DC vs. Marvel: Marvel Brainwashing and The Loss of Reason

I have heard many people say that there has never been a better time to be a comic book fan. While many people still view comic books as childish or ashamedly nerdy, comic books are now the inspiration for some of Hollywood’s most profitable and critically-revered films. Earlier works like Blade (1998), X-Men (200) and Spider-Man (2002) paved the way and later works like Iron Man (2009), Captain America (2011) and Avengers (2012) have cemented their status as marketable works. You may notice that all of the films I just listed are either Marvel comic book properties, or Marvel Studio properties. That is not because Marvel has made the only good comic book films. I think I ended up writing only Marvel films because I am a victim of some of the same brainwashing I am to criticize in this post.

This is another post that is a result of online ramblings I have come across, whether they are on YouTube, Instagram or IMDB. I do love some of Marvel’s films, such as the Captain America films, the first Iron Man and Avengers 1. However, I do have qualms with some of them, and I am able to acknowledge that they are not perfect and that they are not definitive examples of what a comic book film should be. The general public has a tendency to get attached to what comes first. Some people saw Jack Nicholson as their first Joker in a Hollywood film, so they refused to accept any other actor as Joker afterwards. For some people, Ledger was their first, and they already hate Leto simply because he is a different interpretation. Twenty years from now, there will probably be people saying that no Joker will ever top Leto’s.

In terms of Marvel, this tendency to like what comes first, manifests itself through a love of all films Marvel and a hate for anything else. Although DC had earlier successful comic book films such as V for Vendetta (Vertigo comics, which was then acquired by DC) the general public has now been saturated with marvel studio films that overshadow all other comic book properties. This saturation results in a high number of Marvel films that stamp themselves onto the public consciousness far quicker than any other comic book properties can. With Marvel films imprinted, people become less open to seeing something different. People may be open to different characters, but the Marvel v DC debate makes it clear that people are not open to other things, such as tone.

Marvel studios’ films are known for their light-heartedness, their humour, their “fun”. They have been cementing this style and reputation since 2008 with the first Iron Man. To this day, Marvel will even hire a comedy writer so that he can make a script about Asgardian doomsday more light-hearted. If any movie deserves a dark tone, it is Thor: Ragnarok, but I guess some studio executives disagreed.

I am not anti-fun or anti-humour. I simply do not like it when the device is overused. While some Marvel films have juggled it well, such as The Winter Soldier (2014), the Thor series has been severely brought down by terrible and consistent one-liners imho. While Loki’s humour is handled well, Jane’s (Natalie Portman) and Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) end up being the Jar Jars of the franchise. My problem is not only the overuse of humour, but how Marvel has successfully conditioned people to believe that this humour is the mark of a good comic book movie. Nowadays, any film that lacks the same level of levity is deemed too “dark”, “gritty”, “depressing, “brooding” or “pretentious”. A lot of the criticism levied towards Man of Steel (MOS) before it was even released came from this misconception. The trailers were serious in tone, nothing about them screamed “dark” or “brooding”, but people were so used to Marvel’s marketing by this point. The MOS trailers did not have enough one-liners, enough levity in comparison to Marvel’s trailers, so people were thrown off. Everything is relative, and since the MOS trailers were found to be lacking in humour, they were immediately deemed too dark.

This brings up another issue I have with Marvel’s brainwashing. I often hear people throw around the word “dark” like it is an insult in itself. As if saying a film is dark is as bad as saying the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible etc. A film can be “dark” and also be good, which seems like a fact that is lost on many members of the Marvel horde, and among Marvel studio executives. Dark does not equal depressing, gritty or pretentious.

While Marvel has darker material in some of its films, and has Netflix shows with much darker tones (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) it appears that Marvel’s status gives it more room to experiment than any other property has. Marvel’s trailers, films and tv shows can have darker tones without people complaining about them trying to “copy Christopher Nolan”, “not being fun” etc. While Marvel is allowed to experiment, change and adapt, DC is now forced to appeal to Marvel sensibilities in order to be less divisive among audiences.

The first Suicide Squad trailer was leaked, featuring a lovely cover of I started a joke. It was a serious, dramatic trailer but was subjected to the same talk of not being fun enough, in comparison to Marvel of course. Some of you might want me to cite specific websites and links, but honestly this chatter is all over the Internet: the same thing you are currently on. Google my arguments and you’ll come across them aplenty.

The second trailer came out, making great use of Bohemian Rhapsody, and also having more humour. What do you know, some of same people who love this one are happy to see that the film will still be “fun”. I have no problem with the second trailer’s lighter tone, or the film’s tone (from what we have seen so far). However, I hate the mentality that every film has to be “fun”. Is Saving Private Ryan a bad film because it isn’t “fun” enough? Maybe that example is a bit hyperbolic but hopefully it gets my point across. A film does not have to be “fun” to be good. Some characters are darker than others. Additionally, many comic book characters have histories spanning numerous decades. Some of their comics are darker than others. MOS used some of the more serious storylines for the film and then gets chastised for daring to be different and not following Marvel’s mould of being “fun” enough. I have even had someone on IMDB tell me that Superman was too serious since brow was too furrowed when he was learning how to fly. So they ignored the huge grin on his face when he was flying and instead criticize the scene because Superman wasn’t grinning ear to ear the entire time.

This brings me to another point about Marvel’s brainwashing. The desire to love everything Marvel often leads to nitpicking of anything that is not Marvel. While Man of Steel is deemed a terrible film and a terrible adaptation of Superman due to all the damage done during the final fight, The Avengers gets little or no hassle for the damage to New York City. This is the same damage that is mentioned in Daredevil and plays a part in Wilson Fisk’s efforts to rebuild the city. So while Man of Steel continues to get flack for showing that a city will get damaged when two super powered people fight in it, no one cares that New York got damaged since they love Marvel. This nitpicking not only affects films that already came out but also affects any new releases. I have heard someone criticize Jared Leto’s joker because his hair is dyed green, yes…really. I forget exactly where in the video the guy says it, but my comment on the video acknowledges him saying it. To me, it just seems like this person is either

  • Attached to Heath Ledger’s portrayal, which brings up my earlier issue of the general public getting attached to what comes first. This then leads to nitpicking of newer adaptations
  • Simply a Marvel fanboy (in the sense that he does not want to like non-marvel properties) and is looking for reasons to hate this new DC release.

Either way, his comment demonstrates the extent of stupidity that bias can lead to. I am not saying Suicide Squad, or any DC movie is guaranteed to be good. However, I think criticizing the film and saying they’re making “joker a punk” because his hair is dyed green is a little ridiculous.

The bias for Marvel sometimes does not only result in DC (or Warner Bros) vs Marvel, but also leads to people nitpicking any film that is not specifically a Marvel Studios production. People saw the design for Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse and some of them started crying for the rights to go back to Marvel. These people were willing to ignore everything the previous X-Men films did well (ignoring X3 and the Wolverine films). Despite how great Deadpool looks, I have read blogs, forum posts and other miscellaneous talk where people rant about how the rights should go back to Marvel. It’s obvious why they want that to happen. They just want Marvel studios to adapt the properties. Yes, I want the X-Men and Deadpool in the Avengers universe too, but I won’t hope a film fails just so that can happen. People are now so brainwashed they think Marvel is the only studio capable of handling a comic book film well.

You don’t like the shirt a character is wearing? Cry for the rights to go back to Marvel

You don’t like a character’s design? Cry for the rights to go back to Marvel

 

The Internet allows us access to so much information, but also allows us to customize our searches. We can choose what information to find and what information to cut out. This phenomenon has been explored mostly in regards to political polarization, but I think it is also relevant to entertainment preferences. Either way, it makes us dumber.

 

 

 

The Never Ending Marvel V DC Debate

I never read comics much growing up. In fact, most of my comic book knowledge comes from online research of different characters, with some of my favourites being Batman and Spider-Man. I bought my first comic, Watchmen, just a few years ago and I have followed that one up with titles like House of M and Civil War.

My comic interests have always intersected DC and Marvel, and I am sure many other fans can say the same. Although competition is unavoidable since they are two different companies involved, I do not think that the same level of close-mindedness among fans existed prior to the comic book film renaissance we are now witnessing. Did older comic book readers only read Marvel comics, and refuse to read DC or give DC any balanced criticism? Or vice versa? Hopefully not. Either way I think online arguments, whether they are on IMDB, YouTube, Empire etc. make it clear that close-mindedness abounds when it comes to comic book film discussion.

Some disclaimers:
1) Yes I know many people see comment as the cesspool of the Internet, and may wonder why I bother paying them any attention. For me, I felt the need to write this post since I can no longer go to forums like IMDB and have reasoned arguments with posters. My YouTube videos are drowned out by videos where other people echo the same views that I detest. So the simple reason for me doing this post: I need to vent.
2) Close-mindedness is a pretty big part of the human condition, so of course it extends far beyond people’s discussions of comic books.
3) I am not a Marvel OR DC fan, I am a fan of both worlds.

There is no arguing that Marvel or Disney/Marvel has built a dynasty. It seems that slapping the Marvel logo across any property can guarantee profit and good reviews from critics and audiences alike. Not only has Marvel released more films, but the shared universe they have created is a dream come true for long time comic book fans and an exciting prospect for a newer audience who are increasingly drawn to the characters.

Aside from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, DC has not had any critically revered films over the past ten years. Some have been panned for good reason imo, such as Green Lantern. Meanwhile. others were unfairly scathed. V for Vendetta (Vertigo) is technically a DC property, since DC purchased Vertigo comics. However, the average moviegoer probably does not know this. This brings up an important issue that I believe affects DC films far more than Marvel. Marvel’s status as the earlier franchise allows it to set a benchmark for fans who have a simple conception of certain characters. Marvel’s films generally have a reputation as more light-hearted, entertaining and fun, while DC’s are often seen as poor attempts to be “dark and gritty” or “copying Nolan”. In general I believe people have a tendency to become attached to what comes first. With the exception of The Dark Knight trilogy, most DC films were released after Iron Man.

Man of Steel, currently 58% on Rotten Tomatoes was critically divisive from what I have seen. Many people either loved it or hated it. I don’t have cited sources to examine all the reasons but the recent release of the Batman v Superman trailer has brought up more online criticism of Man of Steel. One of the biggest critiques from this past month and 2013, was that Man of Steel changed the character of Superman too much: Made him too brooding, too dark etc.

Since Marvel studios don’t own the X-Men or Spiderman until earlier this year, Marvel’s stable of characters weren’t as iconic as DC’s. Obviously the characters are firmly entrenched now, but I don’t think Iron Man or Captain America were AS popular to the general audience in 2008, as Batman or Superman were. Marvel has done a great job with their characters and their stable also gave them an advantage.

They did not have to worry as much about a misinformed general audience thinking that they ruined the characters. This advantage is especially clear when it comes to Man of Steel. Contrary to popular belief, Man of Steel did not actually change the character of Superman that much. A lot of the things people hated or thought were rip-offs of Batman Begins e.g. the depiction of his dad and his dad’s death, Clark travelling across the world, were elements borrowed from newer comics. Birthright and the New 52 comics were the biggest influences. In terms of

SPOILER ALERT FOR MAN OF STEEL

…..Superman killing Zod, writer David Goyer also explained that. In the comics, Superman does not kill because it is an arbitrary decision by the writers. In the world of Man of Steel, he had no choice and was forced to kill the last member of his race. After doing that, he will never want to do it again and this can also set up Batman’s mistrust of him in Batman v Superman. Some people say Superman should have dragged Zod to the moon, but this Superman cannot breathe in space. Superman’s powers fluctuate writer to writer in the comics, and his ability to breathe in space is one of the ones that changes often. Others say Superman should have dragged Zod somewhere else in the city and keep fighting. Yet some of these people are the same ones that complain about the fighting causing too much damage in the city.

However, much of the general audience is not bothered to look up facts like this. You may think it is not their responsibility to. However, these same people have the time to write reviews or do video reviews of Man of Steel and spread bad word of mouth.

While Marvel can get a pass on terrible love stories (Thor), forgettable villains (Malekith from Thor, Ronan from GOTG), I believe that some fans tear DC properties apart either because they have decided they will only support Marvel, or because they have a narrow view of how the character should be portrayed. I have had conversations with people who disliked Man of Steel because, and I quote, “His brow was too furrowed” in some scenes. This person specifically referenced the scene where Superman flies for the first time: The same scene where Superman is smiling and laughing as he sails through the air. Basically this person thought Superman should never be allowed to look serious, he should be grinning from ear to ear the entire movie. This is just one example of the relentless nitpicking bestowed on Man of Steel.

Another example:

Two super powered beings fight in a city and the city gets trashed (like many comics and tv shows) = worst movie ever and worst depiction of Superman ever. Even though the same thing happened to some extent in Superman II, with Christopher Reeves. This also happened in The Avengers, but very few people say The Avengers were portrayed horribly.

Marvel’s humour has also won it many fans, even if that humour consists of Kat Dennings making terrible quips for two hours (Yeah I really don’t like the Thor movies that much, Loki’s a highlight). I remember when the Man of Steel trailers were released and everyone thought they were “too dark”. I do not believe they were. The trailers were dramatic, serious, but not dark. They had the same tone as the trailers for The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, Man of Steel was quick to be interpreted as an attempt to make Superman “dark and gritty”. It now seems that any DC trailer with a hint of seriousness will be interpreted as “joyless” or “too dark”.

As Marvel continues to strengthen its brand, we will have to see how DC progresses from this point onward. While I am excited at a shared DC universe, I do worry that they are rushing it. Aside from Batman and Superman, the next film features three other superheroes and some questionable casting: Gal Gadot looks horrible as Wonder Woman. My heart tells me yes, my brain tells me no. If the film is panned or met with polarizing reactions like Man of Steel was I hope it is not because people resort to the same tired arguments I have already discussed.

Eisenberg as Luthor

Since its announcement, Man of Steel 2 a.k.a Batman vs Superman, has had a wave of rumours and legitimate news follow in its wake. Aside from the multitude of sites that peddled supposedly confirmed news, forums exploded with terrible fan castings. Suggestions such as Dane Cook as Batman, to Gina Carano as Wonder Woman initially infuriated me, but I learned to ignore such suggestions since it was obvious the crew behind Man of Steel would have more sense that the hordes flocking to IMDB. Apparently I was wrong.

When Henry Cavill was cast as Superman, I was initially skeptical. I took his terrible performance in Immortals into consideration and I was sure we would get a repeat. Instead, Cavill was surprisingly good in the role, embodying the character well with his physique and the sense of humility, compassion and righteousness that he exuded on screen. Discovering that I was wrong about Cavill made me more open to other decisions that the crew behind Man of Steel made. When Ben Afleck was cast as Batman I was…surprised. His acting career had been a joke for a while, but then he recouped as a director and an actor in his own films. His performance in The Town showed that he is talented, although his Boston accent in that film has been the butt of many jokes. I decided to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, if Cavill can greatly improve, surely Afleck can too.

When Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, my mind went to her only performances I saw on screen. As Gisele Yashar, Gadot barely had any lines or any character development. Of course this wasn’t surprising but I had to wonder how that performance was enough to convince executives that she could portray one of the (if not the most) popular female superhero of all time. Gadot’s weight was also an issue, but since she is working with the same team that transformed Cavill, I figured she’d be able to at least look the part when the time comes.

Then Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Lex Luthor, and now I can no longer put blind faith that this film will work out. Lex Luthor is one of Superman’s biggest foes, in terms of their history and the threat he poses. Some of the films have overused him and painted him as a feeble old man who needs kryptonite to be of any danger to Superman. However, Lex Luthor is supposed to be cunning, charismatic and deadly individual able to effectively manipulate others for his goals. Whether Lex Luthor attacks the ones closest to Superman or orchestrates with powerful super villains, he is always a great threat.

Numerous people have compared the backlash Eisenberg is receiving to the same backlash Heath Ledger received. They then point to the spectacular performance Heath Ledger was able to deliver. Eisenberg is a great actor in my opinion, and I want him to deliver. However, I believe that people need to stop pointing to the example of Heath Ledger. Yes, there is always the possibility that we are pleasantly shocked by a performance again. My problem is that the supporters act as if such a situation is a common occurrence. What happened with Ledger should be seen as an exception to the rule, where it can happen but is not guaranteed or even likely.

The role of the Joker allowed Ledger to drastically change his physical appearance, making it somewhat easier to lose himself in the character. I am not saying that the fact that he wore makeup and hair dye for the role makes his performance easy to recreate, or makes it less worthy of praise. The physical appearance was only a small facet of the character. For Lex Luthor, Eisenberg will be bald and we will have to see him as a formidable threat. Although Eisenberg is 30, he looks younger, and unless they are chronicling the origins of Lexcorp I believe an actor who looks older should have been selected. Luthor is often depicted as older than Superman, with a reputation forged by decades as a powerhouse in the business arena. In 2016, we will see the actor well known for playing geeky characters as one of Superman’s biggest foes. Lex Luthor is intelligent, but intelligent and geeky are not always the same. Batman is also highly intelligent, but that does not mean Jesse Eisenberg can play the character.

This brings me to another point: Portraying a character is not only about being a good actor. Sometimes an actor’s age, appearance, voice etc can affect the range of roles they can effectively play. Michael Fassbender is my favourite actor and I think there are numerous roles he can pull off, but there are some I do not think he would be suited for. Hypothetically, if Wolverine was being introduced in the next X Men film, Fassbender would not be one of my choices. This is not because he is a bad actor, but because I don’t believe he has the right look for the character. Obviously Jackman is too tall for the role (I do not mind personally) but aside from that his performance as the character has been well received by critics and audiences alike for embodying the character physically and emotionally.

We still have until 2016 before we see Eisenberg on screen and perhaps we will see Eisenberg’s Luthor through advertisements in 2015 or early 2016. Although I still hope for the best, an objective look at the facts can show that this is a role meant for another actor.

My Reaction to Man of Steel Criticisms

After seeing Man of Steel again during the holidays it confirmed my belief that the film is truly great and gets a lot more hate than it deserves. No film is perfect and I will address some weaknesses of the film in this post, but seeing Man of Steel on numerous “Worst of 2013” lists is downright cruel in my opinion. I wrote this blog post to counter some of the most common arguments being levied against Man of Steel and simply get some thoughts off my chest. Since I will be discussing criticisms of this film is some detail, there will be spoilers.

Firstly, I feel that the performances in the film are great. After seeing “Immortals” I was worried about Henry Cavill’s casting but his performance was a pleasant surprise and I look forward to seeing him in more Superman films. As is the case with any superhero film everyone compares Cavill to the actors that came before him, and judge his performance only in relation to theirs e.g Christopher Reeves was better, this guy sucks. People seem to have an inability to like more than one actor when they play the same role. Reeves has been associated with superman for three decades at this point, it is unfair to say Cavill doesn’t embody Superman the same way simply because he is a newer actor in the role. For those who didn’t like Cavill’s performance on its own merit, fair enough, but I can not stand those who insult the performance simply because he is not Christopher Reeves.

Michael Shannon was a weak link in terms of his performance. I found his performance inconsistent, ranging from hammy to great from scene to scene. I will agree with anyone who says that.

I was on youtube looking up Man of Steel videos and came across a video where the uploader described all his gripes with the movie. I stopped watching after three minutes. I did not stop watching because I don’t like hearing opinions that differ from my own, but because the uploader sounded like a complete idiot imo with his criticisms. One of his biggest gripes were the fight scenes, partly because of how they were directed, e.g shaky cam. I can agree with that, although I didn’t notice or mind it that much. The uploader also hated the fight scenes as a whole, simply because of the collateral damage and the fact that Zod and Superman fought without getting damaged. When you have two super-powered beings fighting each other, both of whom are invulnerable to most physical injuries, the environment will get damaged when they fight. I am used to fights like the final one in MOS, due to reading comics and watching shows such as Justice League. The people complaining about the damage and the fact that the Zod and Superman fight each other without sustaining visible damage to themselves probably aren’t the big fans of the comics or characters they make themselves out to be.

This brings me to another criticism of Man of Steel which is factually incorrect. Many people complain that the movie has too much brooding, “is too emo” or takes too many cues from The Dark Knight and ruins the character of Superman in favour of copying Nolan’s “dark and gritty” formula. Many people have a misconception that Superman’s entire comic lore is sunshine and rainbows, no moments of sadness, grief or doubt. Moments that are detested by some, such as Superman’s dad not wanting him to reveal himself, Superman’s suit being Kryptonian armour, Superman’s dad dying, are all taken from the comics. In particular, Superman: Birthright (2003,2004) and the New 52 Superman comics were a major influence on Zack Snyder’s version of the character. However, Pa Kent’s death was handled better in the comics. As opposed to a hurricane, he simply died of a heart attack. I believed a heart attack would have made a more powerful death scene since it would demonstrate that despite all of Clark’s power, he can’t save everyone. The film wanted to focus on the theme of the world possibly being afraid of Superman, so the writers created a scenario where Pa Kent prevents Clark from saving him. I believe this death scene would have been more powerful if Pa Kent had gone back to the road to save another human, as opposed to a dog.

Of course, one of the most shocking moments in the film is Superman killing Zod. With this movie, many regarded the move as yet another cheap attempt to make Superman “dark and gritty”. When I originally saw the film I realized what a tough situation Clark was in. By this point his fight with Zod had levelled numerous buildings and Zod made it clear he had no intention of quitting. To add to that, Zod would have killed more innocent civilians if Clark didn’t act. Some people say that Clark should have simply taken Zod to the moon, but writer David Goyer has confirmed that this version of Superman can not breathe in space. Although some powers remain the same in different comic book story lines, other powers can differ from author to author. Superman’s ability to breathe in space is one of these, while some writers allow him to breathe in space many indicate that he can only hold his breath for a long time while in space and require him to wear a breathing mask for long durations in space. Taking Zod to the moon for a fight was not an option for this Superman.

Zod’s death also makes more sense when explained by David Goyer. In the comics, Superman doesn’t kill simply because it was an arbitrary decision by writers. The writers decided their boy scout hero should not kill, and tried to mould his personality to fit his actions. Goyer explains that killing Zod serves as a tangible reason why Superman will refuse to kill his enemies going forward. He has done it once, when he had no other choice, and will refuse to do it again.

I understand that Man of Steel is not perfect: there are some areas where the pacing could have been improved, Shannon’s performance could have been improved etc. However, I believe it is one of the best superhero films of 2013 and of all time. I know many will disagree and I have no problem with that, I simply ask that detractors try to take into account the factual arguments I have put forth when criticizing the film.