Apr 11 2017
We’re up to 62 superhero movies since 2000. You can download the full data here. Some observations:
- R movies are making up the quality gap with PG-13 movies.
Apr 11 2017
We’re up to 62 superhero movies since 2000. You can download the full data here. Some observations:
Aug 19 2016
Out of the Past is a 1947 noir thriller so brilliant I cannot do it justice. I would definitely recommend it, particularly if you’re working with…
Aug 14 2016
1. The character introductions were lacking. Having Waller narrate the characters’ backstories to a minor character in a no-stakes infodump was probably not ideal. If Waller’s MO is that she’s ruthless and/or exploitative, would have preferred a scene with her coercing Flag to work on the project and/or why they selected these guys rather than any other high-stakes criminals available. Also, given that virtually all of the characters are total unknowns to most viewers, a smaller team would probably have helped with character development. (Failing that, if you start with a large team of antiheroes, having several deaths would probably have helped raise the stakes and establish a mood).
2. It probably would have helped if the main mission of the movie had been more shady and/or disagreeable. If a supervillain is ravaging a city, it’s not clear why the government needs a “plausible deniability” option here of unwilling gangsters with guns and bats rather than, say, asking Batman or Wonder Woman to step in. Or that having 6 minor criminal patsies would have helped explain at all why a sorceress wrecked a major city. I feel like a very messy police mission like trying to destroy a major gang and/or killing somebody that’s gone rogue and/or helping a VIP (maybe Waller) deal with a major case of blackmail would have been a better fit.
2.1. Waller’s trying to fake an answer to the wrong question. If a villain magically turns millions of people into zombies, the blame coming your way doesn’t have anything to do about who did it, but rather that you either didn’t have a plan and/or it involved sending guys with guns and bats to stop a sorceress rather than, say, asking Wonder Woman. Also, if you DID need to falsely claim that someone zombified a city, could I suggest somebody more plausible than a group of minor criminals headlined by a crocodile and a prison psychiatrist?
2.2. The blame coming your way might also have something to do with “why was somebody as incompetent as Waller within 1,000 miles of a life-or-death assignment?”
2.3. “When Enchantress started killing millions of people, why didn’t we immediately flip the kill-switch on her magical device?”
3. The music selection was ugly. E.g. playing “Sympathy for the Devil” to introduce a shady character with semi-sympathetic goals calls out the viewers as idiots, I think. Not nearly subtle enough. In contrast, Killer Croc got the much more imaginative “Born in the USA”, rather than (God help us) Crocodile Rock.
4. June is the worst archeologist in the world. She spends less than 10 seconds in the temple before twisting the head off a priceless relic that nearly destroys the world. Whoops. Not to be outdone, she falls for the worst soldier in the world, whose superpower is playing golf without a handicap and bungling pretty much everything he touches.
5. The team selection is an odd choice: Harlequin, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, Diablo, Katana, Deadshot, and Slipknot. Slipknot and Captain Boomerang are joke characters that contribute very little to the plot. (Seriously, Slipknot’s reason for being on the team is that “he can climb anything”). Harlequin and Deadshot (and secondarily KC and Diablo) feel like a pretty good personality fit for the movie, and the four of them dominate the memorable lines. I would have removed or overhauled CB, Katana, Slipknot, and maybe Rick Flag – they have little impact on the plot, and there just isn’t time.
6. Enchantress feels like a serious mismatch for the protagonists. Someone shootable would probably have created more interesting interactions and better fight scenes, seeing as almost everyone on the team is a badass normal. (The team’s only superhumans are Diablo, Killer Croc, and maybe Katana – not the most intuitive choice for stopping a world-ending threat).
7. Characters raise plausible concerns about Waller’s plans in a fair way (and thoroughly exhaust standard police and military alternatives). In context, it almost feels believable that serious people would agree to this crazier-than-crazy plan. (If we pretend that Batman and Wonder Woman were dealing with some other world-ending threat somewhere else, it almost makes sense). Also, in the interests of making Waller/Flag look better than “totally useless”, it might help if the problem the team had to deal with was not 100% created by Waller being a dumbass. In, say, well-executed noir movies like Out of the Past, characters create their own problems, but without compromising their competence.
8. Although this movie did as poorly as Batman vs Superman on Rotten Tomatoes, I think Suicide Squad is considerably better-executed and more entertaining. E.g. Will Smith’s attempted negotiation with Flag and Waller actually did a great job advancing character development, establishing conflicts between characters, and advancing the central plot. I don’t think there were any scenes in BVS that managed any one of those besides maybe Bruce Wayne’s very brief conversation with Diana Prince.
9. Even for a superhero movie, SS asks you to check a lot of realism at the door. E.g. 3 helicopter crashes for major characters without any deaths or injuries. Seriously, it would have been okay to kill off some of these characters. No one in this movie besides Batman and maybe Joker is integral to the success of the DC Universe moving forward. Also, Rick Flag is a notably passive, weak character – besides killing off Slipknot early, he is curiously reluctant to respond to provocations from his team. I was actively rooting for his death.
10. Several of the characters (notably KC, Joker and Diablo) are taken in an unusually gangsta direction. It feels really strange for Joker, who comes across as more sketchy than threatening. For Killer Croc, it got oddly humorous, in a non-PC way.
11. Harlequin’s background as a psychiatrist does not feel like it fits with the rest of the character.
11.1. The sexploitation was actually pretty effective.
11.2. Harlequin getting punched in the face by Batman probably got the loudest laughter from the audience, followed by Deadshot trying to negotiate in prison.
12. Villains threatening worldwide destruction generally don’t give protagonists much to work with. Enchantress felt like a sorry rehash of the most recent Fantastic Four’s Dr. Doom and Green Lantern’s Galactus, even down to the purple vortexes of death and terrible CGI. It’s much harder for characters to interact with a force that has nothing to talk about. Off the top of my head, the only superhero movies with global villains that worked out creatively very well were the Avengers series and Guardians of the Galaxy, and they relied on exceptionally interesting interactions between the protagonists rather than with the villains.
13. Most of the teammates – and Flag and (if you go as far back as Green Lantern) Waller – have a tragic backstory to soften them. I was sort of hoping for at least one character to have an unapologetic Walter White-style “I did it for me. I was good at it.” The closest we got was Harlequin stealing a purse. While that helps reinforce the character’s craziness, maybe something more important to the central plot?
14. Deadshot’s final scene with his kid (helping her with geometry) was surprisingly heartfelt and refreshingly dark. The kid isn’t just a sweet plot device, and it’s probably the closest this movie got to daring. I wish they had tried it more often (e.g. see Deadpool). For example, maybe giving characters more opportunities to do more antiheroic things than stealing a purse? Giving Diablo and Flag more of a pulse? Making Waller competent?
14.1. Deadshot shows off technical expertise in his final scene very naturally – compare how he talks about the geometry of shooting people and the curvature of the Earth to virtually every Fantastic Four conversation about science.
15. It’s so hard to feel for the setting. It’s very generic and, like every DC city besides Gotham, it’s just a soulless cardboard box to wreck. No interesting characters, no interesting places, no distinctive mood to the city… For God’s sake, it’s called
Fauxcago “Midway City.” How much personality could it possibly have? PS: Would suggest checking out better noir movies for better alternatives to “dark and rainy all the time.”
16. The last 60 minutes of the movie (50:00 to 1:48:00) were a single, REALLY LONG mission where the characters break into Fauxcago, rescue a VIP, and ultimately defeat the villain. I strongly prefer the pacing of virtually every other superhero movie (e.g. Avengers and Incredibles), where several (much shorter) action sequences build up to a climactic confrontation with the villain. That would have also made it easier to work in dialogue into scenes than it was for Suicide Squad – e.g. look at how weirdly paced the bar scene is. (The world’s about to end, but hey, let’s talk about Diablo’s backstory!)
17. Across the movie, I counted about 38 minutes of action scenes. I think that’s about twice the average for superhero movies. Some issues here. First, it got tedious. Second, most of the fight scenes were ineffective. E.g. did we really need 3-4 separate scenes of soldiers/helicopters/aircraft carriers getting wrecked? There are so many characters that could have used most of that space more.
17.1. Most of the action sequences setting up each SS member were wasted.
18. The movie took far too long before the teammates first meet each other 45 minutes in. Virtually all of the moments in the movies that actually worked featured Squad members interacting together (or Deadshot with Flag or his daughter), and getting the Squad together much sooner would probably have helped with the pacing. If your first 45 minutes of the film give more screentime to Waller, faceless government extras, and Joker as the titular heroes, it’d really help if these side characters got more opportunities to be interesting or memorable. In comparison, most of the great superheroes movies that introduce the main case exceptionally late, like Iron Man 1 and Incredibles, used the extra time early on for scenes that were very interesting, hilarious, emotionally effective, developed the main characters, or developed critical plot elements – hell, Tony Stark’s “Merchant of Death” scene and Bob’s attempt to prevent a suicide accomplished a lot on all 5. In Suicide Squad, the first 45 minutes don’t have anything that well-executed… I’d argue the closest is Deadshot’s interactions with his client, which create some character development and humor.
18.1. The odd men out here are definitely Waller, Joker, Enchantress and her brother (Incubus), and arguably Batman. Ideally, I think it would have helped to replace Enchantress/Incubus with villains that could interact with the heroes more directly, made Batman’s scenes more distinctive or removed him altogether, and significantly accelerated the setup to the squad coming together. I think Joker would be a candidate for lead villain, but I wouldn’t keep him on as a side villain because there are so many characters fighting for space. Also, overhauling Waller (more competent, more believable, more logical, more reacting to an actual problem rather than creating a problem that doesn’t exist yet, more threatening to teammates rather than maintaining no surveillance on the team, etc).
19. A point worth belaboring: Waller is outlandishly incompetent.
19.1. While Rick is not as legendarily inept as Waller, he’s not exactly covering himself in glory.
Aug 07 2015
Aug 01 2014
My expectations were modest — e.g. “What if they made a watchable version of Green Lantern?” The movie is better than I think anyone could have reasonably anticipated. It’s more like an exceptionally funny version of Star Wars. 5 stars.
PS: I’d suggest against bringing most kids younger than 13. The violence level is more like a Vin Diesel movie than a talking raccoon movie. (You did notice that the talking raccoon has a machine gun, right?)
May 26 2014
Nov 03 2012
A lot of the comedy was impeccable and the writers did a lot more with side-characters (especially a hardened/paranoid space Marine and affable Fix-It Felix) than I’m used to seeing from Disney. It had many of the best traits of Pixar movies–unusually innovative scene selection, strong characterization all around, emotionally effective protagonist-vs-protagonist conflict, an unusually interesting villain, an engaging romance, memorable bits of flair (e.g. two awesome space marine weddings), etc. There were a few more kiddy elements (e.g. too much toilet humor and slapstick), but on the whole this movie was extremely adult-friendly (definitely more so than Pixar’s last movie, Brave). Although Wreck-It Ralph involves video games, I think the movie would be highly enjoyable even if you’re not a video game fan. (In contrast, I think Scott Pilgrim would be sort of weird for people that were looking for a more traditional superpowered story).
FIVE YEAR OLD: “Now that I’m President of Candyland, everybody that was ever mean to me will be… executed.”
SPACE MARINE: “This place suddenly got a lot more interesting.”
Sep 09 2011
Speaking of Cowboys and Aliens, I found this highly amusing but not safe for work (unless your job is awesome).
Aug 22 2011
If you’ve ever wanted to know which is the best superhero movie or the worst superhero movie ever, I’ve compiled Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings below. If you’re interested in a comparison of how DC’s movies stack up against Marvel’s, please see this article.
Excel file downloadable here with additional data included. Current as of April 2016.
Jul 25 2011
I’d give Captain America 3 out of 4 stars. If you’re into superhero action, I’d highly recommend it.
Jul 15 2011
The opening night audience was somewhere between overjoyed and ecstatic. If you liked the previous Harry Potter movies, you’ll probably love this one. I liked it, but it never felt like a great movie. Currently, it’s scoring a stratospherically high 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I don’t think it’s close to the same level as classics like Up, The Godfather, Casablanca, Terminator 2, District 9, The Matrix or the like.
Most awesome moment: McGonagall quipping “I’ve always wanted to cast that spell.” Also, there was a cool scene with a basilisk made out of fire.
Most ridiculous moment: 19 years in the future, everybody has more hair than Charlie Sheen. I bet Ron’s parents would have killed for some of that magical Rogaine.
Jun 04 2011
Jul 16 2010
One of the commenters responds:
While critics in general are happy to give approval to comic book films (and, I think, many critics do treat them fairly), I think there’s no question that there are elements of bias in many critics’ reviews.
First, look at the language many critics use. When giving a positive review, many will say things like “despite its comic book origins,” or “leaping beyond comic books,” as if being based on a comic book is in some way a handicap.
Actually, I think being based on a comic book (or a novel or TV show or anything else) is a handicap for a movie.
Apr 04 2010
Mar 29 2010
The screenwriter for Battlefield Earth has written an amusing article describing his experience. And, also, an unsuccessful search for love on a Scientologist cruise. No matter how bad your writing is, please rest assured that it’ll never be that bad. And, if it IS that bad, please find some other line of work.
Apr 18 2009
Spill.com did a mock script showing how Michael Bay (the guy who did Pearl Harbor and Transformers) might have tried The Dark Knight.
I recommend that you read all of it, but this is my favorite part.
BRUCE WAYNE is standing in front of a mirror, flexing his sculpted, shirtless torso.
BRUCE: Let’s do this.
Cue AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” A series of quick shots show BRUCE gearing up: putting on the boots, slapping on the gloves, a brief glance across those beautiful pecs. Finally, there is no longer BRUCE WAYNE, but BATMAN standing before us.
BATMAN: Back in black.
Pyrotechnics erupt in the distance. Wailing guitar solo.
Nov 08 2008
If you’d like to comment on a movie, this is a good place to do so. (We may relocate movie-related comments made elsewhere).
Oct 03 2008
The Independent reports that Kevin Spacey will be reprising his role as Lex Luthor in the next Superman movie (Hat-tip to io9). God, I hope not. He has none of the competence, charm or combat skills a supervillain needs to shine in a movie. Lex Luthor can’t have an interesting fight. (And no, Superman limping around because of Kryptonite is not interesting). So casting Luthor as the villain would pretty much guarantee that the movie has at best mediocre action scenes*. I like Superman saving planes as much as anyone, but no one reads a comic or watches a movie to see the superhero stop a natural disaster.
Virtually nothing in Superman Returns worked. At the very least, the next Superman movie needs a new cast, new writers and a new villain. A different mood might help too. I don’t think that a “darker” Superman will be much better, but it’s hard to imagine that it could get any worse.
*In the cartoons and the comics, Lex Luthor actually gets superpowers, so his fight scenes are interesting, but that’s probably too campy for a movie.
B. MAC ADDS: I walked out after around an hour of Superman Returns. I can’t remember the last time I walked out on a movie. Hell, I made it through Superhero Movie.
Aug 31 2008
The author claims that Star Wars was better because it was human-centric rather than world- or action-centric. Our contributors respond…
Jul 29 2008
Fans of trippy science-fiction novels everywhere can rejoice that Neuromancer is getting a movie. In other good news, the movie poster shown by i09.com looks pretty stylish and suggests that it won’t be a remake of Swordfish.
The bad news is that Hayden Christensen, the same “actor” that ruined Star Wars and Jumper, is starring as Case. Dare I say that John Travolta could do this better? Egads. How could we have come to the point where John Travolta is the lesser of two acting evils? Hayden [censored]ing Christensen.
Jul 21 2008
I loved the new Batman movie. I’d say that it was the best DC-licensed movie I’ve ever seen, but that would be damning it with faint praise. Although the action was low-key and frankly forgettable, the writing and side-characters really redeemed it. Instead of getting campy one-liners from the Joker, the script echoed The Lord of the Flies. It wasn’t exactly deep or insightful, but it was unexpectedly dramatic and entertaining.
Jun 14 2008
I would venture to say that Iron-Man is the only Marvel movie released this year that approaches watchable. (I liked Iron-Man, but I found its action scenes disappointing).
Speaking of the new Punisher movie, you can see its trailer below. It looks like it will be beyond bad. I’m not adverse to wanton, cybernoir violence (The Matrix!) but the concept should have translated to film much better than it did in the 2004 Punisher film…
The last trailer I’ve seen that was this bad was Vantage Point. If the movie is really as loaded with goofy stunts and groan-inducing lines as the trailer is, comparisons to Elektra, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, and perhaps even the 1990 Captain America “movie” may be in order.