Tag Archive | "X-Men"

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Off the Radar

Posted on 03 January 2014 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, the success of X-Men and Spider-Man send studios looking for adaptations at smaller comic book publishers.

By 2003, movies from comic books were a big deal. The success of the X-Men and Spider-Man films indicated that there was gold in bringing comic characters to life, and Hollywood wanted to get in on it.

Unfortunately, most of the big guns were taken. Sony had Spider-Man and Thor, Fox had the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil. Universal had the Hulk, and any DC Comics characters had to go through parent company Warner Brothers first.

Luckily for producers all over town, the comic book industry had expanded so there were a number of other viable companies putting out comics, all with characters ready to be brought to the big screen. Well, the powers that be might have thought they’d be ready. But as we’ll see, sometimes audiences thought differently.

BulletproofMonkBulletproof Monk, the comic, was a comic book by committee. The concept was originated by two men who never put fingers to keyboard, nor ink to Bristol board. Michael Yanover and Mark Paniccia created Flypaper Press and a content farm for their ideas, which they would hire writers and artists to flesh out and produce.

One of these concepts was one that would take the Asian Kung Fu film, move it to a city and add Star Wars type mysticism to it. They hired Michael Avon Oeming, who would later gain fame working on Powers, to do the art and asked relative newbie Brett Lewis and indie veteran R.A. Jones to do the writing. Gotham Chopra, son of Deepak Chopra, was brought in as a consultant on the Eastern mysticism in the story. And that story became Bulletproof Monk.

Yanover and Paniccia started shopping the concept to Hollywood before the second issue even came out. They got interest from John Woo, whose movies were an inspiration for the concept. Woo eventually agreed to produce the film. His frequent collaborator, Chow Yun-Fat, was cast as the titular monk. Heath Ledger might have made his comic book film a few years before his turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight, as he was in line to star as the Monk’s assistant, Kar. He dropped out to accept a role in The Order, and Seann William Scott took his place.

Bulletproof_Monk_8627_MediumIf Yanover and Paniccia were thinking they might have a Men in Black style underdog hit on their hands, they were sorely mistaken. The film opened to horrible reviews and only made $37 million worldwide against a $52 million budget.

Bulletproof Monk might have been committee designed to be a film franchise, 30 Days of Night was a comic book concept that went nowhere, was then proposed as a film idea and was shot down, before IDW Publishing decided to publish it as a comic. It is also one of the most inventive approaches to horror to ever come down the pike.

As the film Insomnia told us, parts of Alaska experience 24-hours of sunshine for weeks at a time. The flip side of this is that they also experience 24-hours of night for weeks at a time.

30-days-of-nightNow, consider if you were a vampire. You have to hunt your prey—humans—for food—blood—in the small window of time you are both awake. The sun is deadly to you, so you stay behind closed doors and windows in the day time when people are out doing their business. And most people stay indoors when the sun goes down, so your pickings are slim—from the late shift workers, college party crowd, etc.

For you, a month of darkness is a great thing. Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith thought so. That’s why they wrote 30 Days of Night, a comic about a cadre of vampires that relocate to Barrow, Alaska and use the small town as their personal smorgasbord.

The series sold loads of copies, spawned numerous print sequels, established IDW as a publisher of note, raised the profile of both Niles and Templeton (who were nominated for Eisner Awards, comic’s version of the Oscars, for the series), and attracted Hollywood’s attention. Yes, the concept that was at first unwanted as both a comic book and a film would end up being a success at both.

04934874_In 2002, Sam Raimi’s Senator International picked up the rights to the comic. Niles wrote the first draft of the script, which was rewritten by Stuart Beattie and then again by Brian Nelson when director David Slade came on board. Josh Hartnett played the town Sheriff, Melissa George his estranged wife, and Danny Huston played the leader of the vampires.

The film was a success, making $75 million worldwide against a $30 million budget. It was a huge success on home video, which led to a direct-to-video sequel and two prequel miniseries on FEARnet.com.

2-poster41You get the feeling that Disney was itching to get into the comic book film business for a long time, because in 2007 they purchased the rights to the Top Shelf miniseries, The Surrogates, a high-concept story set in the sci-fi genre, for its Touchstone shingle.

The story concerned the future of 2054, where everyone has an idealized, mind-controlled robotic duplicate of themselves that they use for everyday interaction while they stay home in their ugly flesh and blood bodies. When someone starts destroying the Surrogates, which kills the owners in the process, an anti-Surrogate cop needs to get to the bottom of the mystery behind it.

surrogates_movieThe film, produced in part by Elizabeth Banks, was directed by Jonathan Mostow and starred Bruce Willis as the cop. The cast also included James Cromwell, Ving Rhames  and Rosamund Pike, which would make for a pretty good film, you would think. Unfortunately, critics gave it mostly negative reviews. The film made $122 million worldwide, a disappointing figure when you think it cost $80 million to make.

Whiteout was another high concept comic book series. Published by Oni Press and created by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, it is a murder mystery set in the scientific stations of Antarctica. It centers on a U.S. Marshall by the name of Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who must investigate the murders of several scientists before she retires her post.

Whiteout_posterThe comic was nominated for a number of Eisner’s, but the 2009 film adaptation was not what you’d call award-worthy. Many would pin the blame for the film’s flopping ($17.8 million worldwide versus a $35 million budget) on it having a female lead. But the 7% fresh rating it got from critics couldn’t have helped. Pity poor Gabriel Macht. This film, in which he plays a UN agent, came at the end of a three year span of completely awful movies he starred in (joining 2007’s Because I Said So and 2008’s The Spirit).

Next, Kevin Smith’s favorite hero gets the big screen treatment, does well, and is never seen again.

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Is Fox Planning A FANTASTIC FOUR VS X-MEN Film?

Posted on 29 December 2013 by Rich Drees

FantasticFourXMen1

We’ve known for sometime that Fox has been planning on merging their long-running X-Men superhero film franchise with their upcoming reboot of their Fantastic Four franchise into a single integrated universe the way that Marvel Studios has done with their properties. They’ve even recently hired on Simon Kinberg to oversee the process.

And now we have an idea as to how that blending of the two franchises may happen, thanks to this report from the financial site The Motley Fool (via Bleeding Cool) –

After multiple movies in their respective franchises, Fox has now decided to combine the Fantastic Four and the X-Men for an “Avengers”-style movie that could pay off huge for shareholders.

Based on a 1987 four issue comic called Fantastic Four vs. X-Men, the movie will see the characters against each other because of secrets regarding the Fantastic Four’s origin.

FantasticFourXMenCoverSo, how on the money might they be? Hard to say. Are they reporting from actual information that may be circulating from Fox to their investors? Or is the site making a stab in the dark, in the process showing off their geek side?

If this is a real project, we probably won’t be seeing it anytime soon. The X-Men franchise already has a number of films on the way. We know that next summer we will see X-Men: Days Of Future Past and the recently announced X-Men: Apocalypse is looking as if it will have a 2016 release, while there is also a possible X-Force film and another Wolverine solo film in the development pipeline.

In the meantime, we won’t even be seeing Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot until 2015. I would suspect that Fox would probably want a sequel before they started doing a hard crossover with the X-Men, though they could be taking a play from what Warner Brothers appears to be doing with and being rushing the big team-up films into production as quickly as possible. But even then, I wouldn’t expect to see it before 2017.

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RUMOR: Baron von Strucker Added To THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Villain List

Posted on 21 December 2013 by William Gatevackes

Wolfgang_von_Strucker_(Earth-616)_0001First, let’s just say that this rumor originated from El “Almost always wrong” Mayimbe over at Latino Review. However, the much more reliable Drew McWeeny also ran with it over at HitFix, so perhaps we should take this one a little more seriously.

The rumor? That in the opening scenes of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers will be fighting HYDRA, now led by Baron von Strucker.

Baron Wolfgang von Strucker was a Nazi officer who would face off against Nick Fury, Wolverine and Captain America. He was influential in the formation of HYDRA in the comics, and often served as its leader. He stayed relatively young by use of serums created by Hydra to retard the aging process. His main weapon is something called “Satan’s Claw,” a red gauntlet that increases his strength and delivers electric shocks to his opponents.

According to the rumor, Strucker will be leading HYDRA against our heroes only in the opening scenes.The idea is that he will be defeated quickly and the film will then begin to go about its Ultron business. Of course, this doesn’t mean that he won’t be showing up somewhere else later on.

The rumor also states it will be there where Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch will be introduced, but doesn’t say how. Could they be Interpol agents fight against Strucker? Are they undercover, infiltrating his organization? Or, maybe, has Marvel found a replacement father for the pair to replace Magneto? Strucker also has a twin son and daughter with superpowers in the comic books. Could Joss Whedon be swapping out Fenris, aka Andreas and Andrea, for Pietro and Wanda? Just an idea.

Csokas scottThe casting announcement for the role calls for a physically imposing man, 40-50, and Caucasian for the role. El Mayimbe says that Marvel is looking at Marton Csokas (Lord of the Rings) and Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible II) for the role. Just based on looks alone, I think either would be a good choice. And both have geek cred (Csokas, in addition to LOTR, also has roles in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and Scott infamously was originally cast as Wolverine in X-Men before conflicts with MI2 caused him to drop out).

Now is the part of the post where I list the warning flags. First off, it will be good to see HYDRA back in the movieverse, but they were barely a threat for Captain America in the first film. I can’t see they’d put up too much resistance against Thor, Hulk and Iron Man. Speaking of which, Iron Man was left as being retired at the end of Iron Man 3. So his return would need to be explained. Personally, if this rumor is true, I think that Baron Strucker and HYDRA will be facing off against a skeleton crew of Avengers–Black Widow, Hawkeye, maybe Cap, maybe Falcon–and not the whole team.

We shall see, won’t we?

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Up, Up And Away, Web!

Posted on 08 November 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, we look at one of the best superhero franchises, the first Spider-Man trilogy.

MV5BMzk3MTE5MDU5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjY3NTY3._V1._SX424_SY627_The years of stops and starts were behind it, and all the legal wrangling was a thing of the past. It was now finally time for Sony to bring Spider-Man to the big screen. The only question was who would be the director at the helm.

Sony was not messing around. When it began its search in 1999, its list of directors included Roland Emmerich ( three years removed from Independence Day and following up the critically lambasted yet still successful Godzilla), Tim Burton (the man who brought Batman to the big screen and was coming off Mars Attacks and a failed attempt to bring a Nic Cage Superman to the big screen), Chris Columbus (much in demand director of Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire who was coming off a hit with Stepmom), and David Fincher (who was still riding high from Se7en and was in the process of making Fight Club  at the time).

Each director would do well in capturing a quality of the character. Emmerich would do well with the bombast and spectacle of the character, Burton the quirky weirdness, Columbus the heart and sensitivity and Fincher the dark and morbid underpinnings (his proposal for the film? Start with the death of Gwen Stacy).  But the director they chose was able to capture all these characteristics of Spider-Man and more. That director would be Sam Raimi.

Spiderman - Sam Raimi directs Tobey Maguire and Kirsten DunstRaimi was at the time best known for the Evil Dead series of films, but was starting to move away from genre films with films such as A Simple Plan, For the Love of the Game, and the then in-production, The Gift. But Raimi was also a comic book collector with a focus on the Silver Age. So, Sony hired the perfect man for the job, someone who understood the character yet was a great director with a unique style and vision.

Once Raimi signed on, work began on updating the James Cameron scriptment to the big screen.   David Koepp replaced Cameron’s Electro and Sandman analogs with the more pertinent Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Raimi’s wish to play up the father/son triangle between Norman and Harry and Norman and Peter caused Doc Ock to become expendable. The character was removed in Scott Rosenberg’s rewrite.  Eventually, practically the only thing remaining in the final film from Cameron’s scriptment was the organic web-shooters.

tobey-maguire-1Raimi then set about casting the film. Even though the studio wanted a big name like Leonardo DiCaprio or Freddie Prinze Jr. (yes, for a brief period after I Know What You Did Last Summer and She’s All That, Prinze was a big name), Raimi insisted on Tobey Maguire for the role of Peter Parker. Casting Norman Osborn/Green Goblin was slightly more difficult, as first choices Nicolas Cage (thankfully) and John Malkovich (regrettably) passed on the role. Luckily, a copy of the script fell into Willem Dafoe’s hands and he began to lobby for the part. Eventually, he won Raimi over and was cast as the villain.

This was a boon for the franchise. Maguire was well enough known as an actor that he was recognizable, but was not so famous that he would overshadow the character. He also was a great character actor, playing Peter’s angst-filled and somewhat sad sack persona without ever becoming annoying. And Dafoe was a great fit for Osborn, creating the right note as a good man going insane. In other hands, the transformation would not be believable. In Dafoe’s it was.

the_original_spider_man_poster_that_was_pulled_after_911Of course, the casting was solid top to bottom, with everyone doing well in their roles. Kristen Dunst’s Mary Jane might not have been the sexpot she was in the comics, but she was the girl next door the script called for. James Franco did well as Harry in what he was given. But the greatest acting job of the entire cast was J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Simmons totally captured the bluster and the bombast of the character to a “T”. Also, watch closely as you will see future stars Joe Manganiello (True Blood) and Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) as Flash Thompson and Betty Brant.

But even this time around, the path to the big screen wasn’t without bumps, this time provided by real world events. While teasing the film in the summer of 2001, Sony wanted to show that the film was set in New York and used an iconic New York City landmark in its publicity—the World Trade Center.  The Twin Towers feature prominently in the first posters for the film (look at Spidey’s eyes in the poster to the right for their reflection) and in the first teaser trailer.

Unfortunately, the events of September 11, 2001 turned the advertising’s respectful nod to a famous part of the New York skyline into a haunting reminder of the lives lost when terrorists attacked those buildings. The poster and trailer were both recalled and a scene with random New Yorkers added to the final film to reflect the spirit of cooperation citizens showed in the days after the tragedy.

The film itself follows in the formula established by X-Men two years earlier. It made changes to the story so that it would make a better film, but stayed true to the spirit if the original work.   Spider-Man is still a decent human being, horribly haunted by one poor decision that left someone he loved dead. The main differences are that he was bitten by a genetically altered spider and not a radioactive one. And his main nemesis dressed up as a flea market version of Iron Man instead of, well, a goblin.

uncleben2But overall, the film worked because it struck this balance. Uncle Ben still dies, but this time immediately after Peter negligently lets the robber escape. This allows for a powerful scene between Cliff Robertson (as Ben) and Tobey Maguire, as Peter arrives in time to spend a last few minutes with his uncle.

A similar, character-defining death scene occurred the same year in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones and the difference in quality is embarrassing. Anakin’s mother’s death is supposed to be one of first things that push him to the dark side. Unfortunately, compared to Uncle Ben’s death, it lacks emotional potency and seems hollow.

Raimi also employed some of his cinematic trademarks in the film. The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Raimi uses in most of his films became the Parker’s family car. And longtime collaborator Bruce Campbell has a cameo as a wrestling announcer who gives Spider-Man his name.

The film set records when released, including becoming the first film to earn $100 million dollars in its opening weekend. The $39,406,872 it made on its first day set a record for the highest opening day total. The film grossed $403,706,375 domestically and $821,708,551 worldwide, making the long road to the screen worth it. Obviously, it also meant that a sequel was in the making. We’ll talk about that next time out as we wrap up the Raimi era of Spider-Man.

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Will FOX’s FANTASTIC FOUR And X-MEN Films Crossover?

Posted on 19 August 2013 by William Gatevackes

300px-Fantastic_Four_vs_the_X-Men_Vol_1_2 Shared universes are all the rage nowadays in comic book films. Marvel paved the way and showed us how it’s done, Warner’s is trying to establish a shared universe with their DC Comic based films, and it looks like FOX is next in line with the Marvel franchises they control.

FOX’s overseer of the Marvel films, comic book writer Mark Millar, took questions from the readers of SFX magazine and he was asked if FOX’s Fantastic Four and X-Men franchise will share the same universe. He had this to say:

Without question I think you have to see some of these guys showing up in each other’s movies. I think the most exciting thing in superhero movies, until The Avengers came along, was when Nick Fury showed up in Iron Man. Even though it was a guy with an eye patch it was really cool – and I expect we will see more of that.

It’s at this point that we should mention that not every comic book franchise melds perfectly with every other comic book franchise. Nick Fury appearing in the solo Avenger films made sense because they were building to a bigger film. While the family-focused sci-fi action team of the FF teamed up with the costumed social allegory that is the X-Men numerous times in the comics, in films the two worlds will be much harder to intermingle.

Unless, of course, the FF reboot decides to introduce Reed and Sue Richards’ son Franklin in the mix. As any savvy comic fan can tell you. Franklin Richards was born a mutant. Unfortunately, this plot point is unlikely to happen as all the casting rumors for the reboot deal with actors who are kids themselves. None of theh names bandied about seem old enough to have a child who is exhibiting mutant powers.

We shall see.

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Will AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 4 Include More Heroes?

Posted on 24 July 2013 by William Gatevackes

alg_spider-man_garfieldMarvel’s success with bring its own characters to the screen through spin-offs and interconnected stories has inspired the rights owners of Marvel characters other than Marvel Studios to mine their rights for all their worth. We have seen Fox create two eras of X-Men to work with, a spin-off Wolverine franchise and will so add X-Force to its mutant film roster, and now it looks like Sony will be doing the same with its Spider-Man franchise.

As part of the San Diego Comic-Con promotional barrage for Amazing Spider-Man 2, director Marc Webb spoke with CraveOnline. The conversation turned to Amazing Spider-Man 4 (yes, the second one has yet to come out and they are already talking about a third sequel). What Webb said was quite interesting:

There you go. In that case, you can do no wrong. We always expect a trilogy from movies now. It’s a little arbitrary but what are you gonna do, and yet, you announce that 2 is coming out, and then the release date for 3 and then a little later you said, “Oh yeah, and we’re doing 4.” 

Well, I think this was conceived of as a trilogy so there was a defined architecture to the story we were telling and we had sort of a rough outline of what was going to happen. I think [for] the fourth movie, what we’ve discovered is there are so many ancillary characters, that have enormous, cinematic potential that there may be other ways to exploit those characters, in a way that is exciting and fun and worthwhile. It might not just be a Spider-Man movie.
Interesting. Yeah, because that’s the thing. We haven’t really introduced any other heroes in the Spider-Man universe, ever. 

Right.
You know, there was kind of the heroic Green Goblin but that was a footnote, and you do seem very interested in the whole world of Spider-Man and not just his immediacy of influence.

Yeah, exactly. I think there’s… You know, what was fun about the comics is that there’s an entire sort of encyclopedia of characters and stories and histories and nuances and idiosyncrasies and off-shoots. I think that that is something that seems to be really successful and has a lot of potential so it’s sort of, as yet, undefined, but intentionally so.

So, it looks like Webb will be along for the ride for ASM 4 (it was touch and go if he’d even be back for this film) and the film will be introducing more heroes into the mix.

While the Spider-Man comic mythos is not as jam-packed with superhero characters as the X-Men universe is, there have been a number of heroes that got their start in a Spider-Man comic.  There have been villains that became heroes such as Sandman and Venom (a number of various incarnations of Venom as a matter of fact), anti-heroes such as Cardiac, Solo, and Silver Sable. And allies such as the Black Cat and Madame Web.

Judging by Webb’s words, it looks like whatever hero is introduced into the franchise will be done with the eye on a spin-off film.

Unfortunately, three of Spider-Man’s biggest allies from the comic books–Morbius, Cloak & Dagger, and the Punisher, will not be in that movie. While all three debut in a Spider-Man comic book, the rights to all three are owned by Marvel.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: X-Men–The Dark Before The Dawn

Posted on 19 July 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, the theme of  good and  bad as it pertains to the X-Men film franchise continues as we cover its spinoffs—X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a horrible movie. There is no two ways about it. You could see why it got made. Wolverine is the “Fonz” of the X-Men franchise both on the screen and in comics. He’s the breakout star, a man of mystery, and the character audiences are drawn to. Producers could have put any origins story up there for the character and fans would show up in droves. The producers did, and the fans did, although the character, and the actor playing him, definitely deserved better.

new-wolverine-movie-poster_404x606The films plot drew on two major comic book storylines, 2002’s Origin by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada, Paul Jenkins, and Andy Kubert (written, rumor has it, so that Wolverine’s origin would be first told in a comic book and not on the silver screen) and Barry Windsor Smith’s 1991 “Weapon X” serial from Marvel Comics Presents. Adjustments were made to wedge them into the film franchise’s continuity and to set up two characters—Deadpool and Gambit—for possible future films. It was a patchwork plot, with holes in the seams big enough to drive a tractor trailer through.

The film opens by distilling the Origin comic series into the first several minutes of the film. We open in the Northwest Territory of Canada. A young James Howlett witnesses the family’s groundskeeper kill his father. Or at least it was the man who Howlett thought was his father. The groundskeeper with his dying breath admits that he is Howlett’s true father. Distraught, Howlett escapes into the woods with the groundskeeper’s son, Victor Creed, who is Howlett’s half-brother. Confusing, yes? Yes, made even more so by cramming all the melodrama into one brief scene.

wolverine4The half-brothers deal with the death of their father the best way they know how—they kill other people. They relocate approximately 3,000 miles to the United States (where all the good wars happen) to fight in the Civil War and every major conflict America found itself involved in for the next 100 years (apparently, both brothers are immortal as well as being good healers and having claws). Things turn sour during the Vietnam War, as Creed’s vicious nature as becomes too much for even that era’s U.S. Military (his actions eventually get the brothers in front of a firing squad, which is surprisingly ineffective). Creed (Liev Schrieber), however, is just right for a Black Ops group composed of mutants that Major William Stryker (Danny Huston) is starting up called Team X. Howlett joins his brother in his new job for a while, but eventually leaves when the black ops get too black for his taste.

James, now calling himself Logan, lives a simple life with his longtime girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins) in rural Canada when now Colonel Stryker comes to call. It appears that members of his old black ops team are being killed off by a mysterious assailant. That mysterious assailant turns out to be Creed, who attacks James and appears to kill Kayla.

wolverine2Incensed, Logan takes Stryker up on his offer of help and agrees to a process that will give him the advantage over his brother—the bonding of the indestructible metal Adamantium to his bones. The process is a success, but after it is complete, while being submerged under two feet of water and Styker standing at least five yards away, mind you, Logan hears Stryker planning to betray him. Naturally, Logan escapes and plans his vengeance.

He tracks down the few Team X members that are still alive to find out where Stryker’s secret base is. No, not the secret base that Logan just escaped from, a different one (Stryker, apparently, was a big believer in having redundant systems). His buddies Wraith (will.i.am) and Dukes (Kevin Durand) say the secret base is named “The Island” and only one person has ever escaped from the facility—Remy LeBeau, a.k.a. Gambit (Taylor Kitsch).

Wraith and Logan track down Gambit in the hopes that LeBeau will reveal the location of the island. While Gambit and Logan fight, what people on the same side typically do in these movies, Victor arrives and kills Wraith. Logan and Victor once again fight, with Gambit coming into the battle on the side of Logan. Gambit realizes Logan is on the level and decides to take Logan to the same island he was willing to engage is thousands of dollars of property damage to keep from being taken back to.

“The Island” is Three Mile Island, which, in the X-Men film universe, was decommissioned and abandoned after the 1979 partial meltdown of reactor 2 (ours wasn’t—reactor 1 is still running today and has been since the accident) and is located in a remote area accessed only by plane, not smack dab in the Susquehanna River, about 15 miles from Pennsylvania’s state capital of Harrisburg, about 30 miles from one of the state’s biggest tourist towns, Gettysburg, 20 miles from one of the major colleges in the state, Dickinson College, and several miles from two airports, several major highway systems, and even a golf course. If the film TMI matched up with the real world TMI, it wouldn’t be all that hard to find.

wolverine1Anyway, when Logan arrives on “The Island” he finds Kayla is there and still alive. She is a mutant with the powers of persuasion who agreed to work with Stryker in order to keep her sister Emma, who Stryker is keeping captive, alive. Stryker’s ultimate plan is revealed. He was taking DNA from the mutants he captured and/or killed and put the genetic material into Team X member Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), giving him all the powers the mutants had (a “Deadpool” of powers, nyuk nyuk) in order to become a weapon Stryker could use to kill all the mutants in the world.

Logan and Deadpool fight. Victor arrives just in time to save Logan and they both defeat Deadpool. Professor Xavier arrives at the secret base that no one except Gambit knew the location of just twenty minutes ago and saves the captive mutants, including a young Scott Summers (Cyclops from the X-films). Kayla dies again, for real this time, and Stryker induces amnesia in Logan by shooting him in the head with an Adamantium bullet.

It would be easy to say that the script for this film was so bad due to the fact that so many plot elements had to line up with the rest of the X-Men film franchise. After all, Stryker had to be alive in time for X2 and Logan had to be suffering from amnesia at the start of X-Men. Any roads taken in this film would have to lead to there. But these limits shouldn’t result in a film like this. You could write a much better script, keep the continuity intact, and have a much better movie.

wolverine1I could write another 1,000 words on all the plot holes and inconsistencies in the film, like, for instance, how a mutant whose power is to make you do whatever she says could ever be blackmailed in the first place (“Listen, I want you to release my sister, let me and her leave this facility right now, and forget we ever existed. Then you will dance around the complex singing ‘I Feel Pretty’ until you collapse,” said Kayla, in a much better version of the script in an alternate universe).  Or why Stryker needed Logan at all. He went through this convoluted plot to get his hands on Logan for two reasons: One, to get the healing factor from his DNA to give to Deadpool and to see if someone with said healing power could survive having adamantium bonded to their bones. Well, he was employing Logan’s brother, who had the same healing factor as Logan, so he had a test subject already in his employ. Stryker, a man who hates mutants so much he is bioengineering an assassin so he can kill them better, tells the mutant Creed that he’d never survive the process. Why would he be concerned? Why would he care? Logically, he’d try the process out on Creed and if it worked, yay, if not, it’s a dead mutant.

But logic has no place in this script. It is less a cohesive tale than a group of big moments lined up one after another. Kayla serves as the dutiful girlfriend until she doesn’t. She dies (BIG DRAMA!) only to re-appear later (BIGGER DRAMA!!) and be revealed to have betrayed Logan (OOH! MEGA DRAMA!), but eventually redeems herself again so Logan can mourn her again (MONDO MONDO DRAMA!). Who cares if these events are convoluted to the point of being nonsensical, and the character is so thinly drawn that the impact is lessened.

The Wolverine, being released next week, appears to be better.

the-wolverine-posterIt uses the legendary Chris Claremont and Frank Miller Wolverine miniseries as a framework. Logan is brought back to Tokyo by man named Shingen who owes Logan a great debt. Logan saved Shingen’s life during World War II and he intends to repay that debt by giving Logan his mortality back. Being that he is constant being tortured by the memories of killing Jean Grey, Logan is ready to take him up on that offer. Of course, the offer doesn’t go off all that smoothly and Logan quickly runs into situations that his healing power would be an asset.

However, even this installment wasn’t without a bit of difficulty. Bryan Singer was offered the chance to direct the film, yet refused. Darren Aronofsky was announced as director, but lasted only five months before stepping down. James Mangold eventually stepped in and took over the directorial reins.

FirstClassTeaserPosterX-Men: First Class was Fox’s other foray into X-Men history, but originally it was supposed to be another film. The plan was to make an X-Men Origins: Magneto, detailing not only the early part of Magneto’s life in the concentration camps, but also the beginning of his friendship with Charles Xavier, who would have been a soldier who liberated the camp Magneto was in. The concept was later updated to 1962, and Xavier and Magneto would unite to face a common foe.

Bryan Singer states that his treatment for X-Men: First Class was not inspired by the script for X-Men Origins: Magneto, even though the pair team up to take down a common foe in 1962 (The Writer’s Guild disagreed, and Sheldon Turner, who wrote  X-Men Origins: Magneto, receives a writing credit on the film). Singer’s treatment, fleshed out by Jamie Moss, Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, embroiled the pair in a plot that involved the Hellfire Club, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and would have been directed by Singer and have a tone similar to Singer’s X-Men films.

Then Singer backed out as director and Matthew Vaughn stepped in. Vaughn rewrote the script with Jane Goldman and changed the tone of the film to that of a Pop Art artifact, the type of X-Men film that would have been made if they made a film when the X-Men comic first came out (and modern day special effects were available then too).

A first look at the Sentinels from X-ME:DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, as seen ast SDCC '13

A first look at the Sentinels from X-MEN:DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, as seen ast SDCC ’13

That tone, and the spectacular acting by Michael Fassbender as Magneto and James McAvoy as Xavier, makes for an entertaining film. Yes, there are flaws, like the notable ways the film separates itself from the previously establish X-film continuity and the incredibly bad acting job January Jones does, but all in all, it was a fun ride.

Vaughn was set to return for a sequel, but his involvement in bringing Mark Millar’s Secret Service to the screen had him back out to the role of a producer. Bryan Singer signed on to direct and the film want from being the second installment of the First Class franchise to a film that ties that franchise and Singer’s together. The film is named X-Men: Days of Future Past and will be partly based on that legendary storyline from the comics.

Next time, we begin our look at the films made from the works of one of comics’ best and most controversial writers, Alan Moore.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Dawn Of The X-MEN

Posted on 21 June 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, the first X-Men film enters its home stretch, but not without a lot of belt tightening.

The prospects of an X-Men film might have continued to be grim if it wasn’t for a cartoon.

Love the logos for the team members. You can tell which teammate had a comic book because their logos are far superior.

20th_century_fox-logoX-Men: The Animated Series debuted on the Fox Television network with a sneak preview on October 31, 1992 and would earn a permanent spot on the network’s “Fox Kids” Saturday morning line-up the following January. It quickly became one of the most successful cartoons in that block of programming, and executives at 20th Century Fox began to realize the fan base the property had. The live-action film rights, after a brief dalliance with Columbia Pictures about that studio picking them up, were still available. So, in 1994, a year after the X-Men cartoon began its Saturday morning run on Fox’s TV network, their film studio picked up the live-action rights to the characters and the mutants began their inevitable march to the big screen.

Even though 20th Century Fox was the most financially secure company to own the rights to the X-Men film, budget concerns were still an issue. If you were to look at the various treatments that were proposed during the six years it took for Fox to bring the X-Men to the big screen, you can see a trend with each script or treatment—they kept getting cheaper and cheaper.

Andrew Kevin Walker was first tapped to write a script for the film in 1994. As you would expect from the writer of Se7en, this treatment is rather dark. Mutants must register with the government or risk being hunted down and used in experiments to create a breed of super-soldiers. The X-Man Angel has his wings violently ripped off by Brotherhood of Evil Mutants member Sabretooth. And the X-Men not only have to face off against Magneto and his lackeys, but also the Federal government who attack the team with giant robots called Sentinels, familiar to anyone who has read the comics.

It’s easy to see why this treatment wasn’t chosen. While it would have made for an interesting film, it would have most likely set the record for the most expensive film ever made. In addition to the Sentinels, you had a cast that featured the original comic book X-Men (Cyclops, Beast, Jean Grey, Iceman and Angel) with, of course, Wolverine facing off against Magneto and his Brotherhood (Sabretooth, Toad, Blob and Juggernaut), scenes that took place in the X-Men’s Danger Room training area and a finale that featured Magneto and his group invading Manhattan, cutting it off from the rest of the U.S. (by the pricey CGI effects of destroying all bridges and flooding all tunnels leading into the island) to claim it as the mutant safe haven/homeland.

michael-chabon-at-event-of-john-carterTwo years later, author Michael Chabon was asked to write a treatment for the film. His version included no super powered villains, but rather pit the X-Men against a shadowy, anti-mutant organization called The League of Gentlemen. Chabon focuses, of course, on Wolverine (who was being conditioned by the League to hunt down other mutants for them) and Jubilee (a popular character from the comics and the cartoon at the time whose parents played a role in the League’s actions). Chabon, makes the team an allegory for the closeted homosexual (a reoccurring theme of Chabon’s writing) in a rather ham-fisted way (Wolverine chastises the team for their reluctance to use their powers in public as them being “in the closet”). He also features the Legacy Virus, the AIDS-like disease that is fatal to mutants and mutants alone.

With the lack of any super powered villains and a climax that is not terribly filled with special effects,Chabon’s treatment would have been cheaper than Walker’s. However, his inclusion of characters such as the Beast and Nightcrawler and a scene with the Danger Room (seeing a trend?) encouraged producers to seek a cheaper option.

The quest for a cheaper X-Men film can be clearly seen in the scripts leading up to the final version. Even though the final screenplay was credited to David Hayter, there’s one from February 15, 1999 by Ed Solomon and Christopher McQuarrie that is 90% of what you see on the screen (Why’d Hayter get the credit? Probably because he was the last person to work on it. Joss Whedon did a rewrite also, of which only a couple lines of dialogue remains. John Logan and James Shamus also took a crack on writing a script for the film. All that leads me to believe that Hayter, who had a cameo in the film, was Singer’s on-set writer to help make last minute changes, hence the credit). But tracing the changes from that draft, a draft from February 24, 1999 revised by the two plus Tom DeSanto and director Bryan Singer and the final film shows a script that was changed less for coherence and more for  saving a quick buck. 

BeastconWhat changed? Well, in those two drafts above, Cyclops and Storm get scenes from their childhood right after Magneto’s. The Beast is a main character in the first draft, a supporting character in the second and is completely gone by the final film. The Blob was a member of the Brotherhood in the first two drafts and didn’t make the cut. Pyro was a main bad guy in these two drafts, fighting Jean and Cyclops at the Statue of Liberty. He did make the cut into the film, albeit in a cameo as a student at Xavier’s school. There is a scene in the train station and a scene in a shopping mall in these two drafts that were combined into one scene in the film. There is (surprise!) a Danger Room scene in the first draft. Also in the first draft, Senator Kelly arrives at the X-mansion via the toilet and not through the front door.  And there is a full-on attack of the school by Magneto and Mystique in these early drafts, instead of it just being Mystique sneaking in to sabotage the Cerebro.

All these changes were put into effect to help X-Men reach a $75 million dollar budget, a figure that was shockingly low for a film of this type. To put the budget in perspective, the Mel Gibson comedy, What Women Want, had a budget only $5 million dollars less than the X-Men. The chintzy budget was one of the main reasons why there was so much negative buzz about the picture before its release. Another reason was the casting of the role of Wolverine.

hugh_jackman_trajetoria_f_002Hindsight is 20/20, but, looking back, it is impossible to consider anyone else but Hugh Jackman playing the clawed Canadian. He completely owns the role. But he wasn’t the first choice. He wasn’t the second choice either. Heck, he was, at best, the eighth or ninth choice for the part.

Bryan Singer’s first choice was Russell Crowe, an intriguing choice but with a tight budget, the film couldn’t afford him and he wasn’t willing to settle for less. The studio wanted either Keanu Reeves (???) or Gary Sinese for the role. Aaron Eckhart, Edward Norton and Viggo Mortensen were also in the running. Dougray Scott was actually cast in the role, but had to drop out when Mission Impossible II (in which he had a role) went over schedule. Jackman was a stage actor from Australia who specialized in musicals (his most notable role outside of his home continent was in Trevor Nunn’s production of Oklahoma that played in London’s West End in 1998). A song and dance man? As the toughest X-Man? Man, if we could go back in time and set our earlier selves straight.

charles-xavier-patrick-stewart-and-erik-lensherr-ian-mckellen-a-k-a-magneto-in-20th-century-foxs-x-men-2000While Jackman’s casting was one of concern, the casting of Professor X and Magneto wasn’t. Patrick Stewart was an obvious choice for Xavier—fans were calling for his casting ever since Star Trek:The Next Generation was on the air. And for Magneto, we got one of the finest actors of our generation, Ian McKellen. The result was two classically trained, Shakepearean actors bringing out all the nuances of the Martin Luther King vs Malcolm X qualities of their character’s relationship. If we had to start from scratch today and recast the film, the only three I would keep would be Jackman, Stewart and McKellen.

bryansingerBryan Singer originally didn’t want to direct the film, thinking a comic book film would be beneath him. However, when the comics were forced on him, he was drawn to the allegories contained in the comic, the fact that the persecuted X-Men could be seen as a commentary into everything from Civil Rights to the Communist Witch Hunts of the 1950s to the Gay Rights Movement. He blended this subtext seamlessly into the action film, and the final product was much stronger for it.

The film was the ninth-highest grossing film in 2000, more than tripling its lower-than-average budget worldwide. That, of course, means sequels. Next time, we’ll start charting the highs—and dreadfully low lows—that were the X-Men spin-offs and sequels.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Rise From X-Tinction

Posted on 07 June 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, we discuss the X-Men and why it was miraculous that it made it to the big screen at all.

Today, the X-Men franchise is one of the biggest properties both in comics and in film. But it wasn’t always this way. As a matter of fact, the X-Men were almost a forgotten concept by 1973, just ten years after their creation.

1-3The team were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, and arrived on newsstands the same month that Marvel debuted The Avengers. Stan Lee claims that he came up with genetic mutation for the source of their powers because he simply didn’t want to think up another reason for their origin. If this is the case, Lee is an accidental genius. The fact that the heroes of the X-Men had to hid who they really are for fear of being shunned or ridiculed tapped a vein for readers who could easily relate, be they part of the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, or just plain, old, everyday teenagers. Lee’s choice of an origin for the X-Men opened up an audience for the characters that they wouldn’t have had if they gained their powers through a spider bite or nuclear accident.

But even though the X-men had a built in audience, it took a long time for that audience to find the book. Almost from the very beginning, the book floundered. Kirby left after issue #11, leaving the art in the hands of the rather underwhelming Werner Roth. Lee left after issue #19, turning over writing duties to Roy Thomas. The team kept the same staid yellow and blue costumes until issue #39. While the Fantastic Four was facing off against legendary villains such as Galactus and Annihilus and the Avengers were squaring off with Ultron and Kang, the X-Men’s rogue gallery featured such boring entries as the alien Lucifer, Locust, El Tigre and Eric the Red.

The title was in such dire straits that even the addition of superstar artist Neal Adams in 1969 for a seven issue run couldn’t save it from being cancelled. The X-Men went on hiatus with issue #66. It would return eight months later, but only as a bi-monthly reprint title.

Giantsize1It remained that way until April of 1975 when Giant-Size X-Men #1 came out. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, working from an idea contributed by former writer Roy Thomas, did a total overhaul of the X-Men. Gone was the chummy, schoolyard camaraderie of the previous team. The “All-New, All-Different” X-men were an international team of adults, each with more issues than National Geographic Magazine. You had pre-existing X-Men villains in the relatively laid back Irishman Banshee and the haughty and arrogant Japanese Sunfire. You had new characters such as the African Storm, who was accustomed to being worshiped as a goddess, and the Native American Thunderbird, the one with a chip constantly on his shoulder. By comparison, two other new characters that should have been reviled became the most identifiable. The German Nightcrawler looked like a demon from the pits of Hell, complete with a pointy tail, yet was playful and gregarious (and also a devout Catholic). And it would have been easy to make the Russian character the least popular one on the team, since it was the heart of the Cold War. But Colossus was a simple farmer with skin of steel and a heart of gold, who was more concerned with painting pretty pictures than spewing Communist Party rhetoric.

And the last member of the group? A minor character Wein created several months before in the pages of Incredible Hulk. A diminutive Canadian named Wolverine.

This was not the X-Men team you read when you were a child. And when Thunderbird became the first member of the team to die in action six months later in issue #95 of the restarted X-Men series, it became clear anything could happen.

byrnex5Wein eventually made way for Chris Claremont as writer, and Claremont’s writing brought new fans in. Claremont took the team from a bunch of combative character flaws to a group of noble souls with their own vulnerabilities and quirks. He humanized the mutantsand played up the “oppressed minority” aspect more than it ever hd been, tasks that went even farther once Claremont was joined by John Byrne as penciller and co-plotter a year and a half later. Claremont and Byrne had an explosive synergy, quickly becoming one of the most renown creative teams in comics, creating such legendary story arcs as the Hellfire Saga (briefly touched on in X-Men: First Class), the Dark Phoenix Saga (which became part of X-Men: The Last Stand‘s plot) and Days of Future Past (which inspired the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past).

By the time Byrne left the book in December 1980, the X-Men were well on their way to becoming the most successful book Marvel published. It would spawn numerous spin-off titles, quite a few crossover events, and help launch the careers of artists such as Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri. And with that success came some attention from Hollywood. As early as 1984, Hollywood had plans to make an X-Men film, which would have made it the Marvel’s earliest entry onto the silver screen.

Thomas-ConwayRoy Thomas and fellow comic book scribe Gerry Conway were hired to write the screenplay for a potential X-Men film for Orion Films. Their film features a different take on X-Men comic book villain Proteus as the main bad guy (instead of a reality warping mutant, it was an organization ran by a vampire-like mutant named Stonewall). The word mutant is never used in the script. The team consisted of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, an ambulatory Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Kitty Pryde, and a Japanese pop star named Circe who can transmute matter. Orion entered financial difficulties soon after the script was written, and had the back out of the project. Conway and Thomas’ script was shopped around, but with no takers.

Five years later, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont and James Cameron were in negotiations with Carolco Pictures in order to get an X-Men film made. Once again, the studio’s insolvency cause the X-Men film to be dropped. Cameron went on to focus his attention on getting a Spider-Man film made, which we’ll talk about a bit later.

It seemed like the X-Men film was cursed to go to one financially plagued studio to another, yet never being made. But the property’s success in the world of Saturday morning cartoons caused a major studio to take interest. We’ll discuss that next time.

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The 32 Reasons Why Cracked’s “5 Reasons Superhero Movies Are a Bubble That Will Soon Burst” Is Full Of Crap

Posted on 08 May 2013 by William Gatevackes

cracked logo

In the effort of being honest, I have an admission to make. One that will make the words that follow seem like sour grapes.

I “applied” to work at Cracked.com.

Applied in the sense that I signed up for their developmental workshop message boards, where writers can pitch stories that might one day make the website and get them paid. I haven’t submitted anything yet (and probably won’t after this) because I was trying to come up with the perfect pitch. One that was factually correct, stood up on its own, and made its argument forcefully yet logically.

jf-sargent

JF Sargent. No, really.

As it turns out, that wasn’t really necessary. JF Sargent, who just happens to the be the moderator of that above workshop, posted an article on the site last week called, “5 Reasons Superhero Movies Are a Bubble That Will Soon Burst.” In it, he compares the popularity of comic book films to the “New Hollywood” era of film making, the period from 1967 to about 1982 where young filmmakers made a big splash and changed the face of cinema. The five “reasons” are five similarities Sargent thinks he sees between the two eras. His theory is because the “New Hollywood” era of film making flamed out, surely the superhero film era is also on its way there.

On the surface, it seems like it has the makings of a well researched piece of film criticism, one so logically sound that it can not be questioned. I mean, if Sargent proves that  one era hit the same number of landmarks in  the exact same way as another era did, why, certainly if first era dies, the other one will die in the same way, right?

Well, it might, if Sargent hadn’t made any glaring factual errors, fudged facts and history, and used subjective logic and “proof” all along the way. There are so many glitches  that his arguments go from sounding the definitive death knell for the comic book film to being what appears to be a sad bit of “wishful thinking” journalism.

How many? Well, let’s make a list of our own by going through his text. And we don’t have to wait long. It starts with the lead paragraph:

If you’re a lover of comic books, fantasy novels, or sci-fi, you should be in heaven right now. All of Hollywood caters to your tastes. Hell, if you’re under 20 years old, you don’t even remember what it’s like not to have Hollywood throw $2 billion worth of blockbuster movies at you every summer (while the rest of us remember that as recently as 1994 they made a Fantastic Four movie so bad, it couldn’t even be released).

Okay, let’s start the list:

1. The poor quality of the Fantastic Four film played little to no role in the project being shelved.

I explained as much here, but let me give you the pertinent graph:

There are two schools of thought over why the film was not released. One was that Constantin never intended to release the film at all, and essentially lied to all parties involved in the production just so the film could be made. Another says that Avi Arad, who would become head of Marvel Studios two years after the film was due to be released and helped usher in the success Marvel has had in recent years, paid Constantin and Concorde to shelve the movie because he didn’t want such a cheap production to taint the brand. Regardless, the film was never released either here or abroad, and only exists in a popular bootleg version you can find at most comic book conventions.

FantasticFour1994Granted, the film was shot for $1 million dollars, a sum way under what it would take to make a good FF film. It was cheap and it looked it. But the main factors at play seem to be the ones mentioned above. And Arad’s reason for putting the film on ice, as described on the very Wikipedia page Sargent linked to, seems less about how bad it was, but how little money was spent on it.

This might be splitting hairs, but it goes to establishing Sargent’s bona fides. The fact that he just casually mentions that the ’94 FF film was shelved was because it was awful, without even presenting an existing opposing point of view, shows a tendency to present only the “facts” that support his argument. Not a good start.

And while we’re here:

2. Sargent uses Wikipedia as a source. A lot.

Not long ago I was in college. I wrote a lot of papers. Wikipedia was strongly frowned upon as a source of information. Why? Because it is crowd-sourced. Anybody can edit an article there,and you can have it say whatever you want. Therefore, it’s not always very trustworthy to back up your arguments. Granted, some of Wikipedia”s articles are sourced, but in that case its better to use the original source.

Sargent’s list begins in earnest by stating both eras began with a surprise box office hit out of the blue. For “New Hollywood,” it was 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde. For the comic book era? It was a bunch of films that came out in the early 2000’s that overcame the superhero film-light 1990s. Let me let him tell you:

This changed in 2000 and 2001 when X-Men, Spider-Man, and the first The Lord of the Rings came out. Remember that back then those geek-centric movies were all pretty risky investments for the studios. Not only was this the first time that either of those Marvel superheroes would be seen on screen, but the last superhero movie to come out at that time had been Batman & Robin, which, you know, we’d rather not talk about. As for The Lord of the Rings, the last attempt at an adaptation was a godawful cartoon that was made in the 1980s.

Oh, I think I can get at least four additions to our list from this paragraph alone.

3. Spider-Man came out on May 3, 2002.

Before you call me a nitpicker, here me out. The reason I make an issue out of this is because it is key to Sargent’s comparison that each era begin with a “big bang” if you will–one or more films that were a surprise success. Now, since the “New Hollywood” era is traced back to just one film, it suits Sargent’s argument better if the three “superhero” films came out in quick succession. But they didn’t. It took three years for all the films mentioned to come out.  And really, there were only two that are legit, and they came out two years apart. More on that later. But Spider-Man definitely came out in 2002, even Wikipedia got that right.

4. What about Blade?

Blade movieIf Sargent was looking for a comic book film that fit his analogy to a T, Blade is it. It was the first film where Marvel took a more active role in the production of the film, marking a new attention towards fidelity to the source material that Sargent marks as a trademark of the superhero film era. It was also an unknown property without a huge built in audience, so it was not a lock that it would be a success. But it was, it debuted at #1 at the box office just like Sargent’s other examples and made a sizable profit. If there was a film that ushered in the era of the superhero movie, it was Blade.

Why didn’t Sargent use Blade as the start of the superhero movie era? Perhaps he just didn’t know that Blade was a superhero. Or, maybe, for his point to work, for the narrative he was trying to create to gel, he had to create some distance the “last” comic book film, Batman and Robin, and the comic book film’s resurgence. Blade wouldn’t work here because it was released in 1998 and Batman and Robin was released in 1997. That would have meant the superhero film bounced back just 14 months after it’s nadir. And that weakens Sargent’s point almost completely.

Some of you might argue that Blade is not a superhero. He’s a vampire who fights vampires with his vampire powers. That is totally different than a superhero who fights supervillains with superpowers! Okay, but what about…

5. Frodo Baggins, Superhero!?!!?

Listen, determining who is and who isn’t a superhero is a popular topic of debate in comic shops across the country. Is the Punisher a superhero? Someone will that because he wears a costume, yes. Others will say that he doesn’t have any powers, so no. Then someone will bring up Batman, who wears a costume but has no powers, is he a superhero? Someone will say yes because he fights super-powered villains. But, the Punisher fought super-powered villains…well, you get the idea. If your loved one goes to their local comic shop and doesn’t come back for hours, it’s probably because they got sucked into one of these kinds of conversations.

But if you were to go into that shop and say that your favorite superhero was good ol’ Frodo, all sides of the argument would stop fighting amongst themselves,unite, and start arguing against you.

I mean, granted, Frodo has a ring that makes him invisible, and he hangs out with wizards, but he resides in the fantasy/sword and sorcery genre, not the superhero genre. And while fans of one genre often are fans of the other, the genres are not interchangeable. It would be a huge stretch of logic to consider them so.

But Sargent needs big films and big franchises to provide the tools to work with. So, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars become superhero movies, even though they really aren’t. For the casual reader, this probably won’t matter much. But to fans of the superhero film, the inclusion of these films invalidates Sargent’s argument from the get go. Because he’s not railing against the superhero film, he’s really railing against a larger target–the geek culture film. But I guess that wouldn’t generate as many hits.

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Crow, The Mask, and Men in Black all came out in the 1990s.

Sargent likes to paint the 1990s as such:

In the ’90s, all of the major money-maker movies were Die Hard knockoffs (Con Air, Broken Arrow, Face/Off), sober explorations of tragedies (Dances With Wolves, Schindler’s List, Titanic), Adam Sandler being a dumbass, and Tom Hanks doing things that usually didn’t involve having superpowers.

First off, not including Speed in the list of Die-Hard knockoffs is a crime. It was Die Hard on a frikkin bus for goodness sakes!

brandon_lee_the_crowSecond, Sargent intends to show that the 90s were a dry period for the superhero movie. But they really weren’t. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Crow, The Mask, and Men in Black all could be considered superhero films (if Frodo’s a superhero, then so is Agent J). They all came from comic books. All their lead characters fought crime in different ways. And all of them were box office hits in the comic book film unfriendly 1990s. Each one had at least one sequel, which is more than you can say for Sargent’s examples. And, lest we for get, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and, yes, Batman and Robin all were released in the 90s and all made a profit (yes, even Batman and Robin, when worldwide grosses are added in).

So from here, Sargent goes on the the next step:

So next comes the heyday: Geek directors who truly love the source material are suddenly getting the green light to make these movies the right way.

Note the wording: Geek directors who TRULY LOVE the source material. To show the difference in superhero film eras, he says this about the first go round for Batman:

Compare that to 1989’s Batman, directed by a guy who said he didn’t like comics and written by a guy who thought Batman’s origin story was too dumb to work in a movie. It was a new era. The geeks had ascended to the throne!

Okay, back to the list!

7. Tim Burton never said he didn’t like comics.

Sargent employs the kind of journalistic skills you’d find in the New York Post, the National Enquirer, and on Fox News here–twisting a person’s words around to fit your own desired meaning. Sargent uses the book Burton on Burton for the source on that information. Let’s see what the paragraph Sargent got that quote from really says:

Burton quoteWhat Burton really said was that he was never a comic book fan, not that he didn’t like comics. There IS a difference. This is dirty pool by Sargent. He is definitely trying to give his readers the impression that Burton hated comic books. It really doesn’t seem that way. And as explained above, it was because there was a learning curve he couldn’t get by. It wasn’t until Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke comic came along was he able to figure out how to read comics. And he loved that comic book.

8. And he misquotes Sam Hamm too.

“You totally destroy your credibility if you show the literal process by which Bruce Wayne becomes Batman,” said Sam Hamm, screenwriter of the 1989 Batman.

That is the quote that Sargent uses as a source. It was published in a Digital Spy recap of the Batman franchise, surely taken from a Cinemafantastique interview done with Hamm back when Batman first came out. As you can see, Hamm doesn’t call Batman’s origin dumb. He isn’t even talking about Batman’s whole origin. Bruce Wayne’s parents still get gunned down in front of him in the film, so that part of the origins still exists. Hamm was talking about the training part of the origin, the part that Batman Begins did so well. Nowhere in that quote does Hamm say the origin was dumb. It seems pretty obvious that he’s saying that it wouldn’t work in the version of Batman Burton was putting on the screen at the time.

But he doesn’t have to mislead his readers about the current generation of comic book film makers, does he? Every last one of them”TRULY LOVE” the source material, right?

Wrong.

9. By the way, Bryan Singer? The director of X-Men? The film that Sargent says started the Superhero film trend? Not a life-long comic book fan.

From the X-Men panel at the 2000 San Diego Comic Con, transcribed by JoBlo:

How long have you been reading the X-Men comics, or comics in general? Have you always been a fan? Seems to be that you would have to be to get it all so right.

Well, as a matter of fact…<audience laughs>, I never read comics growing up at all. I liked science-fiction, fantasy, and watched a lot of television, but I never read comics. About three and a half years ago, Tom suggested that I take a look at X-Men, I did, and I found it incredibly fascinating, so I began to read, began to read the character biographies, began to read the comics, I watched all 70 episodes of the animated series, and really familiarized myself. So basically I’ve been reading X-Men for about three and a half years, but I’m much more of a contemporary fan.

10. Christopher Nolan? He wasn’t a comic fan either.

From an Entertainment Weekly profile from 2005, right when Batman Begins was about to hit:

But Nolan had never been a big Bat geek; his first contact with the series had been the goofy Adam West TV show, and he’d never read the comics as a kid.

So, that means two of the biggest names in the superhero film renaissance, who according to Sargent’s theory truly loved the source material and made sure they brought it to the screen correctly, had at best a casual, if passing, knowledge of source material before they took over. Yet another hole shot in Sargent’s argument.

Wait! Sargent seems to realize this, because he gives Nolan an out in the third reason “The Studios Start Throwing ALL of the Money at Them,” which really an extension of the previous reason but since all Cracked articles have to have at least five bullet points, they had to make two reasons out of one idea. But I digress:

Nolan talks about being passionate about the character (one of the hallmarks of Nerdywood, as explained above), and he had a weird, borderline crazy idea for the new series: Batman would be gritty and realistic.

Being passionate about a character is greater than truly loving the source material. Unless, of course, you are Tim Burton, because, well, that wouldn’t fit with the argument you are making, right JF?

We’ll get back to reason three later. Let’s go back reason two, especially how “New Hollywood” relates the now disproved idea that hardcore comic geeks were behind all the new comic book movies.

The New Hollywood era was all about film geeks taking over — a bunch of weird, experimental directors known as the “movie brats,” with names like George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and Stanley Kubrick.

11. Stanley Kubrick really wasn’t part of New Hollywood.

StanleyKubrickNow, this isn’t the fault of Sargent, but rather the Wikipedia article that acted as his inspiration. And they really aren’t at fault either. Everyone thinks that trying to pigeonhole a certain period time and applying a name to it is a good idea. But it is never a case of black and white, rather it’s a shade of gray. Sargent’s theorem works if New Hollywood era lasted 13 years from inception to demise because we are at year 13 in the superhero era (if you count X-Men as the start of it, which I don’t). However, it’s impossible to get anything so fluid and so debatable into those kind of constraints.

New Hollywood has an veneer of youth to it. The recent film school grads got their hands on the directors chairs and guided Hollywood to a new direction. However, Kubrick was already a 14 year veteran of the film industry when Bonnie and Clyde arrived in 1967, had made seven films by that point, and had already received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Granted, 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was a transcendent piece of work in Kubrick’s career, but you can see hints of where Kubrick was going in 1962’s Lolita and 1964’s Dr. Strangelove. His creativity and willingness to push boundaries does seem to be a perfect match for some of the other auteurs on the New Hollywood list, but he was anything but new when New Hollywood hit.

Let’s go on to his third point (the “Throwing ALL the Money” one, although the throwing of money is barely mentioned). In it, he brings up the theme of risks. First about Nolan’s grim and gritty take on Batman:

That had never been done on film before, but Nolan was young, nerdy, and excited, so the studios gave him an insane-o-copter ride to the money castle, and holy shit did it ever pay off.

Then he tries to convince us that The Avengers was risky. Hee hee!

Fast forward 10 years, and you can see that The Avengers is pretty much the same thing, except even more so. No, it’s not gritty or realistic, but it sure is weird and risky: It expects audiences to follow one story across two sci-fi action movies, a fantasy movie, a fugitive movie, and a World War II era adventure film. Most movies treat you like you can’t even tie your own goddamn shoes, but The Avengers took that risk and ended up going home with 1.5 billion nerd-dollars lining its pockets.

Let’s go in order, shall we?

12. The gritty, realistic Batman wasn’t risky, it was wish fulfillment.

The comic book Batman has been grim and gritty since 1986, when the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns miniseries began publication. While it is true that every version of Batman in other media before Nolan took the edge off the character, the hardcore fans would have actually preferred an interpretation of the Caped Crusader that matched more with his comic book counterpart. When one of the most exciting directors in Hollywood teamed with a screenwriter with comic book experience to bring a Batman to the screen that had more in common with The French Connection than Schumacher’s nipple fest, well, fans were salivating. Add to that a cast that would be chock full of Oscar winners and nominees, and you had the makings of a sure fire hit before the first showtime was announced.

And…

13. What Sargent thinks made The Avengers risky, is what guaranteed its success.

Sargent apparently never heard of the concept of a sequel. Or of the Harry Potter franchise. Because The Avengers essentially was a sequel to all those films listed. You didn’t really have to see all those films to get enjoy The Avengers. But if you enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger or Thor, you had a chance to continue watching his adventures. You had four pre-fab audiences built in.

But if you did see all the films, you had the culmination of a sweeping epic in The Avengers. Movie audiences are not so stubborn as to not follow a franchise through numerous installments, and the James Bond, Harry Potter, and Twilight franchises have showed us. But, hey, if Sargent actually paid attention to this reality, he wouldn’t have had a column.

Sargent felt he needed to manufacture risks for the superhero films to make the connection with the real risks the New Hollywood films endured:

Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was a weird, morally complicated exploration of war based on a nigh-impenetrable 19th century novel, but it dominated the box office. Jaws was the first ever summer blockbuster, and Star Wars only turned out the way it did because Lucas refused to compromise and made the movie himself.

The first two also had incredibly tumultuous shoots and faced having the studio pulling the plug a number of times. And the studio was so worried about Star Wars‘ success that Lucas went and practically begged Marvel to publish a comic book tie-in to the film as an extra form of promotion. So the risk in the New Hollywood era were indeed real. This won’t be the last time the eras don’t exactly match up.

Sargent moves onto the next step of the rise and fall of these genres–studios taking more control of their film projects. It’s here where the parallels between the New Hollywood era and the Superhero film era start to really waiver, because the evidence Sargent presents is definitely in favor of the Superhero era:

You could start to see the signs years ago. After the success of Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies, the studio pressured him into including Venom because he was a popular comic book character — except Raimi had been concentrating on the Silver Age of comics, and the dark, gritty, ’90s era Venom didn’t fit into the world he’d created. When they greenlit a movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, they had such a limited idea of what a comic book movie could be that they turned Alan Moore’s love letter to 19th century prose into a movie with vampires where things explode and Sean Connery does hero things. When they made The Losers, they cut out all the political commentary and replaced it with light-hearted action bullshit. When they made Watchmen, they cut out the self-loathing, rape, and moral complexity and replaced them with slow-motion action scenes. As other people have pointed out, this totally missed the point that Watchmen is about failure.

On this point I do have to agree with Sargent. I do think that undue studio influence does ruin a lot of films. However…

14. Heavy handed studio/producer involvement is nothing new to comic book films…

Tim Burton has to wrangle with his studio bosses during his time on Batman. Richard Donner fought with the Salkinds over the tone of Superman. The reason why the Superman franchise took so long to be rebooted was because various producers wanted the film to include giant spiders or mimic The Matrix. So, this kind of heavy-handedness is nothing new.

15….nor is it exclusive to the comic book films.

Studios insisted that Blade Runner have a happier ending. Universal wanted a happy, 94-minute version of Brazil and got in a war of wills with Terry Gilliam over it. And studio influence handcuffed The Bonfire of the Vanities from the get go, coercing Brian DePalma to cast Bruce Willis and make Sherman McCoy a more sympathetic character. And these are just three examples. There are many, many more (although Sargent has problems finding any during the New Hollywood era).

16. However, if it wasn’t for Marvel playing a bigger role in the creation of their films, the Superhero era might not have even existed.

120925_PIVOT_AviArad.jpg.CROP.article250-medium It fits Sargent’s narrative if Marvel just recently started becoming more hands on (after all, it was Marvel’s Avi Arad who pushed for Venom, not Sony/Columbia), but the truth is the reason why the Superhero era in film began is because Marvel and, in particular, Avi Arad took a hands on role it how Marvel properties would be portrayed on the big screen. The studios would own the rights as long as the kept making movies, and the amount of the profits kicked back to Marvel were paltry, but Arad and other Marvel people would become producers on the films and ensure that the Marvel characters were getting a fair shake on the screen.

When the first wave of Marvel films became a success, due in a large part to Marvel’s hands on approach, Marvel decided they wanted even more control. Through a deal with Merril Lynch, Marvel received $525 million dollars to set up its own production studio to make comic book films their way. The first of these films was Iron Man and the rest, they say, is history. With their own studio, Marvel was able to guide their film franchises, unite them together through shared actors and plot points, and made sure they respected their source material.

And Marvel’s success inspired Warners to get more serious with their DC Comics properties, rebooting the Superman franchise (twice), the Batman franchise (most likely twice) and try to jump start new franchises with Green Lantern and Jonah Hex. Other studios scoured comic book store shelves for properties they could adapt. And hence the Superhero Film era we are living in today.

I could comment and some of Sargent’s other examples, but I don’t think they are worth a list entry. Yeah, there was studio fingerprints all over League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill pretty much washed their hands with the property when they got their checks. It’s not like they cared what the studios did with it. I’m not sold on The Losers suffering from studio interference, but any interference was mitigated by director Sylvan White keeping creators Andy Diggle and Jock in the loop. And I think a lot of the things Sargent found missing in the Watchmen are still there, but I agree the slo-mo additions were awful.

When Sargent’s analogy turns to New Hollywood, he comes up with a profound lack of examples, and the one he does use is incorrect. His idea of how studio interference worked in the New Hollywood era was that corporations started buy movie studios looking for the next Jaws or Star Wars, but decided to play it safe with sequels. The one example he gives of this new regime interfering with creative people is this:

But with these massive budgets, studios were determined to play it safe. That meant, of course, some of the riskier directors had to go — like when they were considering giving Straw Dogs director Sam Peckinpah the Superman movie, but fired him when he pulled a gun out during a meeting.

Hoo boy.

17. Sam Peckinpah was NEVER fired from Superman. Why? Because he was never HIRED to do Superman.

peckinpah2I imagine that by the time this point appears, half way down the second page of the article, Sargent figures that he has put enough links in his text that people do not bother to even click through anymore. I mean, why else would he write something that is obviously in contrast to what his source material says.

The source is the very good book by Larry Tye, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero. If you click that link you’ll see that Peckinpah pulled the gun during the Salkinds’ SEARCH for a director. Unless Sargent has a vastly different work experience than the rest of the world, you typically aren’t put on the payroll during your interview period.

I know what some of you might be thinking. Big deal. So he got a word wrong. Who cares? Well, I do for two reasons. This is a writer of such a caliber that Cracked tapped him to their workshop moderator, the person who guides novice comedy writers to Cracked super stardom. His not being able to find a word that accurately portrays the point his source material makes is not a good thing. But this very likely could be just a subtle example of what Sargent has been practicing all along, trying to jury rig a weak argument so that it looks stronger. He’s already in trouble because the examples in both eras don’t even out.  Since studio interference weighted more heavily in the Superhero Film era, Sargent needs to show a little balance. Using “fired’ instead of “backed away” is a minor change that makes the studios in the New Hollywood era look more forceful, more controlling, more in charge.

Besides, Peckinpah pulled a gun on a job interview! Even if he was fired, would that really be the wrong choice?

We finally come to the end of the eras, when the bets no longer pay off. Once again, this parallel is a little uneven since the New Hollywood has officially ended and the Superhero Film era is still going on. So Sargent dedicates most of his time talking about the Superhero Film era to showcasing where the end may lie, starting with, well, not a superhero film:

We mentioned that New Line has given Peter Jackson a castle made of money for his Hobbit trilogy, but we didn’t mention that they’re $5 billion in debt and need him to make all that money back to keep themselves from filing for bankruptcy. Is it any wonder that what was originally supposed to be one movie got stretched into two movies? And then, very late in production, they decided out of the blue to stretch it into three?

They needed three shots to recoup their investment. That’s why the first film, An Unexpected Journey, was based less on the children’s book it gets its name from and more on The Return of the King‘s appendices and whatever bullshit Tolkien scrawled on the Oxford staff bathroom’s wall while he was fucked up on opium.

18. Bilbo Baggins is no more a superhero than Frodo Baggins.

Page up and read #5 on this list. But, for the sake of argument, let’s play along, shall we?

19. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made $1 BILLION worldwide.

That means the trilogy is on pace to make $3 billion. Of course, the sequels could make less or more, we don’t know. Quite a bit less than $5 billion of New Line debt, and New Line has to share the pie with Warner Brothers and MGM, but if you add in all the T-shirts, statues, figures, games, posters and the exorbitant number of home video formats the film was released into,  I think it’s a safe bet that The Hobbit won’t capsize the Superhero Film era, even if it was a superhero film.

Next?

But they’re not the only ones putting all of their chips on their geek franchise. In addition to the lineup of 10 massive Marvel sequels we mentioned earlier, you have Christopher Nolan (probably) signing on to “Godfather” a Justice League movie — if you’re not familiar, that means that in addition to the Superman reboot we’re seeing this summer, they’d be launching another wave of superhero movies, including a Green Lantern sequel, a reboot of The Flash, a possible Wonder Woman movie, and God knows what else, in order to have them finally all team up in a Justice League tent-pole that would be the DC version of The Avengers.

How wrong is this paragraph? Let me count the ways:

20. Sargent is using Latino Review’s El Mayimbe as a source.

We here at FilmBuffOnline know in that way madness lies. And, well, wrong information lies there too.

21. The “Nolan Godfathering Justice League” rumor was shot down back on April 11, 2013.

We covered it here. Entertainment Weekly got the denials straight from Warners’ president Jeff Robinov and Nolan’s reps. Besides, Nolan is working on a non-Superhero movie of his own, Interstellar, which will probably dominate all of his “godfathering” time.

22. Warner Brothers has been ultra quiet on the Green Lantern sequel.

They announced that a sequel was definitely in the works right after the first Green Lantern came out. There has not been any movement on the sequel at all since that time. Except for rumors that Ryan Reynolds might not even becoming back.

23. A Flash movie would be rebooting what exactly?

This might just be a matter of semantics, but if Sargent means the Flash TV show, then he’s off base. When a TV show moves to the big screen, it’s not being rebooted. It’s being adapted into another medium. But Sargent likes his reboots, so, there you go.

24. It much more likely that Wonder Woman would be a TV show before it becomes a movie.

Warners is actively developing a Wonder Woman TV show, called Amazon, in the mold of its successful Smallville and Arrow series’. Not that this would preclude a film being made, but all energy seems to be heading towards that.

25. As it stands, Warners plans to have the Justice League film first, and use that to spin out solo superhero films, not the other way around.

This is pretty much common knowledge. Last we heardJustice League was set for a 2015 release. Common sense dictates that Warners would not be able to put up three other superhero films before that time, especially since zero work has been started on any of them. Now, it appears the greenlight for the JL film is on hold until the studio sees how Man of Steel does, and there is supposedly a big announcement forthcoming from Warners about their superhero slate, so this might all change. But, as it stands, it’s Justice League first, other films later, and Sargent is wrong (again).

26. Lord knows if DC will get their act together in time to avoid the comic film apocalypse.

Seriously, the only comic film they have confirmed to be in the pipeline is Man of Steel. And that took years to get up and running. It’s Warners’ M.O. to have let their comic book film linger in development hell. If this is the end of the Superhero Film era, Warners most likely won’t be the reason why it dies, but rather they will be the ones who missed the boat because it did.

Next?

Meanwhile, J.J. Abrams, who is already in charge of the new Star Trek franchise, has been tapped to direct the first of the new Star Wars sequels, of which there will be at least five -- three sequels, plus multiple stand-alone spinoffs (Disney wants a new Star Wars movie every single year, like clockwork). How much money in production and promotion do you suppose will be tied up in just the projects we mentioned up there? $10 billion? More?

27. Once again, Star Wars films are not Superhero films.

You do have to admire Sargent’s ability to set parameters then completely ignore them. But, once again, we’ll play along.

28. If you think a new round of Star Wars films helmed by J.J. Abrams has a snowball’s chance in Hell of failing, you need your head examined.

StarWarsSagaIt appears that JF Sargent doesn’t get out much. If he does, he probably doesn’t spend much time in malls or department stores. He obviously hasn’t seen rows and rows of Star Wars toys in the toy department. He probably hasn’t seen the wide assortment of Star Wars themed clothing on sale in not only the children’s department but also the men’s and women’s departments. He probably has never seen the numerous volumes of Star Wars novels in his local bookstore either. He lives in a blissfully ignorant reality where Star Wars is not the biggest cultural icon to ever come out of Hollywood, and a relentless cash cow for George Lucas for the last 36 years.

He was probably a wee baby back in 1999 and wasn’t able to fully comprehend the frenzy that existed when The Phantom Menace hit theaters. Even hardcore fans will admit that was the weakest installment of the franchise, yet it still made over a billion dollars worldwide, the fans still came back for two more installments, and those toy stores are still rolling out new action figures based on the film even 14 years later.

So, yeah, Abrams has to drop the ball on an almost apocalyptic level for him to ruin the Star Wars franchise forever and cause the end of any film era it actually fits into. Even if he screws up the next film in the line so badly that Star Wars fans melt the Internet by complaining so much, those same fans will be back for the next go round. And they’ll still buy the toys, the mugs, the sheet sets, the T-Shirts, the window decals and what have you.

Also note that the source he uses for Disney’s Star Wars plans was an article dated April 17, 2013. Which means he should have known the Latino Review rumor wasn’t legit because it was refuted almost a week prior. Unless he just ignored the EW article because it contradicted the narrative he was trying to tell.

Well, that was silly. Now, onto the fall of New Hollywood!

Star Wars and Jaws are called “the beginning of the end” of New Hollywood (by Wikipedia, anyway) because they created the blockbuster, but the real end didn’t come until around 1980, with the release of two legendary flops: Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, and Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart.

29. Star Wars and Jaws went from being a high point of the New Hollywood era just a few paragraphs ago to being the cause of its demise?

That’s what you get when you use Wikipedia as a source unchallenged. Also, when you try to put arbitrary guideposts in effect just to make an “era” line up correctly.

30. One from the Heart actually came out on February 12, 1982.

By this point in Sargent’s argument, we shouldn’t be surprised that he kept this information a secret. After all, it comes after a long line of fact fudging to make his 13/13 argument work. And I guess he deserves partial credit for saying “around 1980″ (although the 15 month gap between films stretches the definition of being “around”). But if he doesn’t want us to consider Star Wars and Jaws as the beginning of the end, he shouldn’t be allowed to consider Heaven’s Gate as the beginning of the end just because it suits his purposes. I mean, there were films such as Raging Bull, Body Heat and Reds that came out between Heaven’s Gate and One from the Heart. These are vital films with a lot of success that totally fit in the New Hollywood era, so it wasn’t like there was a parade of dreck that came out between those films.

The weird part of all this is, if Sargent just allowed himself to recognize that the Superhero Film era began with 1998’s Blade, he wouldn’t have to be so dodgy with One from the Heart‘s release date. Because instead of a 13/13 parallel, he’d actually have a 15/15 parallel.

31. All you need is two flops to derail an era? May I present to you Punisher: War Zone and The Spirit.

the-spirit-20081031011215637_640wBoth films are excellent representations of the Superhero Film era. The first was a reboot of a superhero that had appeared on the silver screen twice before, the most recent only four years before. He was being rebooted to make him more closely resemble how he was portrayed in the comics. The other was a Golden Age character who was being brought to the screen by Frank Miller, who not only was a big name in Hollywood after the surprise film success of his works 300 and Sin City, but also a close friend with Will Eisner, the man who created the character. Miller seemed like the ideal person to bring this superhero to the big screen.

Unlike Sargent’s example, both these film actually did come out in the same year, 2008, and in the same month as a matter of fact. Both died a quick death at the box office, failing to make their budget’s back. And their failure so quickly after each other had even me asking if this was the end for the comic book film.

But the comic book movie didn’t end. The next year started bumpy with the Watchmen, but bounced back with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. 2010 had disappointments with Jonah Hex and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, but 2011 and 2012 became some of the biggest years for any comic book film in their history. And despite what Sargent says, there doesn’t seem to be any signs of stopping.

32. You can argue that the “New Hollywood” era never ended.

Granted, it did seem to end for directors such as Michael Cimino, Peter Bogdanovich and even Francis Ford Coppola. But Robert Altman kept making inventive and risky films right up until he died in 2006. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese went on to win Oscars and keep getting nominations, pushing boundaries and taking risks to this very day. And there are a whole new generation of filmmakers such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino who were inspired by the era and keep its spirit alive even now.

I’ll be the first to admit that the one surefire way to get me upset is to write an article predicting doom for the superhero film. But I probably wouldn’t have used as much bandwidth to this article if JF Sargent presented his argument  honestly and with valid evidence to back it up. Unfortunately, Sargent starts with a shaky premise for an argument, finds it doesn’t work the way he thought it would, so he cuts corners, fudges facts, and plays fast and loose with the premise until it comes out the way he wants it to be.

I guess we shouldn’t expect great journalism from Cracked. After all, it seems more concerned about generating hits than reporting any truths. But you’d expect better from the guy who is supposed to show the way to the novice writers Cracked attracts. If the Superhero Film era is due to end soon, it won’t be for the reasons JF Sargent says it will.

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