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What makes a good superhero movie?

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What makes a good superhero movie? Empty What makes a good superhero movie?

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:15 am

Posted on February 17, 2011 by Mr Topp

Like every other geek in the universe who has access to the Internet, we here at the Big Bad Blog have long known that the X-Men franchise is not dead, that a new film (X-Men: First Class) was in the offing.

Because as a geek, we love superhero movies.

But, like most other movie-lovers out there, we expect a new X-Men film to be bad. Because once the quality of a movie franchise begins to wane, it tends not to recover. Given that X-Men 3 was awful, why, two movies later, should we expect a quality product on the screen.

Then we saw the trailer, and got excited:

And we challenge our assumptions — perhaps it is origin stories that make for good films?

Then we saw Batman on TV — you know, the Tim Burton one from 1989 — and realised that it did not tell of Batman’s origins. It was the villain — the Joker — who made that movie.

So what elements make a quality superhero movie?


Origin stories are the backbone of the superhero genre, not because they are necessarily better stories, but because they connect us to the characters. An origin story, of course, does not guarantee that connection. And those connections can be formed without the origin story.

But the origin story is a useful trick to a connection between the audience and the character on screen. It allows the actor to make a human connection with us before they have their super powers, helping the audience to understand and connect with the super powered version later in the movie.

Here at the Big Bad Blog, our instinctive expectation is that superhero sequels should be more successful than their non-superheroic brethren. The source material, after all, is neverending. There are many, many great story arcs in the comics using the already-established heroes.

Origin stories are actually pretty rare. It should actually be easier to find quality non-origin source material.

But with subsequent movies, your lead actor does not have the opportunity to present the audience with the “before” picture of the hero. New audience members do not connect with the lead’s portrayal with the same veracity as previously. Old audience members have increasing difficulty recreating that connection.

Mix in the fact that big Hollywood blockbusters — particularly when they are sequels — tend to function as design-by-committee, and it should (perhaps) not surprise that the actors and directors have trouble making a connection without the shortcut.

Design-by-committee dilutes the story, the connection is gone.

The franchise withers.

The Villain

Superheroes, it should be remembered, tend to be bland.

Superman? Boy scout.
Batman? Dour, hiding in the shadows. Rich boy.
Spiderman? Photography geek.

Don’t even get me started on the Fantastic Four.

What really makes a superhero piece is a quality villain. There’s a reason why Batman movies featuring excellent portrayals of the Joker — the 1989 version and the Dark Knight — rise above the rest. Or the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks, with Gene Hackman’s Luthor.

Ian McKellen’s Magneto, in the X-Men series provides a well-played villain of stature.

Every hero needs a villain, a nemesis. Too many movies forget this, and try to do too much. Spiderman 3, for example, could not decide who Spiderman was fighting.

This is unforgivable. The comics are full of excellent villains. Pick one, and hire a good actor.

The reboot

Following the success of the new Christopher Nolan Batman films, the popular thing to do these days is “reboot” franchises.

Superman has had an (unsuccessful) reboot — trying to re-connect with your audience with different actors after twenty years is, not surprisingly, an unsuccessful strategy.

Spiderman has an upcoming reboot.

And this X-Men film.

I worry about it. It is an origin story, which increases the chance of a connection. But origin stories are also short-cuts to that connection; we need to ask why the X-Men franchise keeps throwing origin stories our way.

Is it a lack of creativity?
Is it a fundamental misunderstanding of why the origin story connects with audiences?

Magneto is, again, the bad guy. Will this work, or is the studio just throwing the same villain out there because it worked last time? Will Michael Fassbender be able to carry the role of lead villain? Can he follow up McKellen’s portrayal with something that resonates as well?

Whatever the answers, and despite the fact that I anticipate not liking the answers, the marketing department has been successful – I’ll be watching.

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What makes a good superhero movie? Empty The Flix List: Seven Great Directors Working in Hollywood Today

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:16 am

February 16, 2011 by rtm

By Ted Saydalavong

A while back I wrote about hack directors working in Hollywood. Well, to balance things out, now how about some of the great ones who are still churning out some great films. I’ll also list some of their upcoming projects that I’m looking forward to see on the big screen. (rtm’s note: also check out my 15 Directors meme, which share a few names in common).

In no particular order, here are the directors:
1. Steven Spielberg

Say what you want about Mr. Spielberg but in my opinion he’s one of the great filmmakers ever. Let’s face it, he practically owns Hollywood. Here’s a man who started the term blockbuster with his mega hit film Jaws back in 1975 and hasn’t slowed down since. He’s one of the few directors from 70s who still has that magic touch when it comes to delivering high quality films. You can’t really say that about some of his peers who started their careers around the same time as him. For example George Lucas seems to just want to stick with his Star Wars franchise; Francis Ford Coppola hasn’t done anything significant since Apocalypse Now; and William Friedkin sort of faded after hits like The French Connection and The Exorcist. Spielberg on the other hand, can make any kind of films, from light summer tent poles to darker-themed ones and still achieve relative success.

One complain I have about him is that he seems to like to please the audience way too much when it comes to his tent pole flicks. For example, in the original script of A.I. the film was supposed to be a hard R-rated story about robots living in our future society but he decided to turn it into sort a light adventure/drama flick. Of course Stanley Kubrick was going to direct it, but then he passed away so Spielberg took over the project in his honor. I wish he didn’t change the script, but I still enjoyed the movie nonetheless. I can only imagine what Kubrick could have done with that project since it would’ve been his true sci-fi project since 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Another film I thought he chickened out by given us a happy ending was Minority Report. I love everything about that movie except the last half hour. I still can’t get pass that clichéd happy ending. Now there are some out there who thinks that the last half hour of the film was actually Tom Cruise’s character dream. I don’t know about that, I’ve seen the films many times and still don’t buy that theory. The film would’ve been perfect had he followed the book’s ending, those who read the short story probably know what I’m talking about.

Here are a few projects he’s working on that I’m looking forward to see on the big screen:

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I don’t know anything about the Tintin story but I’m looking forward to seeing it next Christmas. This was probably one of the few films that Spielberg has trouble green lighting from studio executives.

Robopocalypse – Based on the upcoming novel by Daniel H. Wilson, the plot is about the near future, and all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. “Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.”

“When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly-conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.”

I got the quotes from Amazon. Those sounds very cool to me and he’s going back to do another sci-fi flick and this could be an epic type of a picture. I love futuristic films so I can’t wait for this film and will pick up the book once it’s published this summer.

Oldboy: A remake of South Korean action/thriller masterpiece directed by Park Chan-Wook. The original film was based on a graphic novel published in Japan and at the moment the publisher is suing the film company because they sold the film rights to Spielberg without the publisher’s permission. When it was announced back in 2008 or 2009 that both Spielberg and Wil Smith were going to do a remake, the internet movie world went crazy because many thought Hollywood shouldn’t touch it. But I’m curious to see how Spielberg will translate the film’s dark and twisty theme for western audiences, for those who’ve seen the original film; you know what I’m talking about. The ending of that film still haunts me.

2. Martin Scorsese

Here’s another a guy who started his career in the 70s and is still going strong. No, his films doesn’t have the box office number like Spielberg’s but most of his films are first-rate stuff and you can tell that he didn’t make them just for the sake of getting big paychecks. He even tried making different type of films in the 80s, they weren’t successful but at least he step out of his comfort zone, can’t say that about some of the big name directors out there. (That’s right Michael Bay, I’m talking about you and the rest of the hacks in Hollywood.)

He doesn’t have a lot of projects lined up but I’m looking forward to see Hugo Cabret which at the moment doesn’t have a release date yet. I won’t be surprised if he teams up with Leonardo DiCaprio again soon. (rtm’s note: Sure enough just yesterday, it was announced that Scorsese will direct Leo again in their fifth collaborative effort in The Wolf of Wall Street, based on stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s memoir – per Vulture ).

3. Christopher Nolan

I think most film lovers will agree with me on this one, in my opinion Nolan IS the next Steven Spielberg and he just turned 40 years old so he still has a long career in front of him. To me Nolan hasn’t done a bad film yet, knock on wood that The Dark Knight Rises won’t be cursed with the third film syndrome. He has that rare talent of telling a great story while at the same time can entertain us with spectacles we expect from big summer films. He’s one of the few directors in Hollywood that studio executives actually respect, well it helps that his last few films made hundred millions of dollars at the box office.

Of course The Dark Knight Rises is his future project I most looking forward to see but I also hope he goes back to develop The Prisoner for the big screen again. He left the project after the studio decided to make a TV mini-series version, I haven’t seen mini-series yet but I heard it wasn’t that good. I used to watch the old 60s TV show when I was little and always thought that it would have cool to see a movie version. Maybe Nolan will go back to it once he finishes with his Batman saga. At one point he had Russell Crowe signed on to play the lead role but the studio never gave him the green light, this was before Batman Begins came out.

rtm’s note: Since Ted wrote this article, there have been reports that Nolan is interested in directing another Howard Hughes biopic. According to Vulture, he apparently abandoned the long-shelved project when it became clear that Martin Scorsese would beat him to the screen with The Aviator in 2004. Here’s more details from the article: [While] Scorsese’s film is understood to have been heavily based on Charles Higham’s biography “Howard Hughes: The Secret Life” and centered largely on the early years of Hughes’ life up to 1947, we hear Nolan’s movie is based on Michael Drosnin’s “Citizen Hughes: The Power, the Money and the Madness”(first published in 1985), and would focus on the freakier decades of Hughes remarkably secretive and OCD-addled life.

The article suggests that Nolan is planning for a 2014 release for this film, which is a good 10 years after the Scorsese’s version is released.

4. David Fincher

I still have to thank the producers of Se7en for giving Fincher another chance after he got blacklisted by Hollywood for the failure of Alien 3. If they hadn’t done that, we might never have heard of him ever again. Hollywood is truly a rough place for young filmmakers. Anyhoo, for years now Fincher has been churning out great work, yes I even enjoyed The Game. I mean how can someone turned a script about Facebook into a great movie? I don’t know if any other director can do what he did with The Social Network’s script. I truly believe if another director made that film, it would’ve been a clichéd, boring movie, but in Fincher’s hands the film was exiting and beautiful to look at. I do hope he gets that Oscar statue he truly deserves.

Couple of his upcoming films I look forward to:

The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo – I haven’t read the books yet but will do before the first film of a trilogy opens this Christmas.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo – This will be his first mega budget adventure film and I’m pretty excited to see what he can do with it. Not sure if Disney will release it in the summer or holiday time but currently its schedule to come out in 2013. Apparently Disney already spent $10 million on pre-production, McG was first attached to direct with Wil Smith as the star but new Disney chief didn’t like the script so he shut down production. I’m sure he’ll keep close attention to see how The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo performs at the box office before he decides to green light this one.

Another project I hope he does is the un-produced Mission: Impossible 3 script, I would love it if he decides to turn that script into his first action/adventure flick.
5. Terrence Malick

He doesn’t make a lot of films but whatever kind of films he decides to make, I’ll go see it since I’m a huge fan of his. I won’t say much about him since he’s one of those directors that either you will enjoy his films or you’ll just hate them. I’m definitely looking forward to see his upcoming Tree of Life. A little behind the scenes tit bid about the film, before Brad Pitt and Sean Penn signed on to the project, Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger were going to star in the film. Of course Ledger passed away and Gibson just went a little nutty.
6. Quentin Tarantino

Some people will call Tarantino a hack and I don’t have problems with that because in a way he is a hack but a very talented hack. If you look at all of his films, they’re all remakes of crappy 60s or 70s films that he loved when he was young. He’s able to turn crappy and cheesy premise into great storytelling, look at Kill Bill for example. When you read the plot of that film, didn’t it sound silly to you? A beautiful blond who’s great in kung fu and samurai sword goes on a killing rampage after her old gang left her for dead. That sounds pretty silly to me, but the actual film turned out to be great and the fight scenes were even greater.

I thought Uma Thurman should at least have gotten nominated for an Oscar for her performance in that film. She got robbed in my opinion. I’m referring Kill Bill as one film because it was supposed to be released as a three hour epic but The Weinstein Bros. convinced Tarantino to cut the film in half and release it separately. Great marketing move because each film earned about $70mil at the box office, had they decided to release it as one film, they wouldn’t have gotten that other $70mil. Back in 2008, Tarantino planned to release Kill Bill 1 and 2 as one film on Blu-ray/DVD but The Weinstein Studios went bankrupt so not sure when it will come out now.

Of all of his films the two I like the least are Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown, don’t get me wrong those are very good films but compare to the others they’re pretty weak.

The only project I saw listed on IMDb for him was Kill Bill 3, not sure when the movie will come out and will it still be called Kill Bill since Bill is already dead in the second movie? I guess we’ll find out soon.
7. The Coen Brothers

These guys have been making great films after great films since the early 80s and don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Most of their films have a simple premise but somehow they’re able to turn them into great storytelling and of course most of the actors who’ve worked with them always give great performances.

They don’t have any upcoming projects lined up yet but I assume they’re enjoying the big success of True Grit, it’s their most successful film when it comes to box office numbers. I do hope they decide to tackle another western, Blood Meridian, a novel by Cormac McCarthy. Currently James Franco is trying to convince the producers to hire him to direct the project. When I heard that it terrified me, Franco doesn’t have the experience or talent to tackle that kind of a project. Ridley Scott tried to bring it to the big screen but left so I hope the producers won’t let Franco take over the project.

(rtm’s note: Actually last week there were rumors circulating that the Coens might do a full-on horror film next. Here’s a quote from Empire: When asked if he’d consider ever doing a full-on horror, as opposed to merely dabbling in the likes of Blood Simple, E. Coen replied,“Funny you should ask, yes, we’re working on a couple of scripts now, one of which it would be fair to call a full-on horror movie. Frances McDormand is the monster.” Now, that last part is most likely a joke, but the first part could be true.)
Honorable mentions:

1. Michael Mann – after Collateral he seemed to be repeating himself with Miami Vice and Public Enemies. I’m talking about the way he shot the films, he seems to love to shoot them in that home video quality and I’m not digging it. He doesn’t have any future projects listed but hopefully he can make a big comeback with a new picture.

2. James Cameron – I’m not a big fan of either Titanic or Avatar but I thought they were quite entertaining to watch. But I’m a huge fan of his earlier work; T-2, Aliens and The Abyss were some of his best films. I can’t exclude a man who every time he decides to make a film; he sets the bar higher and higher for big budget tent pole films. Terminator 2 was the first film to actually cost $100mil to make, that was significant back at that time. Then Titanic was the first film to have cost $200mil in production back in 1997 and again it was something people in the industry never heard of before. Now $200mil is the average budget for tent pole films and many films have already surpassed Titanic’s budget. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 cost around $300mil, Spiderman 2 & 3 both cost well over $200mil and Superman Returns cost around $260mil to make. Of course we’ve all read about Avatar’s budget, anywhere from $300mil to $500mil. But it really doesn’t matter because it made tons of it back. Apparently he’s working on Avatar’s sequels and planning to shoot them back to back. But I’m more excited for his other project as a producer of At the Mountains of Madness to be directed by Guillermo del Torro.

3. Ridley Scott – his last couple of films were a disappointment to me. I do hope he can deliver the Alien prequel, Prometheus or whatever it’s called. I still think he should team up with DiCaprio again and make A Brave New World, a great novel by Aldous Huxley. If you read the book then you know it’s a great project for him. Apparently DiCaprio pitched it to him a couple years back when they were shooting Body of Lies together but Scott wanted to do Robin Hood instead.

4. Darren Aronofsky – he’s done mostly smaller art house type of films but you can’t deny how great of a talent this man is, I haven’t seen Black Swan yet but looking forward to it. Requiem for a Dream and Pi are still my favorite movies of his, I thought The Wrestler was a bit overrated and The Fountain was just too much mumble jumble and didn’t make a lot of sense. Of course he didn’t have the big budget to shoot The Fountain after Brad Pitt left the project; so he had to trim a bunch of stuff from his original script, which was pretty great. I’m looking forward to see what he can do with his first big budget superhero flick, The Wolverine. Maybe if the movie turns out to be great and makes tons of cash, we might actually see his version of Batman.

Well those are my list of great filmmakers, agree or disagree? Feel free to name your own list of great directors or let me know your thoughts about any of their upcoming projects.

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