Wednesday, 1 June 2011

I'm Fed Up With Comic Book Films

It was the early 80's, I was twentysomething, working as an Entertainer at a hotel in Brighton. On my day off four of us piled into my tiny car - the flying potato - and headed off to see Superman - The Movie. It was fabulous - I came out believing a man could fly, or at least believing the movies could make a man seem to fly.

My all time flying movie hero is King of the Rocket Men, an old Saturday morning series so bad it's wonderful.Tristram Coffin played Jeff King, a guy who wears a leather flying jacket, a coal scuttle on his head and has controls on his breastplate that say: Up - Down - Fast - Slow.
King of the Rocket Men
But back to that great day in Brighton, I came out with a lump in my throat and joy in my heart, movies had taken a giant leap forward. It was thrilling, it was funny, it was fantastic.

Since then Hollywood has mined almost every character that ever appeared in the comics I read growing up in the sixties and seventies; some good, some bad, some bloody awful.
What Tim Burton did with Batman was extraordinary. What Christopher Nolan did with Batman was exceptional. In a bid to take control of their characters Marvel embarked on a journey that has so far produced some of the better superhero flicks. Their Incredible Hulk was a much better film than Ang Lee's imagining, the two Iron Man films have brought fun along with the thrills and in Robert Downey Jr they have a great actor in a role usually played by a movie star.

Last week I saw Thor. Thor was always my favourite character in my 'Fantastic' comic - I still have every edition sitting in a filing cabinet. Thor isn't a superhero, he's a God, so they brought in Kenneth Brannagh to direct, presumably to give it a Shakespearean authority.

It was okay. It fitted into the run of movies Marvel are making before all these characters get to play together in the Joss Whedon helmed Avengers.

Today I wanted to see Paul Giamatti in Win Win. What i got to see was X Men First Class. My multiplex isn't showing Win Win today and the kids are on holiday so...Magneto drew us in. I wasn't too worried, after all it's directed by Mathew Vaughan and includes Jane Goldman as one of four writers. Vaughan and Goldman were responsible for the extraordinary Kick Ass, a not-really-a-superhero-film so good it felt like a game-changer. The kind of film that makes other films in the genre sit up and take note, like Bourne did to Bond. Sad to say although X Men First Class is okay there's nothing here we haven't see before. Nothing. At all.

If you've sat through a superhero film in the past five years you've seen everything this X Men origin film has to offer. That's not to say it didn't try - it did. The early scenes in a Nazi concentration camp make Magneto's character richer but as it jumps to the 1960's it loses it's touch. Is it a camp Austin Powers movie or a coming of age movie or what? January Jones looks lovely but her Betty Draper (Mad Men)  delivery suggests she has just the one note.

Michael Fassbender is a jolly good Magneto and James McAvoy walks and has hair as the young Charles Xavier. Matthew Vaughn brings what fresh air to the story by going back to to roots of the franchise but....hang on, the first X Men film came out eleven years ago, The Last Stand five years ago. The reboot feels too soon. (Best minute of the film is the cameo by Hugh Jackman).

Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed many comic book movies but I'm getting really bored with the same old same old. It's the problem they had with Bond - how many times could 007 save the world with three seconds to go? How many times could Superman fly through the clouds to the sound of a soaring string section? What these films did in their early days was to turn two dimensional characters into two and half dimensional characters. At the point in X Men First Class where they cut in footage of JFK and the Cuban missile crisis I'm sorry, I laughed.

Hollywood is not going to stop making these films. Why should they, they make a bank full of money. The dark Knight was as a good a drama as I saw in 2008. I'll be at the head of the cue to see The Dark Knight Rises next year. Nolan's Batman is exceptional. A lot of the comic book movies we've seen recently as a family have been little more than okay.

I'd like a little more Kick Ass and a little less ' that worked last time, let's do it again'.

Actually, what I really would have liked to have seen today was Win Win.

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