On Scene: Comic book movies, to the max
June 20, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Looking at the movie reviews for “The Incredible Hulk” – a remake of a staggeringly boring movie that was made five years ago – there’s a lot of mention of comic book movie tricks being played out.
If it’s true that studios don’t have many surprises left to offer in the superhero formula, then anyone who’s still dropping $10 on movie tickets is in for a long summer. With “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man” already on screens, there’s still “Hancock,” “The Dark Knight” and “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” to get through before temperatures cool down and the dark-character-saves-the-day-from-a-darker-character format is abandoned until next year.
After seeing “The Incredible Hulk” – which is worlds better than Ang Lee’s 2003 version of the story and is packed with far more explosions, cheesy puns, attempts at social commentary, shaky character development and needless cameos – it seems impossible to exhaust comic book stereotypes.
It’s not that those stereotypes are so classic they can’t be messed with; it’s not like a slight shift to the canned relationships between love interests and archenemies wouldn’t be welcome.
It’s just that comic books have a formula, and comic book movies have a formula, and they’re both remarkably suitable to blockbuster returns at the summer box office. These movies have that same kind of core audience that zombie movies have. Nobody is claiming that any film centered on slow-moving brain eaters (except, of course, for “Night of the Living Dead”) is fine art. But as long as you follow the rules and keep things progressively more ridiculous, the genre is self-sustaining.
The same goes with comic book movies and all their predictable glory.
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Being too young to remember the initial reaction to the first three “Superman” movies – all of them came out before I was born – it’s hard for me to say whether the standards for what makes a good, silly superhero story stand a chance at critical acclaim. I can’t imagine “Superman II” getting a warm reception on its release, but I also can’t imagine being cynical enough to not enjoy it.
For “The Incredible Hulk” and everything that will come after it this summer, the best thing to do is take the same kind of approach you would to “Superman II” or anything in the “Indiana Jones” series: These movies are supposed to be fun. So let go of the comparisons and the cliches, and let them do what they do.
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