Posted on September 19, 2018
I once lost half a day arguing Astronauts vs. Roman Centurions, an argument that descended into friendship-ending shouts, and then lost another four hours the next day when someone asked what we had been arguing about the day before.
It is a particular joy of living in the genre world that we can take things seriously that don’t actually matter to any degree at all. And before you jump to any conclusions about “what nerds do,” I’ve had even more violent arguments about things like Outlaws vs. Nashville in Austin bars that have lots of glass bottles handy in case a discussion breaks out.
If you watch Ken Burns’ baseball documentary, you’ll hear someone from way back when say, “Baseball matters because Americans need something to kick about without actually meaning it.” Yep. I quit my lifelong fandom of the Houston Astros when they switched from National to American League in a fit of much throwing of things. But does baseball really matter? No. Sports don’t matter. That’s why we love them so much. They feel important when we’re watching them, but when we turn off the TV or leave the stadium nothing has actually changed.
Marvel vs DC is another such hill on which we choose to die, a death no less important than many others, but one that seems to me to be particularly pointless. You like what you like. That’s how life works. Why get into a fistfight over arugula or cilantro?
Trust me, I wouldn’t waste your time with a discussion so trivial. This post is about Marvel vs DC movies.
For full transparency, I should state that I am a Marvel guy, but my favorite superhero is Batman. My favorite Batman story is The Dark Knight Returns and my favorite superhero movie is The Dark Knight. There, now that’s all out in the open.
On the DC side, someone in an office high up in a glass tower was given the assignment of overseeing DC’s attempt to catch up with Marvel Studios. Hey, you or me or Einstein would be overwhelmed by a challenge like that, but whoever actually got the call didn’t hesitate to make the wrong decision and stick by it one massive failure after another.
So let’s talk a little bit about Zack Snyder. Dawn of the Dead (2004) is my favorite zombie movie. 300 (2006) isn’t my type of movie so I never saw it, but I understand it was very good.
That’s the end of the positive stuff.
As a gigantic Watchmen fan, I was overjoyed when I saw the trailer for his movie version of that classic book. It was cast perfectly (Rorschach will always be Jackie Earle Haley for me) and it looked beautiful, like the comic book come to life. So why wasn’t it any good?
Aaron Asadi from SciFiNow captured my initial feelings best:
“[Zack] Snyder’s Watchmen is mechanical, heartless and, tragically, hollow.”
Also tragically, that same review could stand in for everything that came after:
- Sucker Punch (super amped, super disappointed)
- Man of Steel (Meh, all those people dying seemed not very Supermanish)
- Batman Vs. Superman (See my visceral reactions to this mess in previous posts)
- Justice League (So, so bad)
And those are just the ones he directed himself. He’s also supposed to be the Kevin Feige of the DC Universe, so his name is all over other bombs like Suicide Squad (oh so disappointed by this. Margot Robbie was the perfect Harley Quinn) and we were all just amazed he didn’t manage to ruin Wonder Woman.
So that’s my nerd rage take on the DC Universe, but it’s not a considered take. It’s the emotional response of someone whose hopes have been dashed time and again by the same person.
In fact, I know Zack personally (I don’t) and we’re quite good friends (again, this isn’t true). Just the other day we were hanging out by my pool in Brentwood (I don’t have a pool, don’t live in LA, and don’t know Zack Snyder) and he told me point blank that most of the really bad decisions were forced on him (he did not tell me this, I don’t know him).
The truth is that we don’t know the internal workings of the DC engine. Snyder has proven himself to be a good director and visual magician at times. It could very well be the case that DC is driving all these terrible decisions, such as the one to skip doing solo movies to introduce the members of the Justice League and just throw it together in one rushed mess or to hire a 4th grader to CG out Cavill’s mustache.
The only thing that makes me doubt that explanation is the movie Sucker Punch. Snyder had free rein there and its troubling story line, laughable plot holes, and mechanical execution can really only be chalked up to him.
That doesn’t mean DC is off the hook. They’re obviously in a position to require their directors and writers to take a well thought out approach to their intellectual property and yet we see one sub par movie after another rolling out of their studios. It seems like the organization is sick all the way down except when Patty Jenkins is involved. Let’s hope she has something to do with the Captain Marvel movie.
I don’t know anything about Anna Boden, but in this case that could be a good thing.
Now, let’s crack our knuckles and get into Marvel’s problems:
- Too many Spider-Men
- Too many superhero movies coming too often cheapen their value
Other than that, they’ve got their kit together and are doing a bang up job.
Ciao, ya’ll. Keep on Genre-ing! (trying out a new tag line)
UPDATE: I just realized that James Gunn worked on Dawn of the Dead so that could explain the one outlier in Snyder’s otherwise mediocre oeuvre.