

Mr. Nashawaty is entitled to his opinion. That doesn’t mean that his logic isn’t flawed. This post is going to act as an open letter to the author on that subject.

You see, I am a fan of comic book movies and I have an issue with several points of Mr. Nashawaty’s argument. Several issues that show his ignorance of the comic book movie genre. I’ll be providing a rebuttal here.

Mr. Nashawaty’s dismissive view of this year’s comic book films:
Mr. Nashawaty had this to say about this years spate of comic book movies:

“This year we’ve already been bludgeoned with Iron Man, a movie that actually asks the audience to root for a smug billionaire arms mogul. And hot on its tail are The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan is supertalented, but this is the sixth Batman movie in the past 20 years), Hellboy II (a sequel to a movie that grossed approximately $17), and, of course, The Incredible Hulk.”

Of course, this only goes to show that Mr. Nashawaty did not see Iron Man, because the movie really was about a smug billonaire arms mogul who sees the error of his ways and takes steps to atone for the death and destruction he has caused. Missed a bit of character development there.

He apparently has not seen Batman Begins either, because he would know that that movie, also by supertalented Christopher Nolan, was a from-the-ground-up rebooting of the franchise. It broke from the rubber nippled fetisharama of Joel Schumacher and rooted it in a realistic, French Connection-ish style.

But even if The Dark Knight was the fifth sequel to Tim Burton’s Batman, so what? If Mr. Nashawaty is saying that is somehow wrong, someone should call and shut down production on Quantum of Solace right now because that is the 7th James Bond movie in 20 years. And apparently, the limit is five per character per 20 year period.

As for Hellboy, I know he was exaggerating for comedic effect, but the film actually made $60 million domestically and another $100 overseas, more than doubling its budget. Doubling its budget means it’s a hit, hence, a sequel.

But his opinions on The Incredible Hulk leads to another talking point:

An Oscar nomination does not automatically ensure quality:

Mr. Nashawaty elaborates further on this film:

“Five years ago, Universal spent $137 million on Ang Lee‘s Hulk movie and it grossed $132 million. If I were a bean counter at Universal, I wouldn’t be bullish on that math. Not to mention that the first time around they had an Oscar nominee behind the camera; now they’ve got…the guy who directed The Transporter. Am I missing something? No one wanted to see the Hulk the first time around. And I’ll play Jimmy the Greek here and predict that no one will want to see this one, either, regardless of how much capital-A acting Edward Norton brings to it.”

First off, Universal is distributing the film for Marvel Studios. So, their being bullish on the math has nothing to do this film being made.

And, yes, you are missing something here. While Ang Lee did later win an Oscar, that doesn’t mean his work on Hulk was Oscar worthy. It was an ambitious, but flawed film, in my opinion, which was done in by the murky CGI fest that was the film’s final half hour. But even before that, Lee seemed more concerned with technique and less concerned with being true to what made the Hulk an interesting character–the cursed man who becomes an out-of control monster.

The Incredible Hulk seems to be all about that. Granted, Nashawaty might be right in assuming people won’t come out to see this ipso facto remake, but if they do make this film a hit, it will because the creators got the tone right, not because it’s directed by the guy who directed The Transporter.

My final word on an Oscar nomination or win not guaranteeing quality: Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Pick your targets carefully:

Nashawaty goes deeper to explain his comic movie hatred:

“If I seem angry, it’s only because I’ve been burned so many times by these things. I’ve sat through The Shadow, Judge Dredd, and Catwoman. I’ve even been trapped in coach with Elektra as the in-flight movie. “

In fairness, The Shadow, while adapted several times into comics, originated in the pre-comic pulp era. And Catwoman resembled its comic book counterpart as much as it did a good movie. And Judge Dredd had Sylvester Stallone AND Rob Schneider in it. ‘Nuff Said.

But if you go into any comic shop in the country and say these movies sucked, you will get little or no argument back. These are bad movies. But these are about as representative of the comic book movie genre as a whole as Ishtar and Gigli are of movie comedies. “What? Go see 40-Year Old Virgin? That’s a comedy, isn’t it? I saw a comedy once, Ernest Goes to Camp, and that sucked. No, no comedies for me.”

The whole “Ritalin-starved 14-year-old boything:

“If you go back even further, say 25 years to the summer of 1983, it seems like a paradise lost. No one had heard of Comic-Con yet and there were movies for everyone, not just Ritalin-starved 14-year-old boys…”

Again, to nitpick, no one in mainstream heard of Comic-Con in 1983, but it did exist. I’m sure many comic fans wish that Hollywood still hadn’t heard of it today.

I’m not quite sure what he meant by that “Ritalin-starved 14-year-old boy” comment. Is he aping the whole “comics are for kids!” chestnut that has been outdated for over 20 years? Because the main demographic for comics nowadays is the 18 to 35 demographic heavily cherished by advertisers. Which is why Honda and the U.S. Army are major advertisers in the comics of today.

And comics are not exclusively a boys club. Go to a comics convention, Mr. Nashawaty, and you’ll find your fair share of women perusing the stacks of manga, graphic novels and comics.

Besides, the best selling comics sell in the neighborhood of 100,000 copies. Iron Man has made $276 million to date. There is quite a discrepancy there. Even if every comic book collector in the world went to see Iron Man twice, it wouldn’t add up to half of what its earned.

Or, was Nashawaty trying to make the point that the sound and the fury of the comic book movie appeals to the hyper kinetic, short-attention-span youth of today? Does this mean he thinks the films of yore he so fondly remembers–Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, and Independence Day–don’t? Because I don’t know a 14-year-old boy, Ritalin starved or not, who wouldn’t love a movie about killer robotic assassins from the future, dinosaurs on the rampage or aliens blowing up national monuments. Or is he saying that adults shouldn’t identify with the Spider-Man franchise’s theme of great power comes with great responsibility, the Batman franchise’s theme of grief and loss, or the X-Men franchise’s theme of dealing with persecution? The box office results beg to differ.

See, Nashawaty mourns the loss of the big, brainless Hollywood summer blockbuster but criticizes comic book movies for being aimed at an immature audience. You really can’t have it both ways, Chris.

And you’re wrong, too. Comic book movies are successful because they are movies parents can take the kids to and both can enjoy the film. There are the fights and explosions for the kiddies and plot and pathos for the adults. Just because you can’t see it, Chris, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

My advice to Mr. Nashawaty is to sit tight. Hollywood is cyclical and derivative. The reason comic book movies are so successful is because people keep going to see them. People like them, Chris, even though you don’t. And nothing sells in Hollywood like success. All you need to do is wait for a string of comic book movie bombs, movies that are critical and commercial failures, and the movie studios will move on to the next trend. Maybe you’d finally get to see that Antonini-esque masterpiece, Armageddon II: The Asteroid’s Back and It’s Pissed. Until then, try to find something in the 20 or so other movies put out each summer to take your mind off the three or so comic book movies that come out each year.

About William Gatevackes 1664 Articles

William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.

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86 Comments on "An Open Letter to Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty"

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John
Guest

Very good rebuttal. This guy was off on so many points. One that he doesn’t understand is that the reason why there are so many films now is because the special effects technology has caught up with the material. A Spider-man 20 years ago would have been bad, very bad. Give people a good story and they will go see a film.

Anonymous
Guest

Your letter was gold. I just read the other article and i felt like ripping my teeth out. Those freakin’ EW movie reviewers have no idea what they’re talking about. They cannot make a good argument for the life of them. Props to you, man.

Anonymous
Guest

I hate it when people state their opinions like they are facts; written in stone and absolute. There are alternatives to superhero/comic book movies on the summer market and I don’t just mean Sex & the cash-in. When will people learn there’s room for all kinds of movies and not everything is meant to be for you. It’s hard to tick all the right boxes and push all the right buttons for everyone. He should realize that.

Anonymous
Guest

Nashawaty is off the mark, except for his comments about “Superman Returns” and Brandon Routh.

That put Superman back 30 years

V.M.L.
Guest

wow, that critic seemed very narrow-minded and shallow. I hope he reads your posting.

Penance
Guest
A far more balanced view, I feel. It’s fairly obvious that the idiot from EW hasn’t seen the likes of Iron Man and Batman Begins as these can quite easily rank in amongst the top 200 films ever made (in fact, I think they do on IMDB). Focusing on the turkeys like Catwoman and Judge Dredd (which he probably only watched after reading bad reviews just to prove his point later on) doesn’t make you look clever or witty, it makes you look out of touch. Also, since when are Daredevil and The Punisher C-list characters?! A lack of research… Read more »
dev
Guest

He definitely did come off ignorant, especially when it came to Hellboy. He may not have liked it, but there is an audience for it and it seems to be quite a large one. Comic books are actually a lot deeper than people give them credit for and, unfortunately, when most are adapted, they lose what made them deep or special. The whole genre shouldn’t take flack for that. Your comedy example was perfect. EW is trash, anyway.

James
Guest

Kudos my friend, Kudos

Brandon
Guest

Yeah I almost cancelled my subscription to EW after I read that ignorant fool’s article. I noticed he only points out the flaws of comic book films and only wrote about the bad comic book films. To me that’s biased, I mean he never once mentions the critcally acclaimed and overall film faves such as ‘300’, ‘Sin City’, ‘A History of Violence’, and ‘American Splendor’. Those were all comic book movies or adaptions from graphic novels, and they were some of the best films ever made.

Anonymous
Guest

Don’t forget that Brandon Routh has several projects coming out with him in the lead.

It’s annoying how pretentious Mr. Nashawaty is, the Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator films are horrible. But he would rather watch them than films by celebrated directors like Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer, Gulliermo Del Toro and Sam Raimi, because they have no Superhero’s?

He loves Terminator 2, that’s essentially a Superhero movie. So is The Matrix. Why does he like them?

T.T.
Guest

Good for you and great article. I’ve stopped listening to and reading that poor man’s People Magazine years ago.

blood sucking fiend
Guest
I can identify with the desire for a big summer blockbuster to be a non-super hero movie. I love a good super hero movie as much as the next person (unless, of course, that person is Chris Nashawaty), but I don’t live for them, and sometimes it does seem, at least in the past few years or so, that the summer super hero films are the movie high points of the summer– that everything leads up to them and then, once they’re over, build up to the next super hero movie. I can see how people who don’t like super… Read more »
Terminal
Guest

I found Nashawaty’s article juvenile, pretentious, and smug.

This was a very good response.

And thanks for not being a moron about it. You acknowledge that not everyone likes comic book movies, but you point out his errors in argument.

Good on you.

Michael
Guest

Never in my life would I have expected Michael Bay to be compared to Antonioni! that is a complete disgrace on Nashawaty’s part. Yeah and by the way, XMen3 was very similar to a Welles film. Rattner was right, he is the next Orson Welles!!

Linc
Guest
The real trouble with the guy is he got old. Now, one mustn’t be chronologically old to be old, nor chronologically young to be young. It’s a frame of mind and he seemingly removed himself of the youthful vigous that enthused and gravitated him towards T2, ID4 and JP… which leads me to my next point: he complains about the lack of concentration span, and yet epople had so little they felt the need to abbreviate every film that came out with more than three syllables. Now we just have the good sense to only name things with three. The… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

You are talking about a writer for a magazine that can barely bring itself to write about anything other than “Lost,” “Heroes,” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” As fine as those shows may be, they aren’t the only things out there. Too bad they can’t see past them.

A. F. Stewart
Guest

A wonderful article. A good movie is just that, whether it is based on on comic book, or not.
I’m quite tired of comics getting dumped on; some comic books I’ve read have the same depth and characterization as a good novel.

a wounded fangirl
Guest

The first time i read that article by nashawaty, i thought to myself “Who let this through?” It was just a rant on how bitter he was. Yes, i like many fans, saw Daredevil, Fantasic Four, Hulk, Superman Return, and left the movies dissappointed. However, i’ve never let it put me off on ALL comic book movies or i have would missed all the great ones. Thank you for this rubuttal.

Anonymous
Guest

Thank you. As I read the article in last week’s EW, multiple times I yelled at the magazine, like he could hear me. You pretty much made every point that I was angry about. I was actually surprised by the article, EW has been so supportive of Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, and Lost that I was shocked that they would even print this article. I realize that there are plenty of people out there that probably feel the same why the author does, but again as you proved, that’s only because they are ignorant of the facts.

Anonymous
Guest

Well played. You completely rebuked and destroyed his argument without name-calling or becoming nasty. I think the guy who wrote the EW article knew he was going to get dumped on by writing it, but it still doesn’t forgive his shoddy research and lack of support for his arguments (together with trying to have it both ways in his arguments, always to the detriment of the comic book film). I think you should get a guest spot on EW after such a well written and thought out article.

Mejia
Guest

I read that article from EW and I swear I died a little. Good points made. I’m sure Nata-whatever is being lampooned by his peers.

Anonymous
Guest

“Doubling its budget means it’s a hit, hence, a sequel.”

What is it with sequels these days? Does a movie’s success always have to lead to 100th part of it? I thought the idea was watching the same people over and over again in TV shows аnd going to the movies for something new…

Video Beagle
Guest

I thought a big problem with the article was that a lot of the movies he mentioned, weren’t summer films.

That was the point, superheroes ruining summer blockbusters?

Catwoman, Electra, Daredevil, Punisher, Ghost Rider, and Hellboy were fall or spring films.

Using those as examples pretty much destroys his thesis, I think.

Anonymous
Guest

I liked your rebuttal very much, and agree with you on most points! The other article almost seemed cynical for cynicism’s sake to me. As if Chris Nashawaty is some high brow intellectual who can’t possibly enjoy a comic book superhero movie for what it is…a superhero movie based on a comic book! There are reasons to make these films, and not just Oscar worthy dramas (which to be honest I tend to avoid)…we love them! Thanks!

Ghosthost2
Guest
I am comic book fan, ecspecially a Batman fan. First let me say, ID4 and Armageddon suck as hard as Ghost Rider. Anyway, even though I am a comic book fan, I am kind of tired of Hollywood only relying on comic books or fantasy novels for major blockbusters. Even though I am only 22, I grew up watching movies from the 70s and 80s. Back then blockbusters didn’t have to be based on previously established franchises. Because of that you got great movies likes Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, and Gremlins. About the only quality… Read more »
a fan from the Bronx
Guest

I applaud this open letter to the staff (Nashawaty, in particular) over at EW for even deigning to run with the publishing of their article. In addition to the excellent points made here at the Film Buff, I also believe that Hollywood is steadily running out of original ideas to put to the screen, so producers have turned to literature (comics among them) for the next money maker. More power to them, I say. Helluva lot more movie watchers than readers…

Doc X
Guest

Another rebuttal: Mr.Nashawaty writes his essay as if someone was holding a gun to his head and forcing him to go see these movies.
If you don’t like superhero films, don’t go see them.

Anonymous
Guest

EW’s article pissed me off, yours brought me back. Thank you. It’s a shame that more people will probably read his than yours.

DarkFaith
Guest

Thanks for mentioning the ladies! As an attractive female, I’m sick of the “girls only like Jane Austen movies” mentality. I loved Iron Man, and not just because Downey, Jr was ripped. I think the last X-Men movie sucked, even with Hugh Jackman, and have never seen the Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. But I did only see Spidey 3 because of Bruce Campbell. And even Ash with a French accent couldn’t make that movie worth the $10.

KC
Guest

A very well writen and thought out response, I’m impressed. Personaly I haven’t bothered to pick up a copy of EW in many years for just that reason, the reviewers working for them clearly don’t see movies the way most of the country (or world for that matter) do, and are too egotistcal to use the words “in my opinion”. Great thing about the internet, you can find reviews from actual people like yourself. Not the people at EW.

Anonymous
Guest

I certainly agree with everything you said. Nashawaty took the words editorial liberty and ignorant to new extremes in this article. And to whom is he writing anyway? If his readership and the presumed general theater-going audiences are the same, then the people he’s mocking and degrading are the same people he’s writing too. Some of the movies mentioned are bad. Some of the Hollywood’s love of the newest bandwagon is bad. Nashawaty’s article is just as bad.

Bananafish
Guest
I think everyone here has missed the point to the EW article. I don’t really see it as bashing comic books films per se, just showing how they’ve completely altered the cinema landscape within the past decade. I think Nashawaty made several good points about the films he mentioned and while I enjoyed Iron Man and am looking forward to Dark Knight, I do believe they are making it difficult for other movies to get seen. In 1994, Forest Gump was one of the highest grossing films of the summer and stayed number one at the box office for several… Read more »
Lacey
Guest

EW takes themselves WAY to seriously. Their opinions and reviews of movies are ridiculous. That’s why I cancelled my subscription. Great post :)

Reinman
Guest

You should write for EW instead. I’m going to send them an e-mail…

I-Rob Man
Guest

Great response to a complete #$$@! “I didn’t like the Hulk. I thought Catwoman was bad. Judge Dredd was Dreddful ;)” Wah-Wah-Wah! Someone get him a tissue…

r.j. sayer
Guest
NICE. another point about the HULK debate. what killed that film WASN’T the public’s lack of interest in the character, it was a barrage of negative reviews and dismal-to-hostile word-of-mouth. that disaster had a strong opening weekend and then dropped like Pete McNeely once people started flocking back to the watercoolers. because it was, after all, a terrible film that missed the mark entirely. you can piss of comic fans and still have a success. you can cater to them at the expense of the general public and still have a classic with a niche audience that grows over time.… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

“Ernest Goes to Camp” was an awesome comedy.

Becky
Guest

Hear hear!! The thing that really annoyed me about his article was his use of examples. Paraphrasing here, “well summer comic book movies suck. Movies like Daredevil, The Punisher, and Ghost Rider.”

Well, none of those were released in the summer! Do a little research first buddy.

Oh, and very good rebuttal about Gigli representing all comedies! Great comment!

Final Thought: I will always choose a comic book movie (maybe even a bad one!) over a Michael Bay movie.

Alex Workman
Guest

The worst thing about this whole debacle is that Nashawaty condemns superhero/comic book movies in his two-page article but later in the back of the magazine he actually has the balls to recommend people see Van Damme in “Timecop”.

Anonymous
Guest

This is my review on Batman Begins. Batmans parents get shot, batman learns kung-fu, batman goes back to Gotham, Man in mask apears (can’t remember what happened to him), Batman fights his kung-fu master during an overly produced CGI traincrash. All with all the most overrated film of the last couple of years.

Anonymous
Guest
I really liked Iron Man and Batman Begins, but this open letter makes me wanna side with the entertainment weekly guy. You’ve come off really petulant and whiny here, and instead of writing an actual defense of comic movies you’ve just made a lot of anal, irrelevant points about the EW guy’s article and accused him of not seeing any of the movies he’s writing about(It’s pretty likely he has seen the films, since he’d almost certainly be fired for writing about movies he hasn’t seen). This is basically a trolling imdb board post pretending to be a blog article.… Read more »
Bill
Guest

I’m with the EW guy, I like superhero movie, but this guy doesn’t even understand the point of Nashawaty.

Anonymous
Guest

Dude, chill out. The guy from EW was just posting his thoughts. Not your thoughts — HIS! Who’s to say someone doesn’t write you a letter now about your letter to another writer. This stuff could go on forever. Quit being a complete geek and just let someone rip your comic book movies. You’d hate it if everyone loved them, and now you’re pissed at this guy now that he hates them. Make up your mind.

Anonymous
Guest

come on guys, do you really want to compare JP and T2 to the stuff we have today? He was completely right about Spiderman and how it does not hold a candle to the quality of yesteryear. Even Batman Begins is not in the same solar system as T2. Face it, the industry sucks these days.

Anonymous
Guest

Thanks for writing this as I was far too lazy to. I read the article last week and it made me furious. What an asshat. There are good and bad comic books movies just like there are good/bad horror movies or good/bad sports movies. As a comic book geek from the 80’s, I still remember the time when there were no comic book movies AT ALL. Superman was the only game in town. Very glad to have too many comic book movies, even if they are hit/miss than none at all.

Anonymous
Guest

I would respect what Nashawaty said if he hadn’t come across as a Hypocrite for his comments on looking forward to Watchmen, that to me just sounds like him telling people that comics he doesn’t like or have interest in should not be made into movies, but the comics he does like/has read should be.

An Innocent Bystander
Guest
An Innocent Bystander

I’m surprised at some of the backlash this article’s getting. It’s funny how the people who don’t agree with the author’s opinion are insulting this guy for disagreeing with another person’s opinion.
Seems like a lot of hypocrisy to me.
I still enjoyed this post, though. It was a logical well-formed rebuttal, not a trashing post. Does nobody enjoy a good old fashioned, grown up debate anymore?

Jordan
Guest

i’d be totally fine with his entire post if he didn’t dismiss the dark knight so easily. i really feel like that’s the film that will finally erase the “comic book movie” stigma and become accepted as a film on it’s own terms.

Rich D
Guest
Hi everybody! Rich Drees, the editor of FilmBuffOnLine, here. I just wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who contributed some thoughtful comment on Bill’s editorial, whether you agreed with him or not. (As for those who contributed less than thoughtful comment…) The response has been overwhelming and we both are very thrilled with the caliber of (a majority ;) ) of the comments. If this is your first visit to FBOL, poke around and check out what we have to offer. And stop back again soon, as we have some great articles and reviews in the works. There… Read more »
Rogue NineCH
Guest

Excellent rebuttal, you nailed him to the wall! You can’t just look at the bad comic book movies, and say “they all suck!” That is absolutely biased, and shows Chris’ incredible laziness when he wrote that article. What an idiot.

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