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 1671 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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Worlock93
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More than one person stated something along the lines that the point of the EW article was that Superhero movies had changed the landscape of film making and have taken over the box theatres. Hollywood has over the years always gone through trends like this. During the 90’s every year was packed full of books adapted from popular fiction. Practically every year there was a movie from Stephen King, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, etc, etc. No one complained much about this because few people read so this stuff was new to them. I on the other hand shook… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

A very adult and educated respones to a very childish and uneducated article. Kudos to you and this artilce.

Quentin Tarantado
Guest
One minor criticism:It’s Antonioni (assuming you refer to Michelangelo Antonioni). He isn’t a “nini”.Otherwise, it’s a praiseworthy article, partly because it’s fairly levelheaded and calm, partly because it’s NOT for EW (notice their articles have no talkbacks? we can’t comment on the level of writing of their online rag probably because if we could, the web would be shut down from the deluge of negative comments.) EW articles, in my hardly authoritative opinion, seem shallow, badly written, and designed to catch your clicks with tabloid headlines (yes, the headlines are masterpieces of literature. Titillating literature.) I’m going to bookmark his… Read more »
Don Roff
Guest

And now if we can see that AQUAMAN film that desperately needs to be made…

agent666
Guest
enjoyed your elaborations mate. all these asshats bashing superhero films are simply doing it because its mode. they have no idea of the source materials, no idea of the techniques used to bring the characters to life and no idea how a film is made at all. the same asshats that fall in line remarking on the genius of quentin tarantino or pretending to understand the latest david lynch film. to quote ed norton ‘critics are the most unqualified people on the world’ these superhero films are the ONLY reason i will be braving an overcrowded multiplex filled with various… Read more »
Papageiena
Guest
“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.” I could kiss you. I can’t tell you how many times chicks get nudged to the side when we’re a huge presence in comic books. The EW article just seems like grouching from another Comic Book Guy, obsessed with indie street cred and finding small mistakes in a huge deal to predict the end of the world is coming. I’m sure Comic Con was great when it was… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Well done , you tell ’em. Guys doenst like spiderman big deal not like comic book movies are the only bad summer movies, Pirates of the Carribean at worlds End?

Hope EW tears a strip off him.

Oscar
Guest

You’ve got to send a version of this into their letters dept.

Anonymous
Guest

Ernest Goes to Camp is a great movie! You are crazy!

Anonymous
Guest

The Comic Book Movie Trend is no different than the sci-fi and fantasy trends.

For every Catwoman and Elektra, there is a Hellboy and Iron Man – so it evens out.

I kinda like to believe that a lot of film makers were inspired by comics or movie serials they saw as kids. Look at Indiana Jones.

Anonymous
Guest

nice rebuttal, that ew article annoyed the hell out of me.

Windy
Guest

Jurassic Park and Independence Day were both terrible movies, their only saving grace being their special effects.

I could even argue that Terminator 2 was a disappointment to me, that whole “Life is Precious” message seemed so false after the brutality of the first movie.

Caleb
Guest
Excellent rebuttal sir, I salute you. I actually at down in Borders to read this article and was really, really wishing that I could go and punch Nashawty in the face. The guy writes like a pretentious coffee shop jerkoff who only sees Indie flicks and cries during BBC movies. The EW reviewers are hit or miss, but they’re usually not ignorant and close minded. Can’t believe the guy would rather sit through something like Doom or Resident Evil…just because Batman Begins and X2 were based on comic books. And you had to suffer through The Shadow? Didn’t that start… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
Very well thought out and powerful rebuttal. However, I also happen to find the comic book movies unappealing and do wish we’d see better movies being made, period. Special effects and fantasy stories and superpowers are simply not as interesting to a grounded adult as something with a good story and less pizazz that seems reasonably possible in real life. There are more than enough great stories from history to keep filmmakers busy for years. It’s harder to suspend disbelief when the stories are so crazy. The first hour of Spiderman was interesting. Since then, they’ve all pretty much bored… Read more »
J
Guest

Super hero movies suck in general. There have been some good ones but that just led to even more including obscure crap that most people hadn’t heard of, much less cared about. Had they been worth watching, at least they could redeem themselves but horrible films, and the characters they follow, like Fantastic Four, Hellboy, and Punisher. Even those characters which people had heard of like Catwoman were pathetic messes. We need more films based on interesting characters, not the kiddie-crap that comic books offer.

Anonymous
Guest

They’re, there, and their. Completely different words with different meanings. Please learn how to use them. Revising and editing is your friend……

But yes, I read that horrible article that you are writing the rebuttal for. I wonder how such a poor writer with no idea of the meaning of the word “objectivity” is hired to write an article. It seems people just value controversial topics over good writing, sharp research, and any sensibility at all.

Anonymous
Guest

i pretty much agree with the guy. did we really need 3 x men films? 3 spiderman movies and 2 fantastic four movies? in 5 years?

dumb bland over cgi tripe.

id rather see nolan making more use of his talents then by wasting time trying to make batman ‘serious’.

Steve Karmazenuk
Guest

Dude, that is one of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen on the subject of movies in a hell of a long time.

One of the things I can’t stand about so many so-called “journalists” is what pompous, elitist fucking pricks they are; way to go, man; you put him in his place!

cinemalover
Guest

Good rebuttal. But Superhero movies mostly do suck, especially the ones made today. There’s something a inescapabaly ridiculous about it, yet the mainstream appeal is there, I guess. Nothing wrong with that, but some of these movies cherised by comic fans, like the pretentious, bloated, and redudant reboot “Batman Begins”, are dismal crap. I’ve given that movie a lot of chances, since they show it so many times on FX, and it just looks sadder, and more uninspired every time.

chris
Guest
Since the 1980s began (post Star Wars) almost all summer blockbusters have been aimed at kids (teenage or younger). The EW writer is imagining a ‘Golden Age’ that never existed and is confusing his own personal preferences with fact. The likes of Spider Man 2, X-Men 2 and Batman Begins are held up as examples of superior summer entertainment as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back To The Future were. How is a Michael Bay film (the kind of summer blockbuster that irritates me no end due to cliched plots, action without the benefit of tension and craft and… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

One other minor point about the original article being rebutted, in the upcoming movies he lists, he mentions Ant-Man as a ‘tene-pole movie’. Now, has anyone seen the director of this film? Edgar right, aka the writer/director behind Shaun of the Dead and Hott Fuzz, comedies satirising distinct genres. Now, does anyone here think that choice will lead to either

1. A ‘typical’, generally serious comic book movie?
Or
2. A Tent-Pole movie a studio will bank on being a MAJOR blockbuster?

No?
Me neither.

Anonymous
Guest
A person can (and should) be able to enjoy all kinds of movies. And, as the rebuttal pointed out, there are good and bad movies in all genres. What one has to realize is that the studios actually want to make money. (Wow! Imagine that.) Of course they want family-friendly movies and/or movies that are going to do a lot of repeat business. As one blogger mentioned, once there are 3 or 4 “bombs” in a row, then Hollywood will lose their fascination with the genre. But the funny thing is, a lot of the general public doesn’t even realize… Read more »
Louie
Guest

God bless you man. Srrsly. I was writing up a rebuttal in my head and then I read yours and thought, “Well, he covered everything.”
Nicely done. Extremely nicely done.

Chris
Guest

*stands up and applauds*

Excellent response, my friend. Excellent response.

Anonymous
Guest

Did you see the movies Nashawaty listed from 25 years ago? Does he really think Octopussy and Never Say Never Again were better movies than Iron Man? Mr. Mom completely sucked.
It’s telling that the only scene they ever show from Risky Business is the one of Tom Cruise dancing in his underear. That’s because the rest of the movie sucked.

Randy
Guest

Superb rebuttal. I agree wholeheartedly on every point. Perhaps we should sit Chris Nashawaty down and make him watch the el-cheapo 1990 versions of the Punisher, Captain America, and the unreleased Fantastic Four. Might give him a little perspective.

Anonymous
Guest
Ok. First of all, the people defending Nashawaty don’t need to because HE’S PUBLISHED IN EW. I don’t think he cares whether you back him up or not. Second, I am a HUGE movie buff, plain and simple. I am not partial to any movie genre – all I look for are films that earn the 10 bucks I shell out to see them. That said, yea Nashawaty is right about a few things but come on… anyone who says Batman Begins is NOT well educated in films. I was one of the few people who DID NOT want to… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

I don’t think it matters one way or another. Superheros are basically homosexuals who run around in skin-tight, spandex leotards and frilly costumes. That is just seriously weak. But summer movies were ruined long before 2002. I hate to sound like an elitist, but going from films like “The Godfather” to today’s superhero films was not a good development.

radiodan
Guest

I was annoyed by Mr. Nashawaty’s article as well. But a few pages later in the same issue he heaps praise on TimeCop, hence negating his opinion on any film from until the end of time, as far as I’m concerned.

Mrs. Nashawaty
Guest

If it hasn’t been said yet, I say fire Nashawaty and hire you. Or demote him and hire you as supervisor.

Miguel Valdez-Lopez
Guest

Sir, I agree on what you say. Completely.

The thing is… you do realize that you’re just giving more publicity to whatever Chris Nashawaty said, right?

I’m willing to bet he’s happy so many more people are now reading his article just because you’ve referenced it, or written about it.

Just thought you should consider that.

Next time, just let him write whatever he wants. Right or wrong, at least you won’t give him the satisfaction.

Isaac
Guest

Spoken like a true man of the people! Chris Nashawaty was very one sided in his counterproductive article. All he established was that he was old and out of touch with genre he hates so much. He clearly did not do his homework.

Anonymous
Guest
I’m a comic fan…. but more importantly I’m a movie fan. When I say movie fan, I mean movies in general. What I mean is while I loved the first Spider-man and Batman Begins, you can also find me watching classic movies from all different genres for example: Oliver and The Sting….movies that require more than a 14 year old boy’s ritalin starved attention span. I really cant see how anyone would say Armageddon and Terminator 2 are better movies than Spider-man.In terms of character development, plot, and depth; it’s easy to see which takes the cake. In fact, the… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Way to put that pretentious D-Bag in his place, and to the ignorant guy that said Christopher Nolan was trying to make Batman serious, He already was before Nolan even touched the character.

ThatBaldBastard
Guest
As this blog’s author can attest, I am a mid-range comic book geek (meaning I have read “The Sandman,” and I bite the heads off of live chickens). I am also a bit of a film geek as well (on any given weekend, you could easily catch me curled up on the couch watching a marathon of “Casablanca,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Psycho,” “Apocalypse Now,” and, yes, the Donner “Superman,” accompanied by my 400 oz. soda, giant box of sourpatch babies, and bucket of fake butter soaked chicken heads). Recent years have, indeed, seen a glut of well done and not-so-well done… Read more »
William Gatevackes
Guest
Wow. Quite the response. I just wanted to stop by here to pass on a few words. To all of you who supported me or offered constructive criticism, thank you. I hope you have made Film Buff Online a daily stop on your Internet travels. To those of you who were abusive, insulting or otherwise trollish, well, gosh, I hope that maturity finds you sooner rather than later. But I think we’ve all seen here is that taste in movies is subjective. There were about as many people who liked Spider-Man and Batman Begins as didn’t like them. But if… Read more »
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