Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is the best film ever!!! That’s something that you never hear anybody say. For that matter, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody ever say that they even liked it. Why not? Surely somebody out there must have enjoyed it, right? Of course, there’s the possibility that those folks at Marvel – who at the time were producing such classics as… uh… well, they had Generation X out, and were going to unveil the ‘Hoff in Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD and Blade – well, maybe those sneaky Marvel people and all their badge-wearing FOOM-ers and MMMS-ers conspired to give Batman & Robin some lousy reviews. That must have been it. Obviously.
Batman Forever, the Batman film before that, really was one of the greatest films ever made. That was according to critic Jonathan Ross, anyway. Apparently, he only said that to win a bet to see if he could get his quote on a poster. He did, the quote was used and he won his bet. Thus, Batman Forever is endorsed by at least one critic as a movie which ranks up there with Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather, or even The Empire Strikes Back.
It’s good to know that, in spite of the 41% approval rating it has on RT, at least one critic gave it such a glowing review even if his motives were highly suspect. The dignity of Jim Carrey’s pelvic-thrusting Riddler, the amazingly nuanced performance of Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Val Kilmer’s Bat-nipples remain unscathed, and this is clearly the greatest Batman film ever. And anyone who doesn’t agree with that must obviously be a Marvel-brainwashed sycophant who thinks the sun shines out of Thor’s Asgard.
Green Lantern was brilliant too, and Ryan Reynolds delivered his best comic book film role ever. The Dark Knight Rises made perfect sense when a “highly unstable” bomb got dragged around Gotham without exploding and proved to doctors that a broken spine can be fixed with just a few punches in the right spot and a few weeks of bed rest. Also, Nuclear Man was the best foe Superman ever fought, ranking just above Richard Pryor, while The Return Of Swamp Thing clearly should have won Oscars. Especially for the scene where he drove around in a jeep.
Damn all those Marvelites and their cunning plan to ruin the glowing legacy of DC’s movies!
Of course, the truth of the matter is that all of those films were pretty bad to varying degrees. You don’t need to be a critic or have taken a course on film study at college to know there were problems with them. That isn’t to say they’re all bad. Dark Knight Rises has loyal fans and offered a fairly decent conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy, and it looks pretty good too. That Swamp Thing sequel has some fans too, and I’m one of them. They all have fans, somewhere. Even Superman IV.
Amazingly, those aren’t the only comic book films which have received some flak from critics and fans in the past though. Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, Mystery Men, Scott Pilgrim, Hellboy, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta… the list seems endless. And… wait… what’s this? Howard the Duck? Daredevil? X-Men: The Last Stand? Elektra? Fant4stic? Hulk? The Punisher? What are these Marvel titles doing here?
Oh, wait, those weren’t a part of the MCU, and many of them were with other studios. That explains their bad reviews.
Although it’s a little harder to explain why Age of Ultron wasn’t as well received as people think. What’s the RT rating of it? About 75%? Hmm. Thor: The Dark World sits at about 66%. That may be far above DC’s more recent film offerings, but it’s hardly brilliant. And that score is a pretty fair one, since it really isn’t that great a movie. It’s only the chemistry between Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth and some action eye-candy which pull it through. Well, that and Kat Dennings being funny. And Stellan Skarsgard running around Stonehenge in the nude.
Say what you want, but those comedic moments do help.
But nobody ever said it was perfect, and as with many Marvel Cinematic Universe films it’s got some real problems. With the exception of Loki, hardly any of the Marvel villains have been memorable and the films’ plots are pretty formulaic at the best of times. The MCU plays it safe by giving the audience what they want. It isn’t a groundbreaking strategy, and certainly isn’t as bold and daring as DC’s, but giving the audience what they want counts for a lot. That isn’t bias, it’s people enjoying being entertained.
Maybe – and here’s a crazy thought – just maybe, some of these films which have been deemed as good are actually good, and some of them which have been deemed bad are actually bad? Sure, they’re all flawed in some way, like any creative piece of work, and some may have been judged wrong – but maybe it’s also about which ones still do a good enough job to be enjoyable. That and the opinion of the individual.
That isn’t to say that all the critics are right or all the fans are right. People are individuals, and as such they like (or dislike) different things. Is there bias in some reviews? At times there can be, but the better critics look past that bias, and fans do the same sometimes too. There are always some who don’t, but then a critic’s review is a guideline only. Some critics take bets, like Jonathan Ross did, or just say unpopular things to get attention. Others say the popular thing simply to join the crowd.
But at the end of the day, critics (even the best of them) are human and the most they can offer are opinions, not truths.
There’s been what appears to be bullying of DC’s films lately, both live-action and animated. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t. They do seem to have come in for some stick, but a fair amount of that has been justified. But bullying, that’s wrong.
I was told something shocking today: that Suicide Squad is being compared to Fant4stic in pre-release reviews. I can’t say if that’s an accurate comparison or not, and can only say for sure once I’ve seen it. But it’s hard to imagine any other movie being that bad, because Fant4stic really does seem to be the pinnacle of bad superhero films. It was dull and lifeless, and while I can imagine Suicide Squad being either brilliant or disappointing, I can’t imagine it as being dull and lifeless.
I was also told to hand in my Marvel fanboy badges, which I guess is a polite way of saying I should get my head out of my ass and show DC some much-deserved love.
The strange thing is, I do show DC some love, and lots of it. To those who know me this won’t come as a shock: I’m a DC fan. I’ve got boxes and boxes of their comics, shelves of their movies, a few T-shirts, statues, toys and other memorabilia, computer games, books, bags, posters… I’m guessing I must have spent fifty grand over the years on DC products at least, and the resale value is probably zero. But I’m happy with that, because they have sentimental and emotional value to me.
Sure, I love comic books in general, and from all companies, but I started out with DC and DC has a huge place in my heart (and my comic book collection). In recent years I’ve favoured Marvel rather, because their more recent comics are (in my opinion) better, and DC’s had gotten almost unreadably bad. But I’ve never wished bad fortune on DC, and have always hoped that they would improve.
And they have. Lately, DC is offering up some good comics and a few stinkers too. Just as Marvel is, and just as all publishers do. But those good comics – DC ones in particular – have made my heart soar once more and hold out hope for better times.
I haven’t enjoyed DC’s latest films, because I’ve found them to be too grim and lacking in entertainment and intelligence. I’ve felt little emotional connection with the characters, and have questioned decisions like the killing Jimmy Olsen or the snapping of Zod’s neck. Instead, I’ve preferred Marvel’s films. Not because I’m a brainwashed Marvel fan, but because they’ve simply been more fun to watch and easier to enjoy. When Peggy Carter makes more of an impact on me than Lois Lane (a character I always cared about), that’s a telling sign that something’s seriously wrong.
I, and I’m assuming most fans of either of the big two franchises, don’t want DC’s films to fail. Far from it. I want them to be better so that I can enjoy them, much as I’ve enjoyed reading their comics for over thirty years. I want them to succeed and be brilliant. My favourite superhero film is still Richard Donner’s Superman, a film helmed by a director who knew he shouldn’t mess around with a much-beloved character. That film has no actual fight scenes, yet tells a good story and has characters who the viewers feel a connection with. I don’t feel that with the new films.
As for DC’s animation, their latest offerings have been mostly weak. Yet I loved Green Lantern: First Flight, Wonder Woman and Public Enemies. In Superman: Doomsday, I genuinely cried when Lois and Martha grieved over Superman’s death. However, I didn’t when he died in BvS, because of the lack of that emotional connection. I also cried when Solomon Grundy died in the Justice League episode The Terror Beyond. Yes, Solomon Grundy! It’s an emotionally-charged moment of tragedy, as he asks Hawkgirl if his soul is waiting for him in Heaven. There’s been nothing that powerful in any of the more recent animated offerings.
But I’m always watching out and hoping for improvement.
Personally, I don’t enjoy giving any comic book movie – or comic book – a negative review, although if they don’t appeal to me then I have to. That’s my job, and it’s one which doesn’t make me many new friends. Comic book fans are passionate about the things they love – I know because I’m a fan too. If someone has a differing opinion, I may debate it but I respect that they love something I don’t, because I’m sure I love things that they don’t enjoy too and would hope for the same respect.
I enjoyed Tank Girl, for all its faults and all the criticism, so I get it. I really do.
Yes, I wear a Marvel badge. Several, in fact. I also wear DC badges. And a 2000AD badge. And a Doctor Who badge. I even wear a NASA badge, right next to my Star Trek badge, and I wear a whole lot of other ones too. I’m not kidding, I really do have those badges (so it isn’t just a metaphor) and I really do wear them. I’m proud of all of them, and I won’t stop wearing them because they’re all a reflection of my interests, not biases.
Maybe there is bullying going on. It’s perfectly possible. Much as we saw Sony allegedly removing negative comments from their Ghostbusters reboot trailer, studios and companies do sometimes try to skew things either in their favour or against the competition. But I prefer to believe that most critics and fans are above all that. Maybe I’m being naïve or stupidly optimistic, but I really do believe that there’s some integrity out there which will prevail, and that everyone wants DC films, Marvel films, or any films, to be the best they can be.
Not every negative comment is justified, nor is every positive comment. But I’ve never seen any conspiracy against DC. In comics, their Rebirth reboot was spurred on because co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio felt a “disconnect” with their audience. That disconnect had nothing to do with any pro-Marvel conspiracy, because it takes more than that to make long-time DC fans stop reading or caring about characters they love. It took bad storytelling decisions at DC to make that happen. Now they’re trying to fix it, and as a long-time fan myself it’s good to see them make some progress in that department.
I just hope that their movies follow the same route. If they do, I’m pretty sure that all the supposed bullying and all the supposed conspiracies against them will magically disappear.
The woeful reception of Batman & Robin led to the infinitely superior Batman Begins being made, as opposed to another Schumacher travesty. Criticism, not blind devotion to a failing franchise, brought about improvement. The trick is to learn from past mistakes. The new DC movie universe is still in its infancy and making mistakes which seem to be pointed out often, but changes for the better can still happen because of those criticisms, not in spite of them. It’s a lesson which was at the core of Batman Begins:
Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.
So come on, DC movies. Pick yourselves up and be brilliant.