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Marvel Has Been Successful Because It’s Better at Being Different

marvel better different

Until the end of the “superhero golden era” finally comes, we won’t be able to analyze the full impact that Marvel Studios has had with its cinematic universe of movies. But even though we don’t have the full picture at our disposal, everyone has their own reasonable guess for how and why Marvel been the dominant superhero movie franchise for nearly a decade, in terms of both critical and fan reception.

Some of the effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are quite obvious, and I think that’s why vague observations about Marvel Studios are tossed around by its naysayers. When you think of shared universe movies — that is, movies that share the same characters and other sandbox elements without being direct sequels — you might feel the urge to groan a bit, especially if you watch and keep up with a lot of different movie franchises that all strive to replicate what Marvel did so well with Iron Man in 2008.

Sony tried to kickstart a Spider-Man shared universe of villains and ultimately failed. Universal has long been planning a shared universe of monster movies, citing they could have the “Avengers” of Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Wolfman, and more. Even a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe is reportedly in the works, planned to kick off with a new Scooby Doo movie. And this year’s Ghostbusters ends with a universe-setting teaser straight out of the ambiguously defined Marvel formula.

Marvel’s most direct rival, and for several obvious, yet key reasons, is DC Comics, which Warner Bros. owns the exclusive rights to. After a hugely successful trilogy of Batman movies, all helmed by Christopher Nolan and universally praised by fans and critics, Warner Bros. took the next logical step toward establishing a shared universe of their own that could do for Wonder Woman and the Flash what Marvel managed for Iron Man and Captain America, just to name a few.

marvel better different

Remember, just one year after Nolan’s Batman trilogy ended with The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel, the perfunctory beginning of what was meant to be something completely different compared to anything put out by Marvel Studios.

Except, well, Marvel has already  been “different” by its own standards for years, and it’s found great success doing so, while DC Comics hasn’t. At least not on the same scale.

To be fair, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were not financial failures, but they did fail to live up to their profitable potential, making less money domestically than Deadpool, which is based on a character far less popular and recognizable than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. And even more recently, Suicide Squad has been panned by critics for sharing a lot of the same flaws of these movies, though it will still open to huge box office numbers, regardless.

What’s odd, then, is that the films have been criticized by many for being too different, using phrases like joyless and dark to color a picture of a movie that doesn’t deliver the same experience viewers got with most of the Marvel movies.

marvel better different

Supporters of these DC Comics movies have a right to call out this opinion for being intellectually dishonest. Of course a movie like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is different, they say. If it were the same formula as a movie like The Avengers, then critics would complain just as feverishly.

Both sides of this argument have it wrong, then. Because what they both forget is that while there is a bare-bones formula to the Marvel movies that makes them feel cohesive — that is, it’s easy to believe the movies exist in the same universe at all — none of them are all that similar to any of the others in just about every other way, unless the movie is a sequel, and even then, Marvel movies have a habit of changing entire subgenres in between their sequels.

One of the best and most famous examples of Marvel being “different” involves the entirety of what sets up the first Avengers movie, which serendipitously released the same year as The Dark Knight Rises. The very concept of setting up an ensemble superhero film after several standalone pictures that establish the characters was brand new at the time and, more importantly, untested.

Yet The Avengers is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time and was universally acclaimed by moviegoers, which holds up even today.

marvel better different

It’s fair to judge Marvel for being good at being different based on the fact that people loved The Avengers, despite how risky the structure of it was, and because it provided a sizable return on investment both financially and even culturally, hence we’re even having this debate about superhero movies being different.

What’s even more interesting, though, is the fact that Marvel movies have continued to be different and surprising, even though they have a proven formula they could repeat on end to minimize the risk of failure.

For example, the Marvel films that have truly defied expectations include Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, arnhich were both proven hits for the studio, despite being completely different from any other Marvel film in tone, structure, and many other crucial elements.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an action comedy set in space, and most of its characters aren’t even human. That’s a far cry from any other comic book film, period, let alone Marvel movies like Iron Man and even Thor. The premise of Ant-Man is absurd enough, despite the movie actually taking place on Earth. Yet it feels so different as a superhero movie because first and foremost, it’s really a heist film with bits of Edgar Wright’s unique editing style thrown in.

marvel better different

The upcoming Doctor Strange, set to release this November, is also a movie that — judging by the marketing and previous knowledge of the character — looks and feels different from previous Marvel offerings, because it seems to be tackling unchartered territory in terms of fantasy elements and dimensional science for the hero of that movie to experience.

These movies, excluding the as of yet unseen Doctor Strange, have been hits with both critics and casual audiences because yes, they’re different. So it’s strange, then, when both critics and naysayers of Marvel movies speak as if this cinematic universe has a firm license on vague storytelling elements, like humor and quipping. There’s a desire for DC to be the other side of the coin, different and more progressive than what might be called a mainstream superhero franchise with Marvel.

The problem with that desire, though, is that Marvel has already been the other side of that coin, and the other side of many coins that they, themselves, have inserted into the zeitgeist of superhero films. They don’t always get it right, of course, and some of their risks have been paid off better than others, but if DC should take notes on being “different” for the sake of surprising and delighting its fans, it should really be paying more attention to Marvel. Not less.

Because being different, while a good start, is not a merit on its own. Fantastic Four was different, which we can all agree on. But that definitely didn’t improve what was inherently flawed with that film. A non-Marvel movie that’s great at being different is Deadpool, made by Fox, proving that a superhero film doesn’t have to be made by Disney in order for it to be beloved by just about everyone old enough to see it.

marvel better different

I still have high hopes for DC Comics moving forward, though not nearly as high as I used to three years ago. But if you’re reading this and feeling a bit alienated because you want DC Comics and Warner Bros. to keep taking risks and producing films with these iconic characters that demand to be different from what we’ve seen before, then you can definitely take solace in one, major thing: The DC Comics movie universe under Geoff Johns — their new Chief Creative Officer and co-developer of The Flash on CW — kicks off next year with Wonder Woman.

And from what we’ve seen so far of that movie, the future could still be quite bright (not dark) for DC Comics.


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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To Infinity and Star Trek Beyond

star trek beyond podcast

This week on Now Conspiring, we review two movies for the price of infinity. Star Trek Beyond and Sing Street are discussed, along with the new Comic-Con trailers coming out for Justice League and Wonder Woman.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK (and you’re required to answer this): Which upcoming DC live-action movie will be the best?

Go on…To Infinity and Star Trek Beyond

Snarcasm: That Martha Moment in ‘Batman v Superman’ Is Smarter Than You Think

martha batman v superman

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

I didn’t care for Batman v Superman, but you have to admit that the movie has at least succeeded in getting people to talk about it. And I applaud any fan of the film who is continuing to defend it in a way that’s constructive and meaningful for both sides of the debate.

But at some point, your defense of this movie becomes more akin to speculation, rather than an honest interpretation of what’s presented. What I mean is that it’s easy to fall into a trap where you’re adding an interpretation to your defense that makes the movie seem better, except that it doesn’t flow from what’s been set up in the narrative. This is one of those times.

John Campea is a skilled critic, though I disagree with him often and certainly with this movie. One of his latest videos is titled, “Defending the ‘Martha’ Scene in Batman v Superman,” and it’s his case for why the movie is smarter than people give it credit for.

I obviously disagreeSpoilers for the movie from here on out.

I know the movie’s been out for months and months and months,

It’s only been two months, so don’t sweat it.

As one of the people who like Batman v Supermanthere’s one criticism that movie always gets (you still see it joked about all the time all the time) and I wanted to give a defense of it. And the moment I’m talking about in Batman v Superman is the “Martha” moment. You know what I’m talking about. You see the jokes all over the place online, right? 

Sure, but not just jokes. People genuinely criticize the movie for this moment without poking fun at it. Hopefully, your defense will cover this, and not just the knee-jerk meme reactions that turn the opposing argument into a straw man.

I just think that that scene has been misunderstood a lot. 

In a soft way, he’s basically saying here that there is a correct way to interpret this scene, by saying most of us “misunderstood” it.

Because then he goes on about three times, saying what boils down to, “your way of interpreting this scene might have been different than mine and that’s cool.”

Well, which is it?

…I actually see that scene as a strength in the movie as opposed to a major major flaw in the movie.

If a film falls down in a forest, but no one is around to hear it…wait, no, that’s not how i goes.

My point is that even if you’re right, and we’re all just too blinded by the Spidey-light to see this moment’s greatness, the fact is that this scene, the most pivotal point of the film, was in fact a massive failure for the majority of moviegoers when they first experienced it. That doesn’t make the movie bad on its own, but it is a crucial flaw of the execution that you need to accept.

Batman and Superman finally have their fight. They had a definitive winner. Batman was the winner of the fight. And of course, Batman is about to deliver the killing blow to now a downed, helpless opponent. And Superman raises up his hands and says, “Save Martha.” And of course, Batman has his freak out, like “what did you say that name, why did you say that name.” Here is how I interpreted it the first time I saw the film, OK.

Here we go.

Look, Batman is the detective, right? 

Clearly not a good one, like at all,  in this movie, but go on.

And what we know as an audience up till that point is that Lex Luthor has actually been playing him and been playing both of them. Even when Bruce thought he was playing Lex, as it turns out, Lex was playing him.

He was? Because here’s what really happened with Bruce and Lex in this movie. Bruce steals a bunch of Lex’s information about metahumans and uncovers the secret about kryptonite. Then he steals the kryptonite to build weapons to kill Superman. Lex was never “playing” Bruce or manipulating his actions here. He simply allowed Bruce to carry out his plans, while somehow also knowing he was Batman for some reason that’s never explained, and then manipulates Superman, which let’s admit is not hard to do in any interpretation of the character.

Sure, Luthor says to Superman that he’s been playing them because he’s been fueling the animosity between both characters. But one of my main issues with that scene is that this line makes no sense. Luthor had nothing to do with the opening scene where we see why Bruce hates Superman to the point that he does.

If we’re to believe that the blowing up of the congressional hearing is all it took for Bruce to take action (which isn’t the case because he was already gearing up for the fight), then we have to believe that Bruce is a total idiot for “detecting” Superman’s involvement in any of these situations he’s obviously being framed for.

martha batman v superman

Even when Bruce is justifying his decision to kill Superman, he seems to admit that the guy hasn’t done anything wrong, yet. But the “if there’s a 1% chance” line along with his nightmare where Superman really does kill him has everything to do with his fueled animosity toward the guy, not Luthor himself.

But by all means, continue.

He thought, “Oh, I was so smart. I broke into his house and his party. Got that information. Turns out, that’s what Lex wanted all along.

Really? His plan was to hope that Batman would show up and steal something from him? That’s the extent of his manipulation?

Of course, nothing in the movie actually sets this up or leads us to believe any of this is part of Luthor’s plan, but that’s probably why Campea’s interpretation is so much different from, you know, pretty much everyone else’s.

Anyway, so here you have Bruce Wayne, who is the detective, and he figures all this stuff out on his own, normally, and he has this moment where…remember that one big conversation he had with Alfred, where Bruce has convinced himself, thanks in no small part to the manipulations of Lex Luthor, that Superman is actually a monster.

Yes in small part. In the atoms of that small part. Because at no point does Luthor steer Bruce toward wanting to kill Superman. That’s all been established by the first 20 minutes when his character watches the collateral damage from Man of Steel occur.

He has convinced himself that he is a threat to humanity. When he’s talking to Alfred, you know, it’s not just, “Hey, I know he’s a good man, but you know, if there’s a 1% chance he could destroy the earth, we gotta take that certainty.” No, it’s like, “That son of a b***h brought the war to us!” The movie gave us glimpses…he’s convinced that Superman is a monster and will be a catastrophe for the earth. 

Nothing says Batman like a guy who — instead of figuring out who the enemy is and understanding them — decides to just kill the guy to death because…well you’ll have to watch the Director’s Cut to get more “glimpses” of that.

He’s about to finish him off, and remember up to this point, we haven’t seen Batman kill an unarmed, helpless person.

Right, we’ve only seen him blow up criminals driving cars setting off chain reactions of other cars blowing up more criminals. No big deal.

Superman reaches out his arm and he says, “Save Martha.” And what I saw happen onscreen was, number one, we all know Batman is a little bit disturbed. We know that. We’ve always known that about Batman. But when he reaches out and in his last breath, he doesn’t beg for his life, he doesn’t say some ominous threatening thing that a super villain would say in that scene.

Really? A lot of super villains will say anything to get out of being killed, including, “if you kill me, she’ll die! Ha ha ha!” Not saying Superman was going for that, but the point remains.

He uses his last breath to plead for the life of somebody else.

No, Superman says, “You’re letting them kill Martha.” He doesn’t plead for anyone’s life. He basically throws a guilt trip at the guy in the hopes that he’ll put the spear down. Also, he’s doing this in a very odd way. He’s calling his mother by her first name instead of “Mom” for some writers-team-related reason. And how will Batman know who’s he’s talking about? Superman can’t say, “Martha Kent” because…well,  because then Batman won’t get confused and the plot will be halted. The writing team strikes again.

Eventually, Superman does say, “Find him…Save Martha.” But again, how are these pronouns and first names helpful in any way? Superman doesn’t know Lois Lane isn’t going to pop in and add some much-needed exposition.

They’ve set up in the movie that Bruce has some loose wires when it comes to memories and visions about his own mother.

Yeah, it’s almost as if the purpose of their existence was just to pay off this one moment in the movie, not to cohesively flow with the rest of the narrative.

This being Bruce had convinced himself was a pure monster…he sees him in that moment reach out and asking for the life of somebody else. He’s asking the guy who’s about to kill him, “Please go and save this person.” 

So that’s why your experience was so much different than everyone else’s! Because you apparently watched a screening with drastically different dialogue. I mean, come on, Zach Snyder’s version of Superman asking please?

That creates a disconnect for Batman. It’s a contradiction to what Batman believes about this being laying in front of him.

That’s why after this line, Batman puts the spear down realizing that Superman isn’t a monster.

Wait, what? Oh, that didn’t happen at all, did it. What really happened was, he kept the spear up and started yelling, “Why did you say that name? Martha? Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?”

What a disconnect, wow!

Lois Lane comes in and she throws himself (herself?) down on top of him. This creates another disconnect for Batman because he sees a famous, intelligent human being who loves this person pleading for his life.

Except, well, Lois doesn’t plead for Superman’s life. She says, “It’s his mother’s name! It’s his mother’s name!”

Which is why, class, everyone paid more attention to the fact that “Martha” was said as a coincidence, rather than this idea that Batman could have a change of heart. Few will disagree that your interpretation is what the movie was trying to do. But the execution was so sloppy and mishandled that audiences were forced into an interpretation that latched closer to what was actually happening onscreen.

Think about it. If these disconnects are so relevant and compelling, why did the movie have to also point out that their moms have the same name? By your logic, he could have just said, save my mom, and Batman would have gone through the same change of heart.

It’s not misunderstood. We know what Snyder and his writers were going for. You are simply misunderstanding the execution, believing its stronger than it really is.

Then it goes to a third stage of disconnect for Batman.

Seriously? According to you, the guy should have an aneurysm at this point.

She explains, “That’s the name of his mother.” Now you gotta understand that these are three points of disconnect for Bruce in this construct he’s had in his head about Superman, this monster that’s gonna be the destruction of the world.

The problem with this is that when you’re watching the movie, you don’t feel any real sympathy for Superman that can be related to what Batman’s going through. All of these arguments for why Batman should sympathize with Superman fly in the face of everything we’ve watched and learned about the character throughout the movie.

He’s violent, aggressive, and acts like he’s above everyone else because he refuses to participate in his own defense. Even when he goes to the court hearing, the script prevents him from ever getting a word out. So when we’re supposed to believe that he’s not a monster for arbitrary reasons like, “Well, he has a mom and some woman loves him,” we’re left wondering why that’s enough for Batman to drop his weapons and suddenly work with this guy.

batman v superman wrong

It’s not satisfying, to the point where we’re also left wondering if the “Martha” connection is meant to be a stronger emotional weight than it should be, which is where the criticism and a lot of the jokes come from. Again, the problem has more to do with the execution than the idea itself, so if you ignore the main flaws of how this plays out in the film, you’re going to like it more and find it weird that everyone else disagrees with you.

Campea goes on to explain that Batman freaking out over all this is somehow him “figuring it out” because he’s such a great detective and compares it to how a supercomputer thinks.

Seriously. Seriously.

“This guy has a mother, too!” won’t quite hold up in court, and it doesn’t negate any of Batman’s hatred for this guy who’s caused the deaths of so many people. Campea even argues that he’s figured out that this is all Lex Luthor, except that also doesn’t make any sense because again, Lex Luthor had nothing to do with the events that cemented Bruce’s hatred for this guy.

When a lot of people saw, (starts doing a jokey impression) “Wait a minute, Superman says his mom’s name is Martha, too, and Batman goes, ‘Oh, well we should be best friends!'” I get why some people saw that. 

Sigh.

What I saw was a complex, intelligent deconstruction of the great detective putting the pieces together when new information was brought into it.

What everyone else saw was, “Wow, this screenwriting is trying to be complex and intelligent but it’s doing a horrible job. Am I really supposed to believe what I’m seeing right now?”

This is exacerbated by Batman calling himself Superman’s friend ten minutes later, adding to the steaming pot of bloated confusion that is this movie.

Don’t get me wrong. Campea is a good guy, and nothing about this video is mean-spirited or meant to make people feel stupid for disagreeing with him. He’s simply offering up his own perspective and why he thinks that makes the movie better.

batman v superman wrong

That said, it’s also clear to me that a little reaching is going on in order to pass the movie off as better than it really is. And it’s veiled as deep film analysis in order to convince people that they missed something when they first saw the movie.

But no, this isn’t another one of those under appreciated films that will one day be celebrated despite the fact that it was somehow ahead of its time. Films like that have always been criticized more for their content and brazen style, not fundamental misunderstandings when it comes to filmmaking and how to tell a unique story.


Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

 

Snarcasm: Film Critics Aren’t People Like Us

snarcasm film critics

Snark + Snarcasm = what you’re about to read

I struggled selecting this week’s Snarcasm because at this point, I’m pretty much done talking about Batman v Superman. I’ve reviewed it, talked about it endlessly on the podcast, and I even wrote a list of over 65 problems I have with it.

I’m just done. And while typical Snarcasm fare would involve digesting (then regurgitating) an insanely contrarian piece about Jesse Eisenberg’s “Lex Luthor” being the best version of the character yet…which exists…this week, let’s take a look at something you’ve probably thought at least 300 times in your lifetime.

Film critics aren’t perfect.

snarcasm film critics

For some reason, people think that critics think that they are perfect. That they fancy themselves the end all for whether or not a movie is truly good or bad. Never mind the fact that critics disagree constantly, which is why websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic exist. But this is the Internet, where all of your presuppositions and knee-jerk opinions are signed into law by Facebook Congress (I’m bad at metaphors).

Sidney Fussell at Tech Insider (because apparently the film blogs didn’t want this hot take) writes:

Here’s the problem with all those bad ‘Batman v Superman’ reviews

Weirdly, but not surprisingly, Sid gives us more than just one “problem” with these reviews. I’ll be honest though and let you know now that I have quite a few problems with this article.

“Batman v Superman” isn’t a perfect film.

When did “this movie is not perfect” become the new preface for setting up an unpopular opinion? Next you’re going to tell us that Superman has a black best friend.

snarcasm film critics
Supergirl beat you to it

 But it would have to be a lot worse to justify its embarrassing dogpiling from critics.

Would it, though? I’m one of the critics who hated it, but it’s not like BvS has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes (as in 0% of critics liked it). It actually scored a 29%, with most critics being pretty mixed on the movie. In fact, the article Sid links to here mentions that critics almost unanimously praised certain aspects of this film, including Ben Affleck’s take on Batman.

So where is the dogpiling? The film has an average rating on RT of 5/10, which is an even split. You know, the opposite of an uneven split.

Critics are using their “BvS” reviews to express their frustrations with the big-budget superhero genre as a whole.

Holy generalizations, Batman!

First of all, critics have been frustrated with the superhero genre getting oversaturated for a while, now. Age of Ultron had a lot of complaints lobbed at it for this, and weak entries like Fantastic 4 have been eviscerated by critics. What makes BvS so special that it gets a pass for happening to be a bad movie that also exists in an oversaturated genre?

The film had to set up the DC universe, debut new characters, break even on the budget, and keep up with Marvel. Each misstep (and there are many) was reported as a complete disaster. 

Which is exactly the fault of DC for putting all of their hopes and dreams (and ideas) into one movie, when they could have just as easily taken their time and evened out their ambition. The stakes are high because DC is playing a high-stakes game and betting the house on the ponies and other casino metaphors (told you).

The pressure to do it all made for a very uneven film and many critics voiced frustration at what they saw was a rush to set up a lucrative cinematic universe (with endless spin-off and sequel potential) over simply making a good film. 

In other words, “Critics made that criticism because they’re right! What a bunch of morons!”

It’s funny though. The second season of Daredevil stuffs a lot of new characters and plots into its run, and yet critics aren’t taking their frustrations out on Marvel/Netflix. I wish I knew why.

snarcasm film critics
“It’s too dark!” 

When reading the many poor reviews of “Batman v Superman” it becomes apparent that somewhere along the way the action epic morphed from just one subpar action film into the representation of everything wrong with the (admittedly stuffed) superhero genre.

Again, this is because the movie itself is poor. If it had been excellent, no one would have made this observation. You sound like Zuko complaining because he didn’t want to go to the war meeting (“I just wanted to be invited!”)

The huge gap between critic reception and fan response shows that this movie really wasn’t “for the critics.” 

I’ve read this sentiment a lot, and I still don’t understand what it means. What, you made a movie that isn’t “made” for people who study and analyze movies? Do you think that’s a valid sentence to throw at people?

Critics review movies on the basis of how they represent the best of their own genre. Odds are that the critics have seen more superhero movies than many of the “fans,” considering they have to watch hundreds of films each year, including all of the ones you didn’t bother watching because you had the choice.

Telling a critic that a movie “wasn’t for them” is like getting mad at a garbageman for saying your moldy trash bags smell terrible. You don’t have to listen to him, but he’s probably right.

“Batman v Superman” currently has a mediocre to fair 72% audience approval rating with a ghastly 28% critic score.

Good thing people aren’t insanely easy to please.

Look, liking a movie doesn’t make it good, no matter how much I wish people liked Speed Racer as much as I did. Because it turns out that everyone likes bad movies, and it’s just tossup depending on the person.

It’s not the job of the critic to get inside your head and predetermine everything that will satisfy your Narnia mind. It’s your job to interpret a review based on what you know about the critic’s tastes, which is why people read the same critics every week, even if they disagree sometimes.

Amy Adams, who stars as Lois Lane, said the movie simply wasn’t “for the critics.”

Sure, let’s listen to the person who has a financial stake in the film she’s promoting. Not saying that doesn’t mean she’s right, but—

She’s right.

Let’s just settle down.

ultimately critics and audiences go to movies for different reasons: a critic goes to engage with a film, it’s perspective, and decide how well it executes a cinematic vision from this perspective. Audiences, especially for a popcorn action movie, go to be entertained.

Right, critics don’t care at all about entertainment, which is why they never talk about it or base their reviews on it. I’m pretty sure you have to sign an agreement on the “Become a Critic” form that states you can no longer factor in the entertainment of a movie when evaluating how entertaining it is.

If “Batman v Superman” functions well as entertainment, but not as reflective Campbellian metaphysics, then (no matter what critics say) it works.

Correction: a movie “works” if a movie works. The fact is that critics happen to be people as well, and guess what? The movie doesn’t work for them. A lot of people, fans included, don’t think the movie works. The people who do think the movie works have every right to think the movie works for them. But for everyone else who disagrees, it doesn’t work.

You can’t negate that by arbitrarily splitting up two vague generalizations of people groups and simplifying it to match your argument. That also doesn’t work.

And given its success at the box office so far, it’s working fairly well. 

Setting aside the fact that the movie had a record drop in the box office from Friday to Sunday, the big takeaway is that a movie making money is not a reflection on quality. It’s like saying McDonald’s is the best restaurant because it sells the most burgers.

snarcasm film critics

Fans have many new films and heroes to look forward to and most of it isn’t coming from “BvS” Zack Snyder.

I’m one of Snyder’s most vocal critics, and even I cut him some slack on the blame for BvS. A lot of its problems are clearly due to the studio forcing him to add unnecessary plots and teases.

Director Zack Snyder has taken the brunt of the criticism for “Batman v Superman,” with most reviewers saying his vision of an ideologically heavy-action film resulted in clunky, obtuse dialogue.

And for good reason. He may not deserve all the blame, but he certainly deserves most of it. BvS is based on his vision, as you say. And even though he doesn’t concept everything in the movie himself, he signed off on a vast majority of it as director.

And while the many teases to other properties irked some critics, at least fans can look forward to different visions for DC heroes from other directors. The sprawling DC Universe already has 11 more films in the docket between now and 2020, not a solo adventure for Ben Affleck’s Batman. 

That’s it? That’s the end of this article? Are you sure?

Let’s just call it a Thursday and get some McDonald’s.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Snarcasm: The Director of Batman v Superman is Way Smarter Than Us

Zack Snyder idiots

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Ever since the complete and utter disaster that is Sucker Punch, I’ve kept a watchful eye on Zack Snyder as a filmmaker. I found Watchmen to be a fantastic adaption of the comic, despite some minor flaws. 300 blew me away with how Snyder was able to stylize action scenes without resorting to cheap editing tricks. And who doesn’t love Dawn of the Dead?

But something strange happens when you hand a guy the keys to one of the most important film franchises of all time after he doesn’t do a stellar job the first time with Man of Steel. And we’re starting to see some of that piping bowl of crazy that occurs when people expect a human being to be…well, Superman.

Now, I’m not here to review Batman v Superman, as I haven’t seen it yet and don’t have an opinion. But analyzing some of the conversation and buzz surrounding this film, you’d think that the Marvel Civil War was already happening, but between fans and critics, with Jon Negroni swooping in Snarcasm style whispering,

snarcasm

First, let’s take a look at Snyder’s first…decision. Sadie Gennis reported this story on TV Guide:

Zack Snyder Explains Why Grant Gustin Isn’t The Flash in Batman v Superman

That’s…an interesting topic to bring up during the marketing of your prequel to what you hope to be an Avengers-level success. But fine, let’s discuss this because it’s been bothering huge Grant Gustin fans like me since episode one.

Snyder: I just don’t think it was a good fit. I’m very strict with this universe and I just don’t see a version where [Gustin’s The Flash would work]… that [tone is] not our world.

Really? The main character of an extremely successful TV show doesn’t “fit” in a universe where you’re repeatedly striking out with feature films? Gee, maybe Gustin isn’t a good fit for Snyder?

To be fair, the main consensus from critics and fans alike (so far) is that Ben Affleck makes a great Batman, so that casting decision is at least solid. Same goes for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. But what strikes me as insane is how one of the comic relief characters of this DC team has to fit a darker, more serious tone.

zack snyder
“Look! He smirked! NOT SERIOUS ENOUGH.”

I think most people who’ve actually watched The Flash would agree that Gustin has plenty of talent, CW resume notwithstanding. He’s certainly capable enough to contend with the writing of David Goyer, who managed to warp Ma and Pa Kent into nihilistic psychopaths.

Snyder: Even if Grant Gustin is my favorite guy in the world and he’s very good, we made a commitment to the multi-verse [idea], so it’s just not a thing that’s possible.

It’s this kind of tone-deaf logic that continuously turns me off to Snyder has a director. He has no sense of momentum or build up, because if he did, he’d understand that the payoff of connecting a well-established and successful TV series with a movie that extends the scope of these characters would more than surpass the milestones set by The Avengers.

It’s not possible? Neither is making a Justice League movie feel earned when we know absolutely nothing about these individual characters going in. And if Batman v Superman is as mediocre as the critics claim, then maybe Gustin is better off.

Sadly, that’s not all, folks. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Snyder commented on the bizarre collateral damage of Man of Steel:

Snyder was mystified when someone told him that they couldn’t think of a movie in recent memory that’s had as much collateral damage as “Man of Steel.” “I went, really? And I said, well, what about [‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’]?” the director says. “In ‘Star Wars’ they destroy five planets with billions of people on them. That’s gotta be one of the highest death toll movies in history, the new ‘Star Wars’ movie, if you just do the math.”

There’s more to this than I think a lot of people are grasping. Because at first glance, it may seem that Snyder is completely off his rocker, considering the damage done in Force Awakens was inflicted by the villain, so the analogy makes no sense.

People aren’t put off by collateral damage because there’s a lot of it. They were annoyed that it was mostly caused by Superman, and he spent more time punching Zod through presumably filled skyscrapers without stopping to consider his actions or show any restraint. He doesn’t even attempt to move the fight away from the populated area.

zack snyder
“Eh, I’m sure no one was in there.”

But something else is even more irritating, and that’s the context of his answer. Snyder is simply playing a math game, assuming the person making the comment was merely saying that the damage done in Man of Steel is comical because of its size, and Snyder’s first reaction is to correct him, not try to understand the criticism.

This gets to the heart of Snyder’s bizarre personality as a filmmaker who seems to have zero self-awareness. He makes the same mistakes in every movie because his apparent arrogance keeps convincing him that everyone else is wrong, and he’s right. It’s this kind of confidence that probably keeps him employed, but how long can this hold up?

In this same interview, Snyder admits that he crafted this superhero universe as an intended continuation of themes he explored in Watchmen. And here’s what he thinks about the obvious criticism that comes with this weird mixing of two polar-opposite franchises:

“I was surprised with the fervency of the defense of the concept of Superman,” Snyder says of his detractors. “I feel like they were taking it personally that I was trying to grow up their character.”

snarcasm
“33 years old to be exact. Not like Jesus, though.”

Look, Superman has changed plenty of times over the years, and very few people are against taking some creative liberties with the character. But when you warp the identity and motivations of the most popular superhero of all time in order to balance it nicely with the purposefully grim superhero movie you made seven years ago, then don’t get offended when the obvious backlash comes.

In other words, take your own advice.

People aren’t taking it personally that you’re “growing up their character.” They’re taking it personally that you don’t even seem to care about what they think.

That said, I still hope I enjoy Batman v Superman. I may not like Snyder at all right now, but I’d much rather have a great time watching two of my favorite characters on the big screen than shake my head in disappointment. Unfortunately, nothing about any of his decisions so far have lead me to get my hopes up.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

2016 Movie Power Rankings

2016 movie power rankings

Welcome to my second-annual “Year in Film” rankings, where I list out every movie I’ve watched and reviewed in 2016.

Last year, I reviewed 87 films (most of them reviewed via the Now Conspiring podcast). But in 2016, I’m putting more focus into written reviews, so you can more easily search the archives.

Here are the rankings so far, with corresponding reviews linked:

#1 Moana

2016 movie ranking

#2 Sing Street

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#3 Manchester by the Sea

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#4 Hell or High Water

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#5 Moonlight

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#6 Sully

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#7 Zootopia

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#8 Midnight Special

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#9 Kubo and the Two Strings

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#10 Captain America: Civil War

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#11 Green Room

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#12 Pete’s Dragon

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#13 The Conjuring 2

2016 movie rankings

#14 Swiss Army Man

2016 movie rankings

#15 Southside with You

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#16 Hail, Caesar!

2016 movie power rankings

#17 Everybody Wants Some!!

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#18 Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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#19 The Jungle Book

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#20 10 Cloverfield Lane 

2016 movie power rankings

#21 Edge of Seventeen

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#22 Hacksaw Ridge

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#23 Arrival

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#24 Captain Fantastic

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#25 Finding Dory

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#26 Don’t Think Twice

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#27 Deadpool

2016 movie power rankings

#28 Doctor Strange

2016 movie ranking

#29 Don’t Breathe

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#30 Queen of Katwe

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#31 Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

2016 movie rankings

#32 Justice League vs. Teen Titans

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#33 The Lobster

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#34 The Witch

2016 movie power rankings

#35 The BFG

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#36 The Nice Guys

nice guys ranking

#37 Kung Fu Panda 3

2016 movie power rankings

#38 X-Men: Apocalypse

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#39 Demolition

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#40 Snowden

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#41 The Light Between Oceans

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#42 Neon Demon

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#43 Star Trek Beyond

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#44 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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#45 The Accountant

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#46 Magnificent Seven

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#47 Suicide Squad

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#48 Money Monster

money monster ranking

#49 Hardcore Henry

hardcore henry ranking

#50 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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#51 Batman: The Killing Joke

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#52 Jason Bourne

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#53 Gods of Egypt 

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#54 Ghostbusters

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#55 Warcraft

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#56 Independence Day: Resurgence

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#57 Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

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#58 The Secret Life of Pets

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#59 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

batman v superman ranking

#60 Sausage Party

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#61 Alice Through the Looking Glass

alice looking glass ranking

#62 Dirty Grandpa

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#63 The Divergent Series: Allegiant

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#64 The Legend of Tarzan

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Snarcasm: I Hate The New ‘Suicide Squad’ Movie Because It Exists

suicide squad trailer

A new Suicide Squad trailer dropped this week, and pretty much everyone is in love with it. Everyone, that is, except for a few holdouts who are still complaining about Jared Leto for some reason.

I love Jay from IndieRevolver. For those of you who don’t know, he runs the site and posts frequently as himself.

He has a lot of personality, which makes his writing fun to read. And since his latest piece about Suicide Squad trailer called out fans to defend it, I decided to give him the Snarcasm treatment. Because as you all know, I only do that to people I either dislike tremendously or respect tremendously.

Sorry, Jay. You had to know this was coming. Just maybe not from me…

Headline!

The New Suicide Squad Trailer is Here! …Cool?

 

Well, yeah.

Even if you don’t like the way the movie looks so far, I think it’s easy to find it cool that an actual Suicide Squad featuring lesser-known DC Comics favorites is coming to theaters in August.

But if that’s not good enough…Sweet!

Wayne’s World used the song better…

I don’t get this complaint. Both movies used it in their trailer, so they used the song the same way. Or is Jay just trying to make the argument that he likes a movie that’s been out for 23 years more than one he hasn’t seen yet? Either way, I think Wayne’s World is a weird rubric to judge our comic book movies by.

Maybe instead we should compare the music of Batman and Robin to this trailer, except everyone secretly hums Kiss From a Rose every time the light hits the gloom on the gray, so Jay’s point is actually strengthened.

Seriously, what the hell is this movie?

A movie we can’t peg yet. That means it’s different. Which means it’s exciting.

With each successive piece of this DC puzzle, I feel like we are front row for a slow motion train derailment.

From two trailers and a handful of marketing posters? I’m glad you don’t drive trains in real life, or you’d really start to freak out over nothing.

I like David Ayer and the cast he’s assembled, but nothing about this looks good at all.

“I like everything about it except for the part where things happen.”

OK, that’s unfair, but my point is that we’ve still seen very little of what the movie actually is, which Jay already pointed out above. How can you not get any value out of anything that’s being shown so far?

What would it take to please you, Jay? (Sofia Vergara voice) JAY?!

The Joker looks like a Hot Topic ad from 2000 had a baby with a Joel Schumacher directed Batman film. 

Yeah! The Joker should look, um, normal instead.

Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve never met anyone who likes Hot Topic AND is hardcore enough to have tattoos. Green hair, maybe.

I can’t think of anything I want to see less than this Joker sharing the screen with the autotuned voice of Ben Affleck.

First off, even Cinemablend agrees with me that Batfleck’s voice is downright sexy. Also, how dare you?

There are at least billions of things I want to see less than Jared Leto and Ben Affleck sharing screen time in a comic book movie. Like Ben Affleck and Christian O’Donnell sharing a screen together at all, for example.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn looks like the ONLY reason to watch this film.

This cracks me up. Mostly because the majority of the trailer is centered around Harley Quinn’s humor and insanity. Sure, other characters pop up, but she’s clearly the driving force. So, shouldn’t you love this trailer more?

Theoretically the DC films should be for me. Growing up I leaned toward the DC heroes more than Marvel, but these films all look terrible,

I think the problem (and I don’t say this lightly) is you, Jay. Because everything about this trailer screams the DNA of DC.

For one thing, it’s full of camp. And don’t tell me as a DC fan that Batman comics aren’t incredibly exaggerated on purpose. Also, you’re complaining about a trailer where a machine gun from a helicopter fires in sync with Bohemian Rhapsody. And it’s not good enough for you? JAY?!

We can argue about whether or not this new Joker walks the line between madness and camp. That’s a fair argument, and we haven’t seen enough to feel OK about it. But don’t tell me a movie where Harley Quinn rattles on about the voices in her head after we just watched Beard Smith fire rounds from his arms on top of a police car “doesn’t look good at all.”

which is sad because I want to love them so much.

Clearly.

But they lose me more as each new piece is revealed.

I think he’s also referencing the Dawn of Justice trailer, which I can agree seems a bit worrisome. Too much is revealed and Lex Luthor looks hit or miss. But come on, Jay, don’t tell me you didn’t hear the Justice League theme song when the Trinity walked in slow motion toward Doomsday. Don’t lie to me, Jay.

Who is actually excited for these DC films?

Pretty much everyone except for you and Donna Dickens. And bless her, but Dickens’ only real criticism is something we can’t even judge until the movie comes out.

Someone please explain it. Bring me back.

I guess it’s up to me.

clears throat

Jay. I want to talk to you about two little movies called Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. Now, I know these were made by a different studio, but let’s be honest. DC is clearly studying these guys like a test that’s in 15 minutes.

When the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy came out, people were in two camps:

“Oh, this looks interesting. I’ll probably see it.”

“What? This is weird and has never really been done before. So it’ll be a disaster.”

Now, when every trailer for Ant-Man came out, people were in two camps:

“Oh, this looks interesting. I’ll probably see it.”

“What? This is weird and has never really been done before. So it’ll be a disaster.”

What about Fantastic Four? What did people say about that movie?

“Human Torch is black?”

“Give the rights back to Marvel.”

So fret not, Jay. Because even if Suicide Squad isn’t some sort of reincarnation of The Dark Knight, or worse, even if Dawn of Justice is somewhat disappointing, neither movie will be as bad as Fantastic Four.

Oh, and they’ll be (like I said earlier) different.

Not original, obviously, but different. And different is interesting. Maybe it’s a little unsettling. Maybe it’s not necessarily good. But it’ll probably be worth your time.

Besides, we all know you’re going to watch it.

 

Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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