If 2011 was the year of the sequel, 2012 is set to rival that moniker with additional superhero franchise installments. Most notably is the uber-anticipated Dark Knight Rises, followed at a distance by The Amazing Spiderman and The Avengers. I’m sure Hollywood is also destined to bombard us with a handful of underground super movies that follow us normal folk possessed by delusions of grandeur. Either way, viewers love superheroes.
Question 1: Are you a fan of the more mainstream superheroes or the underground players?
Bill Coffin: Growing up amid the comic boom of the 1980s, seeing a film like Batman was a huge deal because the technical challenges to making a superhero movie that actually looked good remained substantial. In an era where you can capture even the most wild superhero action on screen, the visuals start to matter less, and once you’re over the novelty of seeing a guy like Hancock shoulder a freight train off the tracks, you do start to get more interested in why he would derail an entire train just to save some guy stuck on the tracks. So yeah, I’ve become more interested in the underground/non-heroes than the traditional heroes. I’ve had Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern and the last two X-Men movies in my possession for months and have yet to watch any of them.
Steve Barker: On screen I prefer the more underground characters. I have not enjoyed the majority of mainstream comic book movie adaptations and I was a big comic book reader as a kid. My favorite was Ghost Rider and the movie with Nic Cage was terrible. It was so bad I’m not even sure I could enjoy the comic books again if I tried. I was stunned when I saw a trailer for a sequel during the Super Bowl. One mainstream adaptation I loved that basically went unnoticed was Dolf Lundgren as the Punisher. That was one of the few times the violence in the comic was equal to the violence in the movie
Tim Adkins: I’ve been an Incredible Hulk fan since before I could speak English. Always dug the combination of righteous rage and brainy, tortured nomad. The two films that have been made thus far about the Hulk have been okay. But I think he’s an unusually challenging character to render for the big screen. Or the small screen. Which is to say that I lean toward the mainstream superheroes. Although I should state unequivocally that I believe the Scott Pilgrim flick to be the best accomplishment in translational storytelling of the last decade. What Edgar Wright and his team did in channeling the experience aesthetics of reading a comic book and using the Interwebs to tell a story via a motion picture was freakin’ brilliant.
Dustin Freeley: For the most part, I dig the more underground movies. I don’t dislike mainstream characters, but in recent years, most of these movies (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor) have spent time and money on an origin story then bridge to sequels of sequels of sequels and tandem-hero movies (i.e. The Avengers). Watching Tony Stark trapped in a cave and manufacture the original iron suit was cool; watching him John Nash Flushing Meadows Park to defeat a Russian Mickey Rourke was a snippet within a two-hour commercial meant to remind us that Thor and Captain America were heading to theaters. I’d take Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim, or Darkman over any of these films.
Jared Wade: Mainstream for sure. Other than Unbreakable (if you want to call that “underground”), all my favorite superhero flicks have been the big ones: the X-Men franchise, Watchmen, the original Superman franchise, Batman Returns, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Iron Man I & II. The smaller takes on the genre have been cute and all but I want massive explosions and space-age special effects. That takes a major,
Question 2: The Dark Knight Rises is clearly the most anticipated hero film of 2012. Can it possibly live up to the hype?
Bill Coffin: Don’t know, don’t care. Christopher Nolan has earned my trust as a filmmaker, so I’ll certainly see it. It’ll be one of the first comic movies I’ve ever seen that retells a story from the print issues that I never actually read, so at least I won’t have that annoying nerd impulse to constantly cross-check what I’m seeing against what I’m remembering. That almost ruined Watchmen for me.
Steve Barker: It will not have a better performance than Heath Ledger as The Joker. It will still make a zillion dollars.
Tim Adkins: The kind of hype building around Dark Knight Rises really makes this a question of scale. What filmmakers do you trust to play at that level? Who has a track record of delivering a movie that will satisfy a) devoted, hypercritical cinephiles / fanboys b) the companies that need the franchise to generate ginormous revenues and c) casual moviegoers who just want to be part of a significant event? There’s at least one guy who can succeed in that space: Chris Nolan. As a “commercial artist”–with a dutiful emphasis on both words in that phrase–he’s almost without peer. So, short answer, yes.
Dustin Freeley: I dig Nolan and want to trust he will end this series well, and maybe it’ll end with a busted – but not deceased — Batman, which might be the best way to go in that it falls in line with sub-textual reminder that Bruce Wayne is human. At the same time, the wealth of mainstream actors rounding out a bloated cast of characters worries me. I know people love The Dark Knight, but aside from Ledger, there were a fair number of narrative flaws, a wasted Two Face, and a flat, nasally Batman. In the Val Kilmer and George Clooney incarnations, the extraneous villains and tertiary heroes were tasked with carrying the load to make up for the Bat-story, so the only thing I fear is this denouement following the same route. Can Hathaway’s Catwoman do anything that Pfeifer’s didn’t? Will a reportedly inaudible Bane resonate as a worthy adversary? And, why throw in Matthew Modine as the little known, political villain, Nixon? Nostradamus I am not, but this movie will certainly be the biggest of the summer and theaters will be continuously stocked with Batfans, but the third leg of a trilogy is often cursed. Even those we canonize veer into silliness. Ewoks, I’m looking in your general direction.
Jared Wade: Probably not. I’m frankly not a huge fan of the new Batman franchise. Both of the first two movies were pretty good, but outside of the historic awesomeness of the Joker in the second one, I haven’t particularly enjoyed any of the plot lines or characters.
Question 3: Spiderman is getting a reboot only a few years after Tobey Maguire grew out of his tights. Is this “Amazing” reboot necessary?
Bill Coffin: If there is a larger strategic purpose for rebooting the franchise other than to get away from admitting that Spider-Man 3 was ever made (which a Spider-Man 4 sequel would have done by dint of its name alone), then I haven’t seen it yet. Maybe it’s about getting somebody besides Tobey MacGuire in the role without having the awkwardness of admitting that your lead player is now a different guy. The only franchise to survive that transition is Police Academy, and look at the damage that has done to us as a culture. I’m just pissed that I’m going to have to watch Peter Parker’s origin story again. How many times do we need to see Uncle Ben get capped, anyway?
Steve Barker: Not necessary at all. I thought Tobey Maguire made a fine Peter Parker and the franchise should have a little time to rest. There should be at least a ten year gap between reboots. Remember all those awful Batman movies after Michal Keaton left? Yeah, me neither.
Tim Adkins: The problem with the Tobey Maguire version of Spiderman was that it wanted to be acceptable to children while playing to adults. And it ultimately failed. The first movie was an event. (Remember that $116 million opening weekend gross that exploded the threshold for box office success?) And that was enough. The second and third movies were mostly tasteless syrup. In a relatively short amount of time since the first Maguire film was released, two things have happened: 1) animation studios have locked the formula for making a kids movie that adults will enjoy; 2) superhero movies have been allowed to delve into the mature themes that the best comic books and graphic novels have always exploited. We may not need the Spiderman reboot, but reframing that character in a post-Dark Knight world–where adults will show up in the millions to see a thoughtful epic–is not a superfluous exercise. Maybe it’ll be cool.
Dustin Freeley: Necessary, like the Spiderman mythology needs to be avenged? No. Perhaps the only thing necessary is a better rendition of Venom. This is what really sank the third movie. The first film was visual masturbation; the second was carried by Alfred Molina; the third wasted the most popular character in Spiderman lore, and to imagine Topher Grace as the afflicted was the definition of poor casting. Likewise, Eric Foreman is no Eddie Brock. So, for this reason alone, I’ll bide my time through this origin story and assume that Parker needs to heed Uncle Ben’s oft-noted maxim, something about power, responsibility and rice.
Jared Wade: To me, Spiderman is the dumbest superhero. So no. No interest in seeing that little whiny, emo teenager reimagined yet again. Much more excited for the next Wolverine, even if it probably won’t be that good again.