The Love Song of Judex (Summer’s End Edition)

My children returned to school this week. Which to my mind spells the end of summer.  Who cares what the calendar says, summer = not-in-school, end of discussion. And the end of summer, also, means the end of summer movie season. Some cinephiles welcome this transition. Not me.

You see, I like comic books. And I’m not one of those stuck-up toffs who thinks comics need to be graphic novels, all arty and grown-up and off-putting. No, I like superhero comics, and I like movies based on superhero comics. I like popcorn movies, I like movies who only aim to please, I like special effects.

In short, I’m easy to please. That being said, why am I so heard to please?

Comic Book Guy

I mean, seriously. Is it too much to ask that when you have a consortium of media companies who’ve invested a hundred million dollars or more in something they chooses to refer to as a “tent-pole,” and then invest another big sack of million dollar bills in market-testing, that the end result actually be worth paying money to sit through?

Am I being radical by asking that movies calculated to be entertaining be entertaining?

Part of the problem is this unholy obsession with origin stories that has unaccountably gripped Hollywood. I have come to believe that the five most terrifying words in the English language are “every story has a beginning.”

Let’s take as a point of discussion Ang Lee’s The Hulk, a film widely derided and very close to joining Ishtar as a punch line. For all that is said and written about this film’s missteps, not enough focus is given to the most obvious culprit: the decision to make it about the Hulk’s origins.

Comic panel

The first wave of superhero comics had heroes who were magical beings, space aliens, or rich men with psychological disorders: Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman. When Marvel came along to provide some competition in the marketplace, part of what they did to set their brand identity apart was to enforce some “realism,” at least by the standards of Cold War era pulp fiction. Marvel heroes had “scientific” explanations–usually something to do with radiation.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where 50 plus years of experience with radiation has taught us the cold, unhappy truth: it causes cancer. And not a whole lot else.

Origin story comic

But in the world of comics, who cares? The Hulk is an interesting character, a tragic figure a la Larry Talbot of the old Wolf Man movies. His origins are buried in the distant past, swept under the pop cultural carpet. All the hard-to-swallow stuff is behind us, and we can just indulge in the fun of watching poor Bruce Banner lose his cool.

But noooooo, the producers of the film felt that the best, most important, most satisfying Hulk story to tell was that first one, the least plausible and least enjoyable.
Time was, superhero movies didn’t care about origins, and accepted the fact that the fun stuff happens in media res.

Movie poster

Take for example the first superhero movie of them all, Judex.

If you wanted to be pedantic (and believe me, I’m fighting the urge), you could say that superhero fiction has its roots in eighteenth and nineteenth century pulp detective fiction–the Vidocqs and Lecoqs and Lupins. Fair enough. But you could do worse than start your clock at the moment Judex takes the stage.

Judex was a cliffhanger adventure serial created by the inestimable Louis Feuillade in 1917. Feuillade had taken some heat from the decency police of his day for allegedly glamorizing crime and violence in such serials as Fantomas and Les Vampires. Feuillade decided to try to shake the censors off his back by taking the genre formula he’d perfected and invert it, so that it celebrated a good guy rather than a ne’er- do-well.

Another movie poster

When Judex begins, the audience is lulled into thinking the mysterious black clad stranger is another Fantomas-style villain, preying on an upstanding and respectable French family. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the so-called victims of Judex’s attacks are corrupt monsters who have been shielded by their power and prestige. Judex is an avenger, tired of waiting for official justice, who has decided to settle the score on his own terms–using secret identities, gadgets, comrades, and an underground lair.

[wpvideo QmIZuVY3]

If you’re thinking “Batman” while watching this, well, come to front of the class and accept your gold star. The influence is so obvious that, had this happened in this era rather than a century ago there would’ve been lawsuits.

Comic

Then in 1963, Georges Franju remade Judex. And I mean remake–no silly “re-imagining” nonsense for him. Franju probably would have preferred to have been reverse-reincarnated as Feuillade, and figured the next best thing was to obsessively remake Feuillade’s films for modern audiences, with as few revisions as possible.

[wpvideo dYjfUfjt]

Here’s a small taste of the Feuillade/batman overlaps: in 1996, art house filmmaker Olivier Assayas paid his homage to Feuillade in the form of Irma Vep. It was a film-within-film study of a French film crew that sets out to pay homage to Feuillade by making a remake of Les Vampires. The crew within the film try to bring some contemporary energy to their remake by acting Hong Kong star Maggie Chung as Irma Vep, the slinky female super villain of the story. And when it comes time to outfit Chung for her role, naturally enough they attempt to copy Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman costume from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns!

[wpvideo HxbXCqLw]

Some small-minded development executive is going to read this blog and go into work on Monday proposing a remake of Judex, maybe starring Steve Carell or Zach Efron, that would be all about The Rise of Judex. Judex Begins. Something like that. Every story has a beginning. And it would tell the story of young Judex’s victimization at the hands of banker Favreaux (played by Jon Favreau, of course!). The film would end with Judex in his secret lair, wrapping a mask around his face for the first time. You’d have to do it this way, of course, to introduce the character of Judex to American audiences, who wouldn’t be familiar with him, right?

I really don’t get that fixation on origin stories. Who needs to be introduced at the beginning? How many of your best friends did you meet when they were born? The original Judex opens with his revenge scheme already in full swing–the 1960 remake chose not to change this, knowing that the audience would figure out what they needed to know about the character as it went along.

The very first Batman comic, taking whatever inspiration it did from Judex, isn’t Batman’s first adventure, merely the first one the writers shared with us. His “origin story” wasn’t unveiled until issue 33! And it doesn’t seem to have hindered audience acceptance of the character.

Oh well. I’m tired if kicking against the pricks. Next week I’ll share with you my origin story.

62 Responses The Love Song of Judex (Summer’s End Edition)
Posted By Jimmy : August 27, 2011 8:31 am

Nice coincidence, I was watching Franju’s Judex last night, and the first post on my RSS feed was yours.

I totally agree with the tiresomeness (is that a word?) of origin stories. I think they should be told in the fourth, or sixth sequel, when we actually could get curious about them. Not before (although actors aging could make this system problematic).

J

Posted By Jimmy : August 27, 2011 8:31 am

Nice coincidence, I was watching Franju’s Judex last night, and the first post on my RSS feed was yours.

I totally agree with the tiresomeness (is that a word?) of origin stories. I think they should be told in the fourth, or sixth sequel, when we actually could get curious about them. Not before (although actors aging could make this system problematic).

J

Posted By dukeroberts : August 27, 2011 10:17 am

Bob Kane always stated that the origins of Batman were taken from Zorro and Mary Rinehart Roberts’ novel, The Bat. It is quite possible that those were influenced by Judex, but I am something of a superhero connoisseur myself, and I have never heard of Judex. Don’t they all owe something to The Scarlet Pimpernel anyway?

And you are so right about these origins. The first Hulk movie was bogged down with the origin story. Not only that, but going back to his childhood and how his father abused him? Who wants to see that nonsense in a superhero movie? The second Hulk movie was much more entertaining. They showed the origin in flashback through the opening credits and got that mess out of the way.

The original Superman movie did show the origin, but it left out that 12 years or so period between reaching his Fortress of Solitude and reaching Metropolis. I was fine with that. The next Superman movie, coming out in 2013, will go back and retell his origin. Why? Doesn’t everybody know it already? “Well sure”, say the producers, “but we’re going to show you the missing years as well. It’s going to be like Smallville on the big screen. And we’re going to change his costume so that he doesn’t even look like Superman anymore. Cool?” No. I hate Smallville. I do not need to see another Superman origin story. The new costume is awful. Just show Superman fighting a powerful supervillain. “Well, we’re doing that too. General Zod is back.” Again? Yes. Oh boy. Yippee. And it ain’t Terrance Stamp.

The next Spider-Man movie will return to the origin well too. Only this time, they go back even further. We learn secrets about Peter’s dead parents! I don’t care. Can’t you just show Spider-Man beating up on the Rhino or the Vulture? We don’t need another origin story on top of the one that we just saw in 2002. And whose idea was it to make the Sandman the true killer of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man 3? Let me get my hands on that guy.

Batman Begins and X-Men: First Class were both really good despite the origin stories. I can see them wanting a new approach to the properties. To re-establish them they wanted to show the origin stories that were not really shown in the previous movies. However, both stories were rather unnecessary. Does anyone really care that Batman trained in the Himalayas under some secret, mystical order? Not really. X-Men: First Class showed how Xavier and Magneto got together to further mutantkind. It was a little more interesting, but still not necessary. Plus, the fact that they had already used some of the earlier X-Men in the other movies meant that they had to screw with the actual origins of the group. That kind of defeated the real purpose, if you ask me.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is utter garbage.

I think the origin story is overused and in most cases not necessary (new Superman, new Spider-Man, Batman Begins, etc), but it does help in cases where people are not so familiar with the character, as in the case of Iron Man. Great, fun movie. I apologize for rambling on so. I have a passion for superheroes and am very opinionated on the matter.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 27, 2011 10:17 am

Bob Kane always stated that the origins of Batman were taken from Zorro and Mary Rinehart Roberts’ novel, The Bat. It is quite possible that those were influenced by Judex, but I am something of a superhero connoisseur myself, and I have never heard of Judex. Don’t they all owe something to The Scarlet Pimpernel anyway?

And you are so right about these origins. The first Hulk movie was bogged down with the origin story. Not only that, but going back to his childhood and how his father abused him? Who wants to see that nonsense in a superhero movie? The second Hulk movie was much more entertaining. They showed the origin in flashback through the opening credits and got that mess out of the way.

The original Superman movie did show the origin, but it left out that 12 years or so period between reaching his Fortress of Solitude and reaching Metropolis. I was fine with that. The next Superman movie, coming out in 2013, will go back and retell his origin. Why? Doesn’t everybody know it already? “Well sure”, say the producers, “but we’re going to show you the missing years as well. It’s going to be like Smallville on the big screen. And we’re going to change his costume so that he doesn’t even look like Superman anymore. Cool?” No. I hate Smallville. I do not need to see another Superman origin story. The new costume is awful. Just show Superman fighting a powerful supervillain. “Well, we’re doing that too. General Zod is back.” Again? Yes. Oh boy. Yippee. And it ain’t Terrance Stamp.

The next Spider-Man movie will return to the origin well too. Only this time, they go back even further. We learn secrets about Peter’s dead parents! I don’t care. Can’t you just show Spider-Man beating up on the Rhino or the Vulture? We don’t need another origin story on top of the one that we just saw in 2002. And whose idea was it to make the Sandman the true killer of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man 3? Let me get my hands on that guy.

Batman Begins and X-Men: First Class were both really good despite the origin stories. I can see them wanting a new approach to the properties. To re-establish them they wanted to show the origin stories that were not really shown in the previous movies. However, both stories were rather unnecessary. Does anyone really care that Batman trained in the Himalayas under some secret, mystical order? Not really. X-Men: First Class showed how Xavier and Magneto got together to further mutantkind. It was a little more interesting, but still not necessary. Plus, the fact that they had already used some of the earlier X-Men in the other movies meant that they had to screw with the actual origins of the group. That kind of defeated the real purpose, if you ask me.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is utter garbage.

I think the origin story is overused and in most cases not necessary (new Superman, new Spider-Man, Batman Begins, etc), but it does help in cases where people are not so familiar with the character, as in the case of Iron Man. Great, fun movie. I apologize for rambling on so. I have a passion for superheroes and am very opinionated on the matter.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : August 27, 2011 12:31 pm

Duke, the whole Superman thing is just ridiculous. I agree, drop the new suit crap. Like I wrote in my piece on making these things period, it not only works better but you don’t have to be “embarrassed” about the old-school costume. Which they shouldn’t be anyway.

David, when our oldest daughter returns to college next week and the younger two back to school, oh dear lord am I going to be relieved! Par-tay!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : August 27, 2011 12:31 pm

Duke, the whole Superman thing is just ridiculous. I agree, drop the new suit crap. Like I wrote in my piece on making these things period, it not only works better but you don’t have to be “embarrassed” about the old-school costume. Which they shouldn’t be anyway.

David, when our oldest daughter returns to college next week and the younger two back to school, oh dear lord am I going to be relieved! Par-tay!

Posted By Tom S : August 27, 2011 1:44 pm

Say what you like about Burton’s Batman, it had the decency to be a mid-career caper. Though Batman Begins’ comic predecessor, Batman: Year One, was actually somewhat revolutionary for the character- because his origin was in flashback, we’d never seen what his early career was like, and it was an opportunity to explore a smaller-scale Batman, using more normal gadgetry and fighting against the mob instead of supervillains. (Unfortunately, Nolan’s movie did not do a good job of reproducing that feel- and The Dark Knight winds up being a strong argument for skipping the origins.) At any rate, though, there is something to be said for going back and doing the origin of a thoroughly familiar movie character, as they did in Casino Royale- it lets you strip away most of the elements that have become so iconic as to be rote, and it can be an interesting move psychologically.

I love Franju, but I’d take Eyes Without a Face over Judex. You can get Judex and Nuits Rouge for pretty cheap on a double bill from the English company Masters of Cinema.

Posted By Tom S : August 27, 2011 1:44 pm

Say what you like about Burton’s Batman, it had the decency to be a mid-career caper. Though Batman Begins’ comic predecessor, Batman: Year One, was actually somewhat revolutionary for the character- because his origin was in flashback, we’d never seen what his early career was like, and it was an opportunity to explore a smaller-scale Batman, using more normal gadgetry and fighting against the mob instead of supervillains. (Unfortunately, Nolan’s movie did not do a good job of reproducing that feel- and The Dark Knight winds up being a strong argument for skipping the origins.) At any rate, though, there is something to be said for going back and doing the origin of a thoroughly familiar movie character, as they did in Casino Royale- it lets you strip away most of the elements that have become so iconic as to be rote, and it can be an interesting move psychologically.

I love Franju, but I’d take Eyes Without a Face over Judex. You can get Judex and Nuits Rouge for pretty cheap on a double bill from the English company Masters of Cinema.

Posted By Tom S : August 27, 2011 1:47 pm

Also, it is really irritating how often they reuse the same supervillains in some of the franchises. I have to give Begins credit for picking two major guys who hadn’t been done to death, and I think the Joker is such a huge part of the Batman mythos that you can’t really skip him, but for Superman- everyone does Luthor, that makes sense, but come on, let’s get Darkseid on screen, or The Preserver or something.

Posted By Tom S : August 27, 2011 1:47 pm

Also, it is really irritating how often they reuse the same supervillains in some of the franchises. I have to give Begins credit for picking two major guys who hadn’t been done to death, and I think the Joker is such a huge part of the Batman mythos that you can’t really skip him, but for Superman- everyone does Luthor, that makes sense, but come on, let’s get Darkseid on screen, or The Preserver or something.

Posted By Juana Maria : August 27, 2011 3:52 pm

I always loved Superman and still do!

Posted By Juana Maria : August 27, 2011 3:52 pm

I always loved Superman and still do!

Posted By suzidoll : August 27, 2011 4:32 pm

I personally don’t think it’s the “origin story” trend that makes super-hero movies dull these days. I think it’s the studio’s fixation on the adolescent male demographic. The material for superhero movies is watered down and altered by studio execs, and directors are “directed” by studio execs to include techniques/conventions that supposedly appeal to teen boys–fast paced editing, sfx that resemble video games so the boys will play/buy the game version of the movie,dialogue peppered with quotable one-liners, etc. Also, subplots involving romance or other issues have been eliminated or simplified because 12-year-old boys hate them, so there are very few female characters that are beyond eye candy or the object of the hero’s quest. Or, they are turned into female versions of male superheroes (re: Tomb Raider). Or, worse, they are the objects of ridicule, or presented as “bitches” who get what they deserve (the first IRON MAN disgusted me because of the female characters). Subtext, which makes these films appealing to adults, is nonexistent; mise-en-scene, which creates mood and atmosphere, has been obliterated in favor of 2-d computer-generated imagery that lacks the influence on audiences that actual lighting, set design, and camera angle have.

Christopher Nolan aside, most studios prefer “hacks” who are uninterested in turning the material into something that reflects their interests. Hacks follow orders and pick up their paychecks. It’s what happened to the Burton’s Batman; McDonald’s (who wanted the Batman figures for Happy Meals) complained that Burton’s two films were too adult, too dark. So, Warner Bros. replaced Burton with Joel Schumacher, who didn’t care anything about the material. He did what he was told. And, we all know where that lead.

I preferred Ang Lee’s misfire HULK to the later one, because it followed some of the themes/motifs that Lee uses in his other films. I prefer thought-provoking misfires to superficial movies aimed at the demographic. And, I think the main reason why his HULK did not work was because of the decision to go with a CGI-generated HULK, which Lee fought against but the studio demanded. There was no tension or suspense in the film (thereby, rendering it dull) because Eric Bana turned into a big, fat, green, 2-d-looking cartoon, not a solid-looking Hulk with real mass that adult brains perceive of as “alive.”

In playing so hard to a specific demographic–and, one with limited tastes at that–the studios are losing other audience groups. That’s just not smart movie-making or marketing, for that matter.

Posted By suzidoll : August 27, 2011 4:32 pm

I personally don’t think it’s the “origin story” trend that makes super-hero movies dull these days. I think it’s the studio’s fixation on the adolescent male demographic. The material for superhero movies is watered down and altered by studio execs, and directors are “directed” by studio execs to include techniques/conventions that supposedly appeal to teen boys–fast paced editing, sfx that resemble video games so the boys will play/buy the game version of the movie,dialogue peppered with quotable one-liners, etc. Also, subplots involving romance or other issues have been eliminated or simplified because 12-year-old boys hate them, so there are very few female characters that are beyond eye candy or the object of the hero’s quest. Or, they are turned into female versions of male superheroes (re: Tomb Raider). Or, worse, they are the objects of ridicule, or presented as “bitches” who get what they deserve (the first IRON MAN disgusted me because of the female characters). Subtext, which makes these films appealing to adults, is nonexistent; mise-en-scene, which creates mood and atmosphere, has been obliterated in favor of 2-d computer-generated imagery that lacks the influence on audiences that actual lighting, set design, and camera angle have.

Christopher Nolan aside, most studios prefer “hacks” who are uninterested in turning the material into something that reflects their interests. Hacks follow orders and pick up their paychecks. It’s what happened to the Burton’s Batman; McDonald’s (who wanted the Batman figures for Happy Meals) complained that Burton’s two films were too adult, too dark. So, Warner Bros. replaced Burton with Joel Schumacher, who didn’t care anything about the material. He did what he was told. And, we all know where that lead.

I preferred Ang Lee’s misfire HULK to the later one, because it followed some of the themes/motifs that Lee uses in his other films. I prefer thought-provoking misfires to superficial movies aimed at the demographic. And, I think the main reason why his HULK did not work was because of the decision to go with a CGI-generated HULK, which Lee fought against but the studio demanded. There was no tension or suspense in the film (thereby, rendering it dull) because Eric Bana turned into a big, fat, green, 2-d-looking cartoon, not a solid-looking Hulk with real mass that adult brains perceive of as “alive.”

In playing so hard to a specific demographic–and, one with limited tastes at that–the studios are losing other audience groups. That’s just not smart movie-making or marketing, for that matter.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 27, 2011 6:04 pm

I love Burton’s Batman. It touched on the genesis of Batman, showing the murder of his parents, and that was really all we needed to see. We then got to see him smash bad guys. That is what superhero movies should be about: smashing bad guys. They sprang from the old pulp adventure stories. Those were full of action and adventure. There has to be some exposition tossed in now and again, but then bad guys must be smashed. That’s the real reason Ang Lee’s Hulk was a bore. Hulk is a monster. “Hulk smash!” is his phrase. When you take away the “smash” you get a pondering affair mired by depressive looks and daddy issues.

Movies based on comic book superheroes should be made for the 12 year old in all of us. Where’s the fun in watching Peter Parker cry endlessly in Spider-Man 3 (between dance scenes)? In the first two movies there was plenty of personal relationship stuff. It didn’t seem overburdened by them. They served the story well, but there was also some “Gee whiz!” about them. There was a nice balance. In the third, there was more of everything. More crying! More singing! More dancing! More CGI fights that you don’t understand visually! Yes, CGI effects are a problem too.

Remember the first time you saw Superman fly in the movie? That was a human person flying, albeit hooked up to a rig, but it was a real person. Nowadays, it’s all CGI. I will agree with Suzi on that point. The CGI is cold and leaves you disaffected. There’s nothing at stake when a cartoon man is in peril. Practical effects and photographic effects are more effective, I think, at getting you involved in the plight of the characters.

Now, where I will disagree with Suzi, is that the studios are now, seemingly based on the success of The Dark Knight, making superhero movies darker so that they will appeal to adults as well as to the 12 year old boys. The upcoming Superman and Spider-Man movies are going to be “darker and edgier”. One of the producers of Green Lantern said the sequel will be much “darker and edgier”. Iron Man 2 was quite a bit darker than Iron Man. The X-Men movies had tinges of social conscience and civil rights issues in them. They were not bright, happy affairs. These movies are not all whiz bang, fun-for-kids movies. Some heroes can get away with that more adult, and darker approach. Superman and Spider-Man should not go down that road.

I also disagree with Suzi about the Iron Man movies treatment of women. I do not see how Pepper Potts is a bitch who got what she deserved. Pepper Potts is a strong, attractive, confident, intelligent woman who has not slept with her boss to get to the top. Her boss loves and respects her more than he does anyone else. She is there when he needs her and even saves his life twice in the first movie.

And Tom. I agree with you. I still prefer Burton’s Batman movie to Batman Begins. It wasn’t really a midcareer tale though, because there was no relationship with Gordon at the beginning and no bat signal until the end. In fact, at the beginning, they weren’t even sure if he was real. I would call it an early career tale. Batman: Year One is a magnificent read by the way. You are right about that and about the re-used villains. I would love to see Superman fight Parasite, Brainiac or Doomsday.

Finally, I just really can’t get over the idea of this new Superman costume. It is not Superman to me. The suit is iconic. It didn’t need to be messed with. Same goes for the new Spidey costume too. It’s pretty atrocious. Sorry to go on again.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 27, 2011 6:04 pm

I love Burton’s Batman. It touched on the genesis of Batman, showing the murder of his parents, and that was really all we needed to see. We then got to see him smash bad guys. That is what superhero movies should be about: smashing bad guys. They sprang from the old pulp adventure stories. Those were full of action and adventure. There has to be some exposition tossed in now and again, but then bad guys must be smashed. That’s the real reason Ang Lee’s Hulk was a bore. Hulk is a monster. “Hulk smash!” is his phrase. When you take away the “smash” you get a pondering affair mired by depressive looks and daddy issues.

Movies based on comic book superheroes should be made for the 12 year old in all of us. Where’s the fun in watching Peter Parker cry endlessly in Spider-Man 3 (between dance scenes)? In the first two movies there was plenty of personal relationship stuff. It didn’t seem overburdened by them. They served the story well, but there was also some “Gee whiz!” about them. There was a nice balance. In the third, there was more of everything. More crying! More singing! More dancing! More CGI fights that you don’t understand visually! Yes, CGI effects are a problem too.

Remember the first time you saw Superman fly in the movie? That was a human person flying, albeit hooked up to a rig, but it was a real person. Nowadays, it’s all CGI. I will agree with Suzi on that point. The CGI is cold and leaves you disaffected. There’s nothing at stake when a cartoon man is in peril. Practical effects and photographic effects are more effective, I think, at getting you involved in the plight of the characters.

Now, where I will disagree with Suzi, is that the studios are now, seemingly based on the success of The Dark Knight, making superhero movies darker so that they will appeal to adults as well as to the 12 year old boys. The upcoming Superman and Spider-Man movies are going to be “darker and edgier”. One of the producers of Green Lantern said the sequel will be much “darker and edgier”. Iron Man 2 was quite a bit darker than Iron Man. The X-Men movies had tinges of social conscience and civil rights issues in them. They were not bright, happy affairs. These movies are not all whiz bang, fun-for-kids movies. Some heroes can get away with that more adult, and darker approach. Superman and Spider-Man should not go down that road.

I also disagree with Suzi about the Iron Man movies treatment of women. I do not see how Pepper Potts is a bitch who got what she deserved. Pepper Potts is a strong, attractive, confident, intelligent woman who has not slept with her boss to get to the top. Her boss loves and respects her more than he does anyone else. She is there when he needs her and even saves his life twice in the first movie.

And Tom. I agree with you. I still prefer Burton’s Batman movie to Batman Begins. It wasn’t really a midcareer tale though, because there was no relationship with Gordon at the beginning and no bat signal until the end. In fact, at the beginning, they weren’t even sure if he was real. I would call it an early career tale. Batman: Year One is a magnificent read by the way. You are right about that and about the re-used villains. I would love to see Superman fight Parasite, Brainiac or Doomsday.

Finally, I just really can’t get over the idea of this new Superman costume. It is not Superman to me. The suit is iconic. It didn’t need to be messed with. Same goes for the new Spidey costume too. It’s pretty atrocious. Sorry to go on again.

Posted By suzidoll : August 27, 2011 7:11 pm

Dukeroberts: I respect your point of view, but there is more to appealing to the demographic than you might think. Becoming darker and edgier doesn’t have anything to do with the smartness or relevance of the material to other age groups. Often dark, embittered, and violent protagonists are right up a teen’s alley — just look at the video games they play. And, appealing to “the 12 year old in all of us” is a far cry from real 12-year-olds and gearing a large percentage of commercial films toward their limited, narrowly framed tastes.

Burton’s Batman films were about a man coming to grips with his dark side and wondering if the dark side might win out–a common theme in all of Burton’s films and a universal theme that is as old as storytelling itself. His filmic references to German Expressionism underscore this theme. Nolan’s Batman films are have a bit of that but focus more on the psychopathic nature public figures whose jobs are to serve and protect us, but they are failing because of private agendas. Tell me that isn’t a relevant issue in the zeitgeist now. Small wonder adults can relate to the films, even if they can’t quite put their fingers on why. However, Spiderman, X-men, and other superhero movies are directly or indirectly about the struggles of adolescence (for ex.,looking or being different from your peers, oh boo-hoo), and the material and motifs are simplified and shaped to that idea.

Also, I don’t think using certain filmmaking techniques just because studio execs think they appeal to teen boys makes for interesting films. How fast and chaotic the editing is should be a decision the director makes — not producers hoping to please teen boys. And, dialogue in these films has been reduced to explanatory passages and comic one-liners that aren’t even ironic. There’s no rhythm to it, no layered meaning, and no attempt to make the phrasing fit the star’s vocal strengths. All of that was a matter of course in films of past eras. This kind of craftsmanship–or the lack thereof–is also part of the issue in appealing to the demographic.

We’ll just have to agree to disagree about Pepper in Iron Man. I don’t find her a strong woman. She exists solely to serve Iron Man and has no life/career/issues/purpose/problems of her own. Boring for female viewers. But the “bitch” that gets her comeuppance in IRON MAN is another female character, which I don’t want to get into here for the sake of brevity.

Posted By suzidoll : August 27, 2011 7:11 pm

Dukeroberts: I respect your point of view, but there is more to appealing to the demographic than you might think. Becoming darker and edgier doesn’t have anything to do with the smartness or relevance of the material to other age groups. Often dark, embittered, and violent protagonists are right up a teen’s alley — just look at the video games they play. And, appealing to “the 12 year old in all of us” is a far cry from real 12-year-olds and gearing a large percentage of commercial films toward their limited, narrowly framed tastes.

Burton’s Batman films were about a man coming to grips with his dark side and wondering if the dark side might win out–a common theme in all of Burton’s films and a universal theme that is as old as storytelling itself. His filmic references to German Expressionism underscore this theme. Nolan’s Batman films are have a bit of that but focus more on the psychopathic nature public figures whose jobs are to serve and protect us, but they are failing because of private agendas. Tell me that isn’t a relevant issue in the zeitgeist now. Small wonder adults can relate to the films, even if they can’t quite put their fingers on why. However, Spiderman, X-men, and other superhero movies are directly or indirectly about the struggles of adolescence (for ex.,looking or being different from your peers, oh boo-hoo), and the material and motifs are simplified and shaped to that idea.

Also, I don’t think using certain filmmaking techniques just because studio execs think they appeal to teen boys makes for interesting films. How fast and chaotic the editing is should be a decision the director makes — not producers hoping to please teen boys. And, dialogue in these films has been reduced to explanatory passages and comic one-liners that aren’t even ironic. There’s no rhythm to it, no layered meaning, and no attempt to make the phrasing fit the star’s vocal strengths. All of that was a matter of course in films of past eras. This kind of craftsmanship–or the lack thereof–is also part of the issue in appealing to the demographic.

We’ll just have to agree to disagree about Pepper in Iron Man. I don’t find her a strong woman. She exists solely to serve Iron Man and has no life/career/issues/purpose/problems of her own. Boring for female viewers. But the “bitch” that gets her comeuppance in IRON MAN is another female character, which I don’t want to get into here for the sake of brevity.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 27, 2011 11:34 pm

She serves Tony Stark because that is her job. She does it so willingly because she loves him. You know the saying, “Behind every great man there is a woman”. He would be a mess without her. He relies on her for almost everything. Their relationship is a virtual marriage.

And I’m assuming you mean the female reporter. His treatment of her just shows what a playboy cad he is.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 27, 2011 11:34 pm

She serves Tony Stark because that is her job. She does it so willingly because she loves him. You know the saying, “Behind every great man there is a woman”. He would be a mess without her. He relies on her for almost everything. Their relationship is a virtual marriage.

And I’m assuming you mean the female reporter. His treatment of her just shows what a playboy cad he is.

Posted By Tom S : August 27, 2011 11:41 pm

Pepper Potts has virtually no agency nor character outside of ‘Tony’s helper’- the fact that she’s characterized as being smart and capable just makes that weak usage of her more upsetting, not less.

Posted By Tom S : August 27, 2011 11:41 pm

Pepper Potts has virtually no agency nor character outside of ‘Tony’s helper’- the fact that she’s characterized as being smart and capable just makes that weak usage of her more upsetting, not less.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 12:08 am

If your complaint about superhero movies was directed at the movie industry overall I would be right there with you. The business side too often overrides the story side. However, we are talking about superhero movies in particular. If some smartness and intelligence are added into the writing that is great, but ultimately it is a story about a superhero.

While Spider-Man’s basic story is about being different from his peers and being an outcast as a teen, the X-Men is more than just that. There is that element to them, but the larger aspect is civil rights. In the old comics they would often show scenes of people on the streets holding up picket signs saying “Die Mutie Scum!” and things like that. This is a direct reflection of things that were happening in the civil rights era. Stan Lee felt strongly about the way blacks were treated during segregation. Being a Jew, he felt a kind of kinship in the way blacks were treated and often dehumanized. He took the ideas of equality and segregation and applied them to the comic book world and a new minority: Mutants. If he had tried to write a comic book in 1964 speaking about how bad segregation was and how bad the treatment of black people by whites was it wouldn’t have been published. Martin Goodman, the publisher, wouldn’t have allowed it.

Dialogue fitting the star’s vocal strengths is an error in casting, not writing. I would recast most superhero movies to fit the characters, not retool the script to fit the actor. In fact, if I could have a crack recasting Daredevil, I would gladly do so. That movie, although not great by any stretch of the imagination, was not well served by its principal actors. They were all sorts of wrong.

I don’t think we’re going to agree on these points. I love superhero movies and want to see more of them. My inner 8-12 year old wants to be wowed, not given nuance and deep characterization. If that can be done, and the movie can still wow me, that’s fine, but being wowed is most important. These are characters I grew up reading about, that took up a great amount of mine and my parents’ money. I want to see them defeat evil bad guys as they did on the page. I want to see Billy Batson say “Holy Moley!” and then “Shazam!” and turn into Captain Marvel and fight that evil little worm, Mr. Mind. They’re onscreen realizations of childhood fantasy.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 12:08 am

If your complaint about superhero movies was directed at the movie industry overall I would be right there with you. The business side too often overrides the story side. However, we are talking about superhero movies in particular. If some smartness and intelligence are added into the writing that is great, but ultimately it is a story about a superhero.

While Spider-Man’s basic story is about being different from his peers and being an outcast as a teen, the X-Men is more than just that. There is that element to them, but the larger aspect is civil rights. In the old comics they would often show scenes of people on the streets holding up picket signs saying “Die Mutie Scum!” and things like that. This is a direct reflection of things that were happening in the civil rights era. Stan Lee felt strongly about the way blacks were treated during segregation. Being a Jew, he felt a kind of kinship in the way blacks were treated and often dehumanized. He took the ideas of equality and segregation and applied them to the comic book world and a new minority: Mutants. If he had tried to write a comic book in 1964 speaking about how bad segregation was and how bad the treatment of black people by whites was it wouldn’t have been published. Martin Goodman, the publisher, wouldn’t have allowed it.

Dialogue fitting the star’s vocal strengths is an error in casting, not writing. I would recast most superhero movies to fit the characters, not retool the script to fit the actor. In fact, if I could have a crack recasting Daredevil, I would gladly do so. That movie, although not great by any stretch of the imagination, was not well served by its principal actors. They were all sorts of wrong.

I don’t think we’re going to agree on these points. I love superhero movies and want to see more of them. My inner 8-12 year old wants to be wowed, not given nuance and deep characterization. If that can be done, and the movie can still wow me, that’s fine, but being wowed is most important. These are characters I grew up reading about, that took up a great amount of mine and my parents’ money. I want to see them defeat evil bad guys as they did on the page. I want to see Billy Batson say “Holy Moley!” and then “Shazam!” and turn into Captain Marvel and fight that evil little worm, Mr. Mind. They’re onscreen realizations of childhood fantasy.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 12:17 am

Tom- the movie is called “Iron Man” though. Every other character serves the purpose of telling a story about Iron Man. Happy is his chauffeur, but I’m sure he has other interesting traits as well. It doesn’t matter though. The movie is called “Iron Man”. The same with Rhodey. He is Tony’s best friend. He happens to be black. His presence serves the story of Iron Man. He is not a black man subservient to a rich, white man. Just because Pepper is Tony’s assistant is not proof of the patriarchal society keeping a smart woman down.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 12:17 am

Tom- the movie is called “Iron Man” though. Every other character serves the purpose of telling a story about Iron Man. Happy is his chauffeur, but I’m sure he has other interesting traits as well. It doesn’t matter though. The movie is called “Iron Man”. The same with Rhodey. He is Tony’s best friend. He happens to be black. His presence serves the story of Iron Man. He is not a black man subservient to a rich, white man. Just because Pepper is Tony’s assistant is not proof of the patriarchal society keeping a smart woman down.

Posted By suzidoll : August 28, 2011 1:59 am

Dukeroberts: You’re missing some of the points I am trying to get at here. I am probably not saying what I mean very well, but also, I think you are focusing on the text (the content), probably because you know all the history of the comic books, the characters, and their film versions. I think Tom S. and I are talking more about the subtexts of the films; what the characters suggest or represent. For example, it doesn’t matter what Pepper’s job is; the fact that this character is the only primary female is not an interesting representation of women in the film, to say the least. You can’t rationalize that by claiming her subservience is part of the character’s job description so therefore it’s okay.

Posted By suzidoll : August 28, 2011 1:59 am

Dukeroberts: You’re missing some of the points I am trying to get at here. I am probably not saying what I mean very well, but also, I think you are focusing on the text (the content), probably because you know all the history of the comic books, the characters, and their film versions. I think Tom S. and I are talking more about the subtexts of the films; what the characters suggest or represent. For example, it doesn’t matter what Pepper’s job is; the fact that this character is the only primary female is not an interesting representation of women in the film, to say the least. You can’t rationalize that by claiming her subservience is part of the character’s job description so therefore it’s okay.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 2:36 am

Honestly, I was never a big fan of Iron Man in the comics. I find Pepper interesting, but I don’t feel that there has to be an interesting representation of a woman in the film. The film is about Iron Man. If the movie was about Wonder Woman I wouldn’t feel that Steve Trevor had to be a particularly interesting representation of a man. I find nothing wrong in the character of Pepper Potts because without her being in service to Tony Stark, which in turn makes her in service to the plot involving Iron Man, there would be no purpose for her to even be in the movie. If they were to make a Pepper Potts movie I would expect Iron Man to not seem as interesting because the focus would be on Pepper.

The one weakness of the Antonio Banderas Zorro movies was the, I felt, pandering to the modern age women in making Catherine Zeta-Jones’s character practically Zorro’s equal in swordsmanship. The movie is about Zorro. Zorro is the master swordsman. If Zorro is not the best swordsman in California, then why is he such a big deal? He should be taken out easily by another swordsman, or swordswoman.

Is Tarzan’s Jane not interesting because she isn’t Tarzan’s equal when it comes to physical strengths and courage? I don’t think so. I find Jane very interesting.

I was much more upset by how Sue Storm was portrayed in the Fantastic Four movies. Those were pretty poorly written. They should have concentrated on having four interesting teammates. Each character is equally important to the overall story. Instead, they made her a shrill bitch who went back and forth between Doctor Doom and Mister Fantastic. I also didn’t particularly care for how the characters who were not Wolverine were treated in the X-Men movies. Those movies should have been called Wolverine and Friends.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 2:36 am

Honestly, I was never a big fan of Iron Man in the comics. I find Pepper interesting, but I don’t feel that there has to be an interesting representation of a woman in the film. The film is about Iron Man. If the movie was about Wonder Woman I wouldn’t feel that Steve Trevor had to be a particularly interesting representation of a man. I find nothing wrong in the character of Pepper Potts because without her being in service to Tony Stark, which in turn makes her in service to the plot involving Iron Man, there would be no purpose for her to even be in the movie. If they were to make a Pepper Potts movie I would expect Iron Man to not seem as interesting because the focus would be on Pepper.

The one weakness of the Antonio Banderas Zorro movies was the, I felt, pandering to the modern age women in making Catherine Zeta-Jones’s character practically Zorro’s equal in swordsmanship. The movie is about Zorro. Zorro is the master swordsman. If Zorro is not the best swordsman in California, then why is he such a big deal? He should be taken out easily by another swordsman, or swordswoman.

Is Tarzan’s Jane not interesting because she isn’t Tarzan’s equal when it comes to physical strengths and courage? I don’t think so. I find Jane very interesting.

I was much more upset by how Sue Storm was portrayed in the Fantastic Four movies. Those were pretty poorly written. They should have concentrated on having four interesting teammates. Each character is equally important to the overall story. Instead, they made her a shrill bitch who went back and forth between Doctor Doom and Mister Fantastic. I also didn’t particularly care for how the characters who were not Wolverine were treated in the X-Men movies. Those movies should have been called Wolverine and Friends.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 4:12 am

Compare Pepper Potts in Iron Man to the Maggie Gyllenhall character in The Dark Knight. Gyllenhall clearly isn’t the focus of the film, but we know that she has a life of her own, goals that aren’t a subset of Batman’s, the ability to make choices, all sorts of things. Pepper seems to be there solely as an aide and a sitcom mom for Iron Man- even when she’s put in charge of Stark Industries, her main interest seems to be worrying about him. It’s annoying.

While I’m with you that to some degree the fact that Stark is callous towards women doesn’t mean the movie is, the scene where Pepper is extremely rude towards Tony’s latest conquest is a little painful- we have basically the only women who get lines in the movie in a scene together, and it immediately degenerates into a catfight. Why would Pepper show disdain towards the woman Tony sleeps with, and not Tony himself?

I actually think Iron Man is a fairly fun movie, but it (and a lot of the Marvel movies, now I come to think of it) feels a little like a Michael Bay movie in its treatment of women.

Ironically, though, I think the character work was much stronger in Iron Man than the actual action was- I liked Robert Downey Jr’s performance, but robots beating up robots is pretty well totally uninteresting. I like superhero movies in theory, but the only ones I’ve seen in the last few years that stick in my mind as being good both at rendering the characters and rendering the action are the Hellboy movies and The Dark Knight.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 4:12 am

Compare Pepper Potts in Iron Man to the Maggie Gyllenhall character in The Dark Knight. Gyllenhall clearly isn’t the focus of the film, but we know that she has a life of her own, goals that aren’t a subset of Batman’s, the ability to make choices, all sorts of things. Pepper seems to be there solely as an aide and a sitcom mom for Iron Man- even when she’s put in charge of Stark Industries, her main interest seems to be worrying about him. It’s annoying.

While I’m with you that to some degree the fact that Stark is callous towards women doesn’t mean the movie is, the scene where Pepper is extremely rude towards Tony’s latest conquest is a little painful- we have basically the only women who get lines in the movie in a scene together, and it immediately degenerates into a catfight. Why would Pepper show disdain towards the woman Tony sleeps with, and not Tony himself?

I actually think Iron Man is a fairly fun movie, but it (and a lot of the Marvel movies, now I come to think of it) feels a little like a Michael Bay movie in its treatment of women.

Ironically, though, I think the character work was much stronger in Iron Man than the actual action was- I liked Robert Downey Jr’s performance, but robots beating up robots is pretty well totally uninteresting. I like superhero movies in theory, but the only ones I’ve seen in the last few years that stick in my mind as being good both at rendering the characters and rendering the action are the Hellboy movies and The Dark Knight.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 2:18 pm

Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America all could have had more action. You’re right about that.

Maggie Gyllenhall’s character worked for the D.A.’s office, so she wasn’y showing subservience to Bruce/Batman, but I think the case could be made that she was somewhat subservient to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight.

I wonder if we would agree that Lois Lane is somewhat unique when it comes to superhero love interests.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 2:18 pm

Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America all could have had more action. You’re right about that.

Maggie Gyllenhall’s character worked for the D.A.’s office, so she wasn’y showing subservience to Bruce/Batman, but I think the case could be made that she was somewhat subservient to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight.

I wonder if we would agree that Lois Lane is somewhat unique when it comes to superhero love interests.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 2:23 pm

I disagree about the Marvel/Michael Bay comparison. The Marvel movies have not oversexualized the women as Michael Bay tends to do in EVERY movie. I didn’t see the latest Transformers movie, but I heard that the establishing shot of the female lead is an extreme close-up of her ass in panties as she walks up the stairs. With my great disdain for those movies, this actually sounds like the best part. Those movies are terrible.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 2:23 pm

I disagree about the Marvel/Michael Bay comparison. The Marvel movies have not oversexualized the women as Michael Bay tends to do in EVERY movie. I didn’t see the latest Transformers movie, but I heard that the establishing shot of the female lead is an extreme close-up of her ass in panties as she walks up the stairs. With my great disdain for those movies, this actually sounds like the best part. Those movies are terrible.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 2:44 pm

Re: The Dark Knight

Gyllenhall’s character works for Dent, but she’s not subservient to him, and she has interests outside of him. It’s not women being written in roles where there’s a guy who’s their boss that I object to, it’s the way they relate to those men- Gyllenhall likes Harvey Dent, and she works for him, but you don’t get the impression that he (or Batman) is the center of the universe for her.

Lois is an interesting character, one of the few superhero girlfriends I can think of who had her own book- though that book wasn’t particularly progressive or anything (there are times when her characterization goes from ‘daring and intrepid’ to ‘reckless on the assumption that Superman will always protect her’ or even ‘tempting fate in the hopes that it will get her some time with Superman’. I believe she’s modeled somewhat on Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, and when she’s written that way she’s pretty great.

I don’t think the Marvel movies are as exploitative as Michael Bay’s, just that women have similarly-written roles.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 2:44 pm

Re: The Dark Knight

Gyllenhall’s character works for Dent, but she’s not subservient to him, and she has interests outside of him. It’s not women being written in roles where there’s a guy who’s their boss that I object to, it’s the way they relate to those men- Gyllenhall likes Harvey Dent, and she works for him, but you don’t get the impression that he (or Batman) is the center of the universe for her.

Lois is an interesting character, one of the few superhero girlfriends I can think of who had her own book- though that book wasn’t particularly progressive or anything (there are times when her characterization goes from ‘daring and intrepid’ to ‘reckless on the assumption that Superman will always protect her’ or even ‘tempting fate in the hopes that it will get her some time with Superman’. I believe she’s modeled somewhat on Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, and when she’s written that way she’s pretty great.

I don’t think the Marvel movies are as exploitative as Michael Bay’s, just that women have similarly-written roles.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 3:02 pm

Here’s an observation I have made: Women will go see movies that their guys want to see, regardless of the roles the women have in those movies. Men, in the reverse? Not so much. Though the actual viewing audience for superhero and action movies does skew male, alot of women will go see them just to spend time with their guys. It helps if the male lead is “cute” or “hot”. When it comes to movies geared towards women, or “chick flicks”, guys are often not willing to see them, not even to please their lady in some cases. Women very often go see these movies together or in large groups, like when that Sex and the City movie came out. The local news covered the opening of the movie here and there were hundreds of groups of women, dressed stylishly, attending the movie at different theatres all over town. It was quite an event. There was nary a man in sight. The roles for women in these male oriented movies don’t have to be well-written. It’s fine if they are, but why should they bother? Give us a good Wonder Woman movie though, and I will be the first guy in line.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 3:02 pm

Here’s an observation I have made: Women will go see movies that their guys want to see, regardless of the roles the women have in those movies. Men, in the reverse? Not so much. Though the actual viewing audience for superhero and action movies does skew male, alot of women will go see them just to spend time with their guys. It helps if the male lead is “cute” or “hot”. When it comes to movies geared towards women, or “chick flicks”, guys are often not willing to see them, not even to please their lady in some cases. Women very often go see these movies together or in large groups, like when that Sex and the City movie came out. The local news covered the opening of the movie here and there were hundreds of groups of women, dressed stylishly, attending the movie at different theatres all over town. It was quite an event. There was nary a man in sight. The roles for women in these male oriented movies don’t have to be well-written. It’s fine if they are, but why should they bother? Give us a good Wonder Woman movie though, and I will be the first guy in line.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 3:22 pm

That’s like… the essence of the patriarchal issue here. Women go to see movies designed to please men because that is the default way to make a movie- one designed towards women is ghettoized as a ‘chick flick’, even when it’s not (Bridesmaids, for example) and men are socialized to assume they would rather die than see them.

The fact that women wind up going to see movies that do not feature any half-way decent female characters isn’t a sign that women don’t care about such things, or that there’s no need to bother with them, it’s a sign of a deeply problematic system.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 3:22 pm

That’s like… the essence of the patriarchal issue here. Women go to see movies designed to please men because that is the default way to make a movie- one designed towards women is ghettoized as a ‘chick flick’, even when it’s not (Bridesmaids, for example) and men are socialized to assume they would rather die than see them.

The fact that women wind up going to see movies that do not feature any half-way decent female characters isn’t a sign that women don’t care about such things, or that there’s no need to bother with them, it’s a sign of a deeply problematic system.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 3:45 pm

Bridesmaids was hilarious. Deeply problematic though the system may be, it works for those involved. If women cared enough, en masse, about such things then they wouldn’t go see those movies with women in such roles, like men collectively don’t care to see chick flicks. Since it doesn’t seem to bother women enough, why cater to them?

Hiring female screenwriters to write superhero scripts about male superheroes might be a step in the right direction, but they shouldn’t be hired for that specific reason. If they try to write too much from the female lead’s perspective, the film may suffer from the lack of the titular character’s presence or voice. I’m not saying that would definitely happen, but it is a possibility. The first Hellboy movie suffered because it was from the perspective of that young, new recruit, and not from Hellboy’s perspective. The primary importance in a superhero movie is the hero. Secondary to the hero is the villain. Everything else is exposition leading to the hero’s goal of defeating the villain.

I think the first two Spider-Man movies suffered a little by including Mary Jane at all. Spidey/Peter was more interesting in the comic books when he was striking out with every girl he asked out. Of course, if people were to be asked what they remember most from the first Spider-Man movie, they might say “the kiss” more than anything else, so what do I know?

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 3:45 pm

Bridesmaids was hilarious. Deeply problematic though the system may be, it works for those involved. If women cared enough, en masse, about such things then they wouldn’t go see those movies with women in such roles, like men collectively don’t care to see chick flicks. Since it doesn’t seem to bother women enough, why cater to them?

Hiring female screenwriters to write superhero scripts about male superheroes might be a step in the right direction, but they shouldn’t be hired for that specific reason. If they try to write too much from the female lead’s perspective, the film may suffer from the lack of the titular character’s presence or voice. I’m not saying that would definitely happen, but it is a possibility. The first Hellboy movie suffered because it was from the perspective of that young, new recruit, and not from Hellboy’s perspective. The primary importance in a superhero movie is the hero. Secondary to the hero is the villain. Everything else is exposition leading to the hero’s goal of defeating the villain.

I think the first two Spider-Man movies suffered a little by including Mary Jane at all. Spidey/Peter was more interesting in the comic books when he was striking out with every girl he asked out. Of course, if people were to be asked what they remember most from the first Spider-Man movie, they might say “the kiss” more than anything else, so what do I know?

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 4:31 pm

“The system may be screwed up, but it works” is how a lot of horrible things get justified, though- black people still rode the buses when they were segregated for decades, doesn’t mean that was ok by any means.

I agree, that character in Hellboy felt irrelevant, like something tacked on due to studio demands- notice how abruptly he is dropped in the second one. I think the issue there is that Hollywood often seems to think we need a bland white dude to guide us through movies- Orlando Bloom’s character in Pirates, for example- and it’s never a good idea. I don’t think inherently means a movie not focused on the superhero’s perspective won’t work, though.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 4:31 pm

“The system may be screwed up, but it works” is how a lot of horrible things get justified, though- black people still rode the buses when they were segregated for decades, doesn’t mean that was ok by any means.

I agree, that character in Hellboy felt irrelevant, like something tacked on due to studio demands- notice how abruptly he is dropped in the second one. I think the issue there is that Hollywood often seems to think we need a bland white dude to guide us through movies- Orlando Bloom’s character in Pirates, for example- and it’s never a good idea. I don’t think inherently means a movie not focused on the superhero’s perspective won’t work, though.

Posted By tdraicer : August 28, 2011 5:55 pm

I confess I don’t care about superheros as such-I can barely identify with successful human characters, never mind those with enhanced powers. Having said that I liked both Burton batman films, the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies (though more for Gene Hackman hamming it up wonderfully as LL), and I have high hopes for Joss Whedon’s Avengers film because it is Joss Whedon (though I know next to nothing about the characters).

Posted By tdraicer : August 28, 2011 5:55 pm

I confess I don’t care about superheros as such-I can barely identify with successful human characters, never mind those with enhanced powers. Having said that I liked both Burton batman films, the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies (though more for Gene Hackman hamming it up wonderfully as LL), and I have high hopes for Joss Whedon’s Avengers film because it is Joss Whedon (though I know next to nothing about the characters).

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 8:25 pm

I would hardly compare movies about superheroes being targeted towards boys with the segregation of blacks. The movies do well financially, for the most part, as they are. If someone comes along to tweak the formula of superhero movies, and they are made better, more power to them. The treatment of women as secondary characters in a particular film genre does not equate to denying a whole race of people basic and equal rights. It’s not nearly as serious as all that.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 8:25 pm

I would hardly compare movies about superheroes being targeted towards boys with the segregation of blacks. The movies do well financially, for the most part, as they are. If someone comes along to tweak the formula of superhero movies, and they are made better, more power to them. The treatment of women as secondary characters in a particular film genre does not equate to denying a whole race of people basic and equal rights. It’s not nearly as serious as all that.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 8:52 pm

Well, except that it’s an indicator of a larger issue about the way women are treated. Each individual element in that issue may be a small matter- as, arguably, is where one has to sit on the bus, in of itself- but that doesn’t mean it’s justifiable or unimportant. When movies marginalize women, they teach the boys watching them that it’s ok to do so, and the girls watching them that they should accept it- it’s part of the process of reifying problematic social norms, and it needs to be opposed in all its manifestations to be opposed successfully.

I think movies, as one of the most popularly consumed forms of art we’ve got, can be terribly and tragically important- I mean, a historical fiction movie was almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of the KKK in the 20th century. I am not suggesting that Iron Man is problematic in anything like the way Birth of a Nation is, but obviously movies can have enormous power, and things absorbed subconsciously can be the things that have the most effect.

Posted By Tom S : August 28, 2011 8:52 pm

Well, except that it’s an indicator of a larger issue about the way women are treated. Each individual element in that issue may be a small matter- as, arguably, is where one has to sit on the bus, in of itself- but that doesn’t mean it’s justifiable or unimportant. When movies marginalize women, they teach the boys watching them that it’s ok to do so, and the girls watching them that they should accept it- it’s part of the process of reifying problematic social norms, and it needs to be opposed in all its manifestations to be opposed successfully.

I think movies, as one of the most popularly consumed forms of art we’ve got, can be terribly and tragically important- I mean, a historical fiction movie was almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of the KKK in the 20th century. I am not suggesting that Iron Man is problematic in anything like the way Birth of a Nation is, but obviously movies can have enormous power, and things absorbed subconsciously can be the things that have the most effect.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 9:12 pm

I still do not think it is as serious as all that. Would it be better to “marginalize” female characters in superhero movies that are clearly not about them, or would it be better to leave them out of such movies altogether so as to avoid offending the sensitive nature of some and to avoid warping the minds of young boys? There are many more movies made that are not about superheroes than there are movies about superheroes.

There are several sitcoms on TV where the husband/father is a fat, bumbling buffoon and the mother is bright and attractive and always outsmarts her husband and gets her way by the time the credits roll. Should we be concerned about the way fathers are treated on TV sitcoms? I don’t think so. Just don’t watch the show.

I know a couple of very smart and very attractive women who serve in jobs similar to Pepper Potts. They are executive assistants to CEOs of corporations and they love their jobs. Should they feel marginalized in real life because they are subservient to their male bosses? If they love their jobs, as Pepper does hers, that shouldn’t concern anyone else.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 28, 2011 9:12 pm

I still do not think it is as serious as all that. Would it be better to “marginalize” female characters in superhero movies that are clearly not about them, or would it be better to leave them out of such movies altogether so as to avoid offending the sensitive nature of some and to avoid warping the minds of young boys? There are many more movies made that are not about superheroes than there are movies about superheroes.

There are several sitcoms on TV where the husband/father is a fat, bumbling buffoon and the mother is bright and attractive and always outsmarts her husband and gets her way by the time the credits roll. Should we be concerned about the way fathers are treated on TV sitcoms? I don’t think so. Just don’t watch the show.

I know a couple of very smart and very attractive women who serve in jobs similar to Pepper Potts. They are executive assistants to CEOs of corporations and they love their jobs. Should they feel marginalized in real life because they are subservient to their male bosses? If they love their jobs, as Pepper does hers, that shouldn’t concern anyone else.

Posted By suzidoll : August 29, 2011 6:56 pm

I have a documentary that I would recommend about the decline of women protagonists in Hollywood movies, the types of characters they do play, the subtext of their roles, and the impact on children. It’s called MISSREPRESENTAION, or MIS-REPRESENTATION. It’s a play on the words “misrepresentation” and “Miss Representation.” I saw it at the Sarasota Film Festival in the spring. It’s very enlightening, and it brings statistics, psychology, and other experts into the issue.

Posted By suzidoll : August 29, 2011 6:56 pm

I have a documentary that I would recommend about the decline of women protagonists in Hollywood movies, the types of characters they do play, the subtext of their roles, and the impact on children. It’s called MISSREPRESENTAION, or MIS-REPRESENTATION. It’s a play on the words “misrepresentation” and “Miss Representation.” I saw it at the Sarasota Film Festival in the spring. It’s very enlightening, and it brings statistics, psychology, and other experts into the issue.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 29, 2011 10:07 pm

Where can we see it?

Posted By dukeroberts : August 29, 2011 10:07 pm

Where can we see it?

Posted By Tom S : August 30, 2011 12:24 am

This is about the source material for superhero movies (i.e. comics) more than the movies themselves, but it’s still very worth reading on the subject.

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/08/29/superhero-comics-women-sexism/

Posted By Tom S : August 30, 2011 12:24 am

This is about the source material for superhero movies (i.e. comics) more than the movies themselves, but it’s still very worth reading on the subject.

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/08/29/superhero-comics-women-sexism/

Posted By dukeroberts : August 30, 2011 12:32 am

Thanks, Tom. I will give that a read.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 30, 2011 12:32 am

Thanks, Tom. I will give that a read.

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Black Film  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films About Gambling  Films of the 1960s  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movie titles  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies