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.