Thursday, September 04, 2014

To Bury A Reboot

The first time I watched 'Man of Steel' I actually kind of enjoyed it. The second time I couldn't get through the opening sequence on Krypton.

I have to say, my impression of the reviews of 'The Amazing Spider-Man' were that it was treated fairly - it was a well made film, simply missing that Sam Raimi magic. Not much could be said for it's sequal, except that I feel, deeply and with conviction, that this franchise should be buried.

Perhaps same same with the new Superman franchise, I'm not particularly excited about a Superman-Batman crossover, I imagine Nolan will cherry pick the best of Loeb's efforts to combine the two. But even that is not very good, and I suspect, not the way to make Superman interesting subject matter. Like offering a free coke with every sprite purchased. I think at the end of the day it will leave consumers asking 'what the fuck?'

I suspect though the amount of time between reboots will continue to contract. The comic movie industry, is beginning to replicate the comic publication industry. The industry's on a learning curve and the subject matter suffers as the business model strengthens.

Firstly, there's a fan base that wants to see these movies made. They want them and they can't help themselves. A large contingent of comic fandom, simply lacks a capacity to learn. These are nerds we are talking about, dweebs. It's hard to call them indiscriminate, but effectively so. In their powerlessness they can only express rage at the mistreatment of their sacred texts, not actually predict a crappy product and avoid consuming it.

And I don't believe in popular movements or consumer activism. I believe in decision makers. The first three Spider Man films set records at the box office, with a decade of inflation passed and an increase in movie ticket prices, the next two films have cost almost as much budget wise and performed not as well. Not as well as Captain America, when one would expect box office performance to map roughly onto comic title sales performance, and I can't imagine there's anywhere near as many fans of Captain America comics as there are of the many and varied Spider Man titles.

What it puts me in mind of, is of all people Dave "Hughesy" Hughes, because after the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth games, he asked the question 'surely somebody in some meeting pointed out "flying boy on a skateboard, isn't that a little bit like the flying Nikki Webster in the Sydney Olympics opening?"' and in whatever meetings I imagine take place, certain questions aren't being asked.

Like somebody looking over the script and saying 'so we are portraying on film the death of Uncle Ben, Peter Parker's Parents, Gwen Stacey's Father and Gwen Stacey... won't that mean our Spider man pretty much does nothing but deal with guilt and remorse and self doubt?' or even 'these designs are terrible. You're saying this is what our Green Goblin is going to look like? This looks ugly and ridiculous and stupid as shit, we are clearly falling short visually and technologically of what was achieved in previous films. What are we thinking?'

I don't know and I don't understand. That's why I feel comic book movies have probably peaked in terms of approaching legitimate films. Clearly the new franchise is underperforming the historical benchmark set (even adjusted for inflation) but it's still clearing a 160% return for investors on the budget, and these movies will get pumped out so long as they pull in a positive return. What hasn't been established is any threshold for the movie going public to say 'batman, again? you know what, I'm really not interested.'

The profitability will I suspect eventually just be what the comic book industry used to be when it was in print, do to saturation and competition and diminishing quality of product.

The diminishing quality of product comes from the diminished perception of risk. There used to be a reason to get an auteur director like Tim Burton to do the Batman film adaptation, you got very few shots at adapting a comic into a film. It was big and expensive and it needed to work. There used to be a reason to get Willem Dafoe to play the Green Goblin, you wanted a compelling on screen presence because Marvel didn't know if Spider Man was too campy to hold up on the big screen.

These reasons have evaporated. You can be pretty certain so long as the IP is big enough and the visual effects budget can cut together an enticing preview, enough fans will go see to make the project viable, and if it bombs, you reboot in 2 years instead of releasing a sequel the next year.

Thus nobody is going to agonize over script and director until you hit upon Raimi's ability to conceal a romance within a blockbuster action film creating the perfect date movie for a generation. You aren't going to have sketch artists sitting with Tim Burton as he completely recreates our visual conception of Batman characters. You aren't going to fire Tim Burton because his sequel didn't outsell the first installment. You just accept diminishing returns and keep pumping out ho hum interpretations hoping a happy accident will occur. Or knowing you will be dragged upwards if enough of the other franchise films succeed (aka the Avengers).

Even Captain America's installment this year though, suffered from the benefit it receives being associated with Iron Man etc. It could have been fucking great, had it the space to do a Spider Man 2 - which would have been to remove Hydra completely and make it a story about the pin up boy from the propaganda being the real deal having to turn against the propaganda machine that produced him.

Can't do it though, has to fit the plans for the next Avengers crossover.

The decision makers need to be decisive, and ditch these dying franchises to create space for good shit to be created at a rate consumers can handle. Instead of fucking canabalising their own markets through product line extension. Sorry to end with marketing jargon, but if the decision makers read it, they'll understand it.

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