The last post brought about such a reaction--- 3 comments! Anyway, many of your points were valid, but I'm not actually the expert in the world of comics, more like a tourist. So to elaborate and set to rest some of your concerns, I am bringing in a guest writer on the blog today. So let's have a warm welcome for his first appearance-- The one, the only.... the man!
Yes, I am the man, indeed, and while I am not an expert, I have spent more than a few hours of my exceedingly manly life reading comic books--or, as I like to call them, the Starter Drugs of the Reading World.
Of course, reading comics has put quite a strain on my life in a number of ways: pelted by insults from athletic children and other non-geeky kids? Check. Shelled out big bucks for assorted back issues I now can't allow myself to touch? Mmm-hmm. Forced to explain to my angry daughter why it's necessary to store my comic book collection in her closet? Suffice it to say, I've paid my dues.
Such is this love of all things super-heroish that I have willingly led my family into various shady comic shops, conventions reeking, quite frankly, of that insidious mix of moldering paper and B.O., and--alas--movie theaters to see sub par superhero movies. And all of which leads us, Dear Readers, to this discussion of the Worst Comic Book Movie of the Modern Era.
Why just the Modern Era? Well, friends, is there really any need for us to discuss the virtues of David Hasslehoff as Colonel Nick Fury? Or any of those awful Superman endeavors (I'm sorry, you fans of Christopher Reeve; there's no way to explain away Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, or Richard Pryor as a sidekick, or how, exactly, making the world spin backwards would reverse time. Whoever made those decisions--and you can quote me on this--was an idiot)?
No, readers, we shall remain safely in the realms of the comic movies as they've appeared post-X-Men 1, or as I like to call it, God's Payback for my Tortured Adolescence. This is the point where the technology of making movies finally--after years of clear-plastic Captain America shields and goggles--GOGGLES--on Spider-Man--caught up with everything superheroes are about: mainly, really cool superpowers. Eyeglass wearers or the world, now at last we are able to see Cyclops lift those symbolic shades of his and let loose those even more symbolic laser blasts....
Okay, I'm getting all wound up here. On to the movies, and boy have there been some bad ones. How bad, you ask? How about Daredevil?
Here we have Ben Affleck, who hasn't been good in a movie since his two minutes on screen in Shakespeare in Love, trying his best to pretend like he's a blind lawyer. Here we have the remarkably attractive Jennifer Garner doing a remarkable job of rendering Elektra, the comic world's hottest villain/hero, with all the sexiness of, say, one of those androgynous mannequins one sometimes sees discarded in a department store's dumpster (to see more of the same, check out Garner's continued performance in the Elektra movie. Or swing by Dillards). We have a convoluted plot, an opening sequence with a CGI-spawned rat scurrying around, and--god help us--a fight/dance sequence on a playground between a blind lawyer and a ninja-girl and not one of the people walking by on the sidewalk seem to think it's anything to get excited about. The whole movie, though, is nearly saved by Colin Farrel's great work as Bullseye, an assassin who's basically really good at throwing things.
Well, what about Ghost Rider, you ask? Here we have some talented actors--hey, I don't mind all of Nicolas Cage's work, and Eva Mandes is truly beautiful, and Sam Elliott...well, what's not to like about Sam Eliot?--once again under what must be the truly torturous direction of Mark Steven Johnson--you guessed it!--the lurking monster behind both the Daredevil and Elektra movies. Here, Johnson ups the ridiculous quotient and gives us a scene were Cage jumps a football field covered in running helicopters, lands on a ramp and drives out of the stadium to chase down Mendes, who's stuck in traffic on the highway. Ugh. And what's this movie saved by? Ahem. Umm...let me see. Hmm. Ghost Rider is really cool looking?
The first Fantastic Four movie? Don't get me started! The Punisher? Doesn't count; he's not a super hero. Superman Returns? He picks up an island, people, proving once again that if there really were a Superman, there would be no limit on the stupid things he'd try to do. Hulk?
Ahhhh, Hulk. The Incredible One. At long last, all of us who grew up under the yoke of Bill Bixby's portrayal the mistakenly-named David Banner would have our revenge. No more Lou Ferrigno covered in green body paint. Oh, I know; some people love this show. Some people--or so I'm told--also love cigarettes, heroin, and anything involving NASCAR. Those people, forgive me, aren't so bright. The Hulk does not go from town to town weeping and moaning because he just wants to live his life in peace; the Hulk goes from town to town smashing everything in his path.
And for those few minutes where the Hulk is smashing things, Ang Lee's film is very, very good. Unfortunately, I've actually timed those moments and they account for a grand total of .0076% of the movie's total running time of nineteen years and two days. Good God, in some parts of the undeveloped world, this movie is still running. But this is Ang Lee, my friends, Oscar winner both before and since the Hulk's release. And the cast? Eric Bana, a very cool guy and a good actor (he's even good in Troy, people, and that ain't easy). Sam Elliott? What's not to like about Sam Eliot? Jennifer Connelly...okay. I've never actually managed to stay awake for a whole Jennifer Connelly movie, but they keep putting her in films so she must be doing something right. And she's won an Oscar, as has Nick Nolte, who is usually pretty good but here, as Bana's father, he's in one of the worst scenes in movie history. The next time your children come to you and ask, "Mommy or Daddy, what does it mean to be a scenery-chewer?" show them the climactic scene between Nolte and Bana. And then smack them on their little hands and say, "Never, ever, ever make me show that to you again. Bad Child! Go to your room!"
Alas, my friends, there you have it. What should have been the best has become the worst of them all. All of the elements--a great director and a fantastic character and the ability to make the Hulk look omigod real--seemed perfectly aligned, but in the end all we're left with is a cure for insomnia.
I mean, really, did you honestly expect to have your life meaningfully illuminated by anything involving Mark Steven Johnson? Or Daredevil and Elektra? Or Ghost Rider? The best of the superheroes show us ways in which we both fail and aspire to be better human beings, just as the best movies offer us a glimpse into a world that manages in some way to mirror our own. In some ways, the Hulk is a quintessentially American character; despite all his promise and power, he somehow manages to wreak havoc despite his good intentions. Yet, somehow he also usually manages to save the day in the end. There's something to be said for that.