It's the argument that quite literally some people are talking about: Are superhero movies responsible for the death of the high-quality summer blockbuster? You may be scratching your head, wondering when the last high-quality summer blockbuster wasn't a superhero movie. (First person to say Independence Day gets punched.) But Entertainment Weekly isn't afraid to take a stand against... well, what everyone wants to see these days nonetheless.
You can blame EW's Chris Nashawaty for starting the whole thing off with his essay, subtly titled "Superheroes: How They Ruined Summer Movies":
Looking back now, I can pinpoint the exact moment I fell out of love with summer movies: May 3, 2002. I ducked out of work early that afternoon to wait in line for the first screening of the first blockbuster movie of the summer. I remember looking around at the swarm of hooky-playing droolers and fanboys and knowing I was precisely where I was meant to be. I would've taken a bullet for these people. After all, we'd shared some indelible event-movie moments over the years. July 3, 1991: Opening day for Terminator 2. June 11, 1993: Jurassic Park. July 3, 1996: Independence Day. Hell, I'd even saved the ticket stubs. Now it was Spider-Man's turn.
Sitting in the darkness of the theater, beaten numb by the whining adolescent angst of Peter Parker, fighting back a yawn during his schmaltzy rain-soaked smooch with Mary Jane Watson, nearly going into diabetic shock from all of the sugar-spun F/X eye candy that honestly couldn't have looked more bogus, I felt...well, I felt really bored. At some point during those endless 121 minutes, I'd changed. And when the audience started whooping as the end credits rolled, I realized that my beloved summer movies were changing too.
Yes, he's really arguing that Spider-Man ruined the good name of Jurassic Park and Terminator 2. But wait — it gets better:
Just 10 years ago, summer had real movies — the kind without genetic mutants whose tortured origin stories are shamelessly cribbed from Freud 101. In the summer of '98, you could go to a multiplex and see Out of Sight, The Truman Show, or Saving Private Ryan. And if you wanted ear-shattering bombast, there was Armageddon. Don't laugh, Michael Bay's starting to look more and more like Antonioni these days.
Apparently, someone's forgotten to tell Chris that there are actually some other movies coming out this summer besides Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Incredible Hulk. Either that, or he thinks that Sex and The City was originally created by Stan Lee (Chris, if it helps, here's a list of what's being released this summer).
Television Without Pity's Zach Oat speaks up for sanity:
I feel for you, Chris, I really do, because you seem to have gone to see every terrible superhero movie ever made. I presume it's because of your job as a writer at EW and not out of some assumption of quality, but I'm a long-time comic book fan, and even I knew not to go see Catwoman or Ghost Rider or The Punisher in theatres... My advice? "Just walk away," as the great Humungus said in the summer of 1981. Stay away from the movies that are clearly causing you grief. Don't buy that ticket to Hellboy II (the original made $100 million globally, by the way); instead, go see Eddie Murphy in Meet Dave.
Nashawaty's essay is a strange piece (especially for Entertainment Weekly to run), and it feels like he hasn't thought through his argument, but does he have something resembling a point amongst his bitter ramblings? There are a lot of comic-book related movies this year (Besides the three mentioned above, add Hellboy II and Wanted to the list, and you could potentially throw Speed Racer on there if you squint hard enough as well). Maybe it's not "when did comic movies kill summer," but instead "how many comic movies are too many?"
Superheroes: How They Ruined Summer Movies [Entertainment Weekly]
How Chris Nashawaty Ruined My Summer [Television Without Pity]