The Thing about Cinematic Universes..

Let’s ignore the fact that I disappeared for a few months because life is crazy and just go into a deep dive on Cinematic Universes. So I recently, like a few optimists out there, watched the movie known as “Justice League”. I also, like a majority of the population, saw “Thor Ragnarok”. Additionally, me and a few other nerds on r/marvelstudios spent weeks praying for a trailer for “Avengers: Infinity War” that was given to us last week and blew all of our minds…and just happened to break the record for most viewed movie trailer on Youtube.

I know that not writing reviews for either Thor or Justice League were very out of character for me (although not as out of character as Batman was…), so just to be really quick about it:

  • I loved “Thor: Ragnarok”. It was unexpected, the improv feel made me happy, I got to see more obscure comic book things I never thought I’d see on the big screen, sure it was pretty weightless on the universe when compared to the Ragnarok comic book but I’m fine if we goof off with Thor and Hulk before we get real for “Black Panther” and before the potential for a major shake-up in the next two Avengers movies. Lastly, Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure and I won’t accept anything less.
  • “Justice League”…I’m not mad, I’m just frustrated. There is a decent movie in here bogged down by unfortunate tragedy behind the scenes, bad production decisions separate from that, and absolutely horrible executive decisions. However, the more I think/talk about it, the more I actually do get mad because it finally became very obvious that whoever is making the decisions behind the DCCU doesn’t actually care about the characters and what they’ve done for people (there is an entire generation of us that grew up on the Justice League Animated Series). I’m sick of being an apologist about it, this thing was a mess and frankly I’d be okay if they cancelled the DCCU.

Between the overwhelming success of Marvel Studios (coming up on their 10th anniversary) juxtaposed with the potential $500k loss on “Justice League” for the DCCU, the laughably bad attempt at a “Dark Universe” by Universal, Sony literally making a deal with Disney so that Spider-Man can be better, and the upcoming X-Force from Fox that spawned from the success of “Deadpool”…It’s becoming obvious that studios are struggling and scrambling to achieve what Marvel Studios has. In this post I’ll attempt to limit being an MCU fanboy/gushing over my idol Kevin Feige to try and pinpoint why studios that are trying this “Universe” thing are failing.

(P.S: Vanity Fair published this article for the MCU’s 10 year celebration, I’ll be referring to it quite a bit.)

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Making a Franchise Before Making a Good Movie

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Take a good look at that picture. That was a promotional image released by Universal for their “Dark Universe”. Objectively it looks cool, especially the inclusion of A-list celebrities, so what’s the issue? This thing was circulating the internet BEFORE the first film in the franchise, “The Mummy”, was even released. Universal jumped the gun to announce and plan this multi-billion dollar list of movies…and the box office revenue/critical reception to the first film speaks for itself. Here we are now with rumors of the thing possibly being cancelled due to top members of the production teams wanting out.

It was pretty gutsy of them to go for the power move, but now it just looks silly. Its even more embarrassing than that scene in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” where Harry literally walks down the aisle of Sony’s slated “Sinister Six” movie that we now know never happened and never will.

It’s great that you want to be ambitious and bold, even Feige took a huge risk with the initial phases of the MCU. Still, we come back to the fact that that first Iron-Man movie was absolutely amazing and is still the gold-standard for superhero origin movies, not to mention that the Avenger initiative wasn’t brought up once in the movie until the credits rolled. In some of these other franchises…the first movie wasn’t exactly great (“Man of Steel”, “The Mummy”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and felt the need to rub their non-existent franchise in your face. It was a “start smaller and build” strategy for Marvel, versus a “We have a Franchise coming up, the first movie will be out in a year” strategy for the others, and that is a HUGE difference when it comes to building fans as well.

Overreacting and Overcorrecting

If you’ve been paying attention, you might remember that a very common theme in production for the DCCU movies included extensive re-shoots and even re-writes. Justice League had to go through so many changes that they had to use CGI to remove Superman’s mustache that actor Henry Cavill needed for another role. The “Suicide Squad” script was heavily revised after the accidental enormous success of Fox’s “Deadpool”, and a ton of movies were announced and had casting rumors after response to “Batman vs Superman” and “Suicide Squad”, notably an Affleck directed Batman movie and a possible Gotham City Sirens movie starring Margot Robbie. At some point, it felt like DC was making it up as they went along and that isn’t on accident.

By changing their scripts, movies, and production plans on a whim, Warner Bros. showed us that this giant narrative they’re trying to accomplish wasn’t being given much thought. Rather, they were being extremely reactionary to the criticism and little praise their movies got. Now obviously things change for studios and it is good to cut what isn’t working and what is, but it’s like they would open up Facebook the day after their movie showed, compile every stupid comment they could find, and make huge executive decisions off of those.

For example: Suicide Squad’s reception was bad > but people liked Margot as Harley Quinn > Let’s announce “Gotham City Sirens” > What about all the issues about this movie? > They wont care once we announce “Gotham City Sirens”, we’ll seem progressive and it’ll be fine.

Similarly, think about the X-Men movies and “Days of Future Past”. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a damn good comic movie, but it arguably did seem like a response to the frustration behind “The Last Stand” and the success of “First Class”. If that doesn’t seem odd to anyone, think about “Apocalypse” (yikes) and the hinting of a very obvious intention to re-start the Phoenix Saga in a future movie…even though it would make more sense to do something new rather than to keep fixing Brett Ratner’s screw-up.

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Interfering with Creators

It’s such a shocker that the most successful movie DC had was the one where Warner Bros hired a good director and gave her a lot of creative freedom! That was sarcasm, that isn’t shocking it all. It also isn’t surprising that the less-than-successful MCU movies were the ones where Feige was least involved and Ike Perlmutter was still making huge decisions. I really don’t have to emphasize that the most successful comic-book movies had talented directors with creative freedom, that should be obvious. Yet somehow, bad decisions kept being made and in 2017 I got to see Batman suck in a movie for the first time since I watched “Batman Forever” (so many regrets).

Actually Caring

It warms my heart to read the Vanity Fair article and find out that Feige, like so many comic-fans/movie-nerds, is just an innocent fanboy with a desire to see his favorite characters represented properly on the big screen. That is the kind of person that should be in charge that rarely ever gets to be. What needs to be realized is that a lot of these characters that studios can “build a universe” around are all unique and can hold a lot of significance to a lot of people. Often times, people don’t even want to see a character in a live action movie because they’re scared it’ll be ridiculous (such is the case for me and Batman Beyond). So when executives view these characters as simple cash cows or good PR for their corporate image, it feels a little insulting to the fans. Again, this should be obvious, yet here we are.

Well that’s enough rambling about comic movies for now, see you soon for my review of *inhales*…THE LAST JEDI!!!!

Hype for Homecoming: Spider-Man 3

Part 3 of 5: Jazz hands and tears

[WARNING: Posts of this nature aren’t traditional “reviews”. Expect the following: spoilers, potentially mindless ramblings, lack of proper sentence structure, and profane language. There is a summary section at the end of the bullet points that you can skip to for convenience.]

*Inhales*….”Spider-Man 3″…is…a movie that exists. I’m going to try to get through this keeping as much sanity as I can, but this movie essentially boils down to being way too scattered and it just ends up feeling like butter spread out over too much bread. Look, I don’t think this movie is one of the atrociously bad comic-book movies of the 2000’s. Even if you look at the other two that came out in 2007, its “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Ghost Rider”…yeah, those were way worse. What I DO think is that this is the first example of a comic-book movie having insane hype, but tries to do way too much and falls flat on its face…regardless of if these were decisions by Sony or some other external factor interfering with Raimi’s work, OR if it was just a huge goof by Raimi himself. I actually discussed this in a previous post you can find here where I name the phenomenon after THIS movie…and for good reason. In any case…*sigh* here we go.

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Oh sure, SPIDER-MAN’S ARCH-NEMESIS FROM THE COMICS, show up in the last 30 minutes of the movie! GENIUS.
  • Okay the first act of this movie actually feels like a Raimi Spider-Man movie, we establish where our characters are, there’s a few nice moments between them, we get a fight between Peter and Harry (as the new Green Goblin), and it actually feels like the movie has gracefully taken off…and then we get to the “Harry memory loss” subplot and you kinda start to think “well…what now?” TWO OTHER VILLAINS, A LIFETIME DRAMA, AND BAD DANCING, THATS WHAT!
  • The whole idea to put Sandman in this movie actually sums up how I feel about this movie. Its a weird mix of moments that worked, stuff that made no sense, and stuff that made me think that ANYONE in the writer’s room could’ve pointed out a way to do it better. EXAMPLE: Scene where Sandman is materializing and trying to grab his daughter’s locket? Works for me, good moment supplemented by the score. Making Sandman aka Flint Marko be the “real” Uncle Ben’s murderer? Makes no sense when you put that sub-plot to bed a LONG time ago…why go back to alter the turning point of the first movie? Scene where these scientists conduct the experiment anyway thinking “the change in the mass is just a bird that will fly away”?…a screenwriting intern could’ve spoken out against this. What. The. Fuck. EVEN I KNOW that is a GIANT no-no in any laboratory/test of ANY kind.
  • Why…DEAR GOD WHY…does Peter decide to kiss Gwen in front of MJ? Yes, it makes sense for him to get a little cocky, but what the hell were the writers thinking making Spidey SO OUT OF CHARACTER here? The entire MJ drama and eventual love-triangle with Harry just blows and seems so out of place, if you ask me that’s what brings this movie down the most. A lot of other things are forced too, but this made the LEAST amount of sense.
  • Let’s talk about the Symbiote. I don’t think including it in the movie was a bad call itself, but the way it was handled just seemed choppy. Probably due to the conflicting sub-plots and having to find a way to jam this piece of the puzzle in to a space that doesn’t exactly fit? I mean even if you just had Harry be the villain, yeah you could fit the Symbiote in…and the scenes with Black-suit Spider-Man are cool…but, again…too much, too scattered, blaahh.
  • In a series with such great casting…Topher Grace’s casting as Eddie Brock is just the fucking worst. The only reason I’m okay with a standalone Venom reboot is because I can forget about this version….unless Sony fucks the new one up too.
  • I just finished the part where Harry’s manipulation of Peter and MJ’s relationship is done and he tells Peter “I’m the other guy” (WHO THOUGHT THIS SUBPLOT WAS A GOOD IDEA??). Aside from Harry suddenly becoming Batman and vanishing in to thin air, I’m gonna just end this with a bullet each for what was cool and what pissed me off.
  • What I liked: The suit-less fight between Harry and Peter is really cool…and has some real tension. Would’ve been cooler if Peter didn’t decide to be emo and look like the lead singer of a punk band; Peter ripping off the symbiote in the church is a well-done scene; Spidey teaming up with Goblin Jr. to fight Sandman and Venom is dope, nice to see superheroes team up in the pre-avengers era.
  • What sucked: Jazz choreography…dear LORD this entire part at the Jazz club just didn’t need to happen. You mean to tell me there was NO OTHER WAY Peter could hurt MJ and realize what he’s become? Anyone?; Fucking BUTLER-EX-MACHINA finally telling Harry that his dad was a psycho that killed himself. How did the Butler even know what Harry was going through? Just because Norman died by his own glider doesn’t exactly prove much…I mean someone else could’ve still done that to him. Why wouldn’t the Butler have just told Harry that in the first place? These guys are rich as fuck, did NO ONE perform an autopsy to see exactly how he died? 2.5 movies worth of Harry growing to hate Peter is undone by ONE piece of exposition from his BUTLER??; Wait so now NO ONE killed Uncle Ben? I seriously don’t know why they did this, “random robber” is SO MUCH EASIER than this entire ordeal with Flint…ugh.
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ALL OF MY TEARS.

Look, I don’t HATE “Spider-Man 3”. Obviously, it has its problems that seemed really avoidable..like if someone told you there’s a brick wall in front of you, you clearly see it, but you bump in to it lightly anyway. When you actually figure out what’s going on (which takes multiple watches) and forgive the stupidity, you can at least enjoy the movie. Despite things that made less sense, AT LEAST characters still had motives and I understood why they were doing things..which is more than I’ll be able to say for the next two parts in my Spidey series. For a movie that at least tried to give us something, but gave us other things are unforgivable…I’m giving “Spider-Man 3” a 6/10. 

Alright, this concludes the reign of Tobey McGuire as Spider-Man…and no matter what happens with the character, I would like to just thank him for being MY Spider-Man..and he always will be. Come back next time because now we’re moving on to the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man and that’s…well…it’ll be fun for you, not for me.