I didn’t grow up with Marvel Comics. I was a DC fan because their characters were more iconic. It was their larger-than-life qualities that inspired me when I was young. I avoided Marvel not because of the quality of their comics, but because of the arrogant, holier-than-thou attitudes of Marvel Comics fans, which dominated fandom in Hawaii.
Flash forward 20 years later, and Marvel Comics has dominated the movie scene, directed by A-List directors whose other films I loved. And I started getting into Marvel . . finally. I also give credit to Robert Downey, Jr. and John Favreau whose improvisational techniques brought new innovation to the genre.
I became a fan of the X-Men films, yes, even the bad ones, and I started loving the new trilogy despite the fact that Havoc joined before Cyclops. I’m not attached to the characters enough to care about continuity.
And in recent years we have Deadpool and later Logan, and all of a sudden Marvel fans are lauding this era as a golden age of comic book cinema, as though this is the next “Citizen Kane” and “Casablanca.”
To quote my best friend in high school whenever I defended my DC favorites, “Bullshit.”
I grew up during the advent of Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” and the launch of DC’s Vertigo line. I’ve seen mature, well rounded characters and innovative, cinematic storytelling techniques devolve into dark, gritty, ultra-violent self-absorbed melodrama. And now I’m seeing the same in modern cinema, and I’m sick and tired of this overrating bullshit. I’ve read enough comics and criticism to know the difference.
I liked “Deadpool,” but all he did was make a bunch of clever wisecracks. These are what we call “parlor tricks,” not enough to make me believe it’s cinematic art.
When he finally offs the villain, I was totally unconvinced he “wouldn’t heal from that.” He didn’t bother explaining it, nor did he try to justify why he did it. You can argue, that was the point. It’s dark humor. Well, I’ve seen better. And it didn’t convince me he wasn’t any better than a super-villain, which he is a parody of in the first place.
As for Logan, another movie I liked and I happen to love dark violent movies. I applauded the scene where she rolls out the decapitated head of on of her would-be assassins. However, there was no character arc for this bad-ass little girl who from all the evidence in the film WAS A PERFECTLY HEALTHY GIRL. Albeit one proficient in defending herself with no qualms whatsoever. This is a strength, and could be a character flaw, but it wasn’t.
She begins the film as a nonverbal character, so you assume she has a form of autism, only to find out she was faking it the whole time. She had been trained to be a killer, but she shows compassion for her nanny and her father, Logan. So there’s clearly no inner conflict. When Logan confronts her about her killing, she replies, “They were bad people.”
And that’s it.
Logan claims she will be haunted by all the men she’d killed.
She never was. She saw no ghosts, heard no voices, nor did the idea that these bad Ravagers or Reavers, whatever, had families of their own. She does what she is trained to do, and the world, this cinematic universe, is better for it.
And on a side note, despite being Mexican, she and her other friends, who were raised in Mexico had no accents.
These friends of hers are supposed to be trained killers too, and that was realized brilliantly in the final battle, but then what? No one’s there to teach them any sort of humanity, so we are left to assume they have none when they are threatened. But they are a family within themselves, so that’s pretty much all they need.
As for Lara/X-23, sure she shows compassion to her father in his final scene (slight spoiler here), but she’s quoting a western she saw. So does she really mean it? We are led to believe she does, but she’s never had any problems expressing herself before.
And then there’s the red shirt deaths of major characters. I don’t even read X-Men, but I felt cheated seeing that.
Overall, it was a good film but not a great one. And I applaud the western take on the story, which felt like a “What If?” story, or “Elseworlds’ story. Something that needs to be done to show non-comic book readers we’re not all power fantasy nerds. We are creative power fantasy nerds.
I would like to compare these films to a DC Comics equivalent, but their films appear to be written by eighth boys who can’t read. Their animated films are good though, and I loved “The Judas Contract.”
I work in indie films, and once in a while I’ll encounter cinema snobs who won’t be caught dead watching a comic book movie. I read their reviews all the time. One even went so far to say that comic book movies are actually “dumbed up” from the source material, because no one can possibly take the funny pages seriously.
I hope that Marvel films will produce something that proves them wrong. But when fans don’t know the difference between gratuitous violence and strong character development, it doesn’t make me feel hopeful.