Greetings, whippers of snappers! You guys sent in a bunch of (short) questions this week so I have a bunch of (long, rambling) answers! More of those, please! Meanwhile, let’s keep dissing Fantastic Four, discuss whether Hugh Jackman is trolling fans, and stop people who want to send movie studios free money.
The Brave and the Old
Esteemed Postman of the Irradiated Wasteland,
I recently finished The Flash, first season, and started Arrow. What strikes me about these shows is how well Barry and Oliver stand in for their more famous contemporaries Batman and Superman. This wholesale rip-off of the Big Two isn’t problematic in my view, however, because the CW’s analogues are better incarnations of Superman and Batman than we’ve seen since ... ever?
My question is, do we still need Superman and Batman?
If The Flash and Arrow are out-Superman-ing, out-Batman-ing Superman and Batman, what the hell are we keeping these old guys around for? The Flash is a better Superman because he has the savior complex, he wants to help people for the sake of helping people, but he’s flawed, both physically and emotionally. Superman, the critique goes, is too over-powered, too god-like to be an interesting character. Barry doesn’t suffer the same flaws, mainly thanks to - ironically - his flaws.
The same can be said of Batman and his small-screen rival Green Arrow. They both posture and pontificate about saving their cities, they both grapple with the line between vigilantism and villainy, and they both affect an comically grumbly accent once the masks are donned. But The Hood can be shown coming into their own with nuanced novelty (blindness, bow-and-freaking-arrow) but without the baggage years of forced story-lines brings.
Forget letting someone else wear the cape and cowl; can’t we let Supes and Bats hang it up for good and all be better off for it?
Well, DC and Warner Bros. can’t, because Superman and Batman specifically make them a ton of money, enough that it’s part of what the companies actually survive on. Even if somehow DC/WB was magically able to turn Batman v. Superman into Arrow v. Flash without spending a dime, there’s no way that movie would be as successful as BvS would be.
The Flash is The CW’s #1 TV series by a comfortable margin, averaging about 3.84 million viewers (the last season of Arrow was #2 at 2.76 million). Even if you added those two numbers, as if none of them watched both shows, and if they all were willing to spend $10 to see Arrow v. The Flash, that would equal $66 million. (That number is absurdly high, since the most viewers likely watch both shows, and probably totals at 4.5 million max; meanwhile, even getting half of those to buy a movie ticket is by no means a given.)
Worldwide, Man of Steel made $668 million worldwide, which is just a tad more—and since BvS will finally put Batman and Superman on-screen together, I imagine it’s going to make significantly more. So financially it doesn’t make any sense for those with the power to do such a thing.
However, you’re right in that Arrow and the Flash are TV analogues of the World’s Finest; Arrow is dark and broody and actually basically reenacted the entirety of Batman Begins in season 3; The Flash is cheery, super-powered, and the hero has a reporter for a girlfriend, exactly like Superman. Together, they’re the perfect made-for-TV version of Bats and Supes.
But to say they should replace the two of the most popular superheroes in the world is crazy talk. Yes, the Arrow is burdened by less canon than Batman, but it’s that 80 years of canon that have made Batman DC’s biggest hero. You can’t really have one without the other. If you swapped Batman for Oliver Queen, you’d have to wait decades for Arrow to have the same cultural cachet that Batman has currently, and he’d need decades of really good stories written for his character, too. You can’t just swap ‘em like Magic cards.
As for the Flash, it’s worth pointing out that since he can move faster than pretty much anyone can think, he is for all intents and purposes nearly and powerful as Superman. Really, Superman can survive in more extreme environments than the Flash, but anytime a villain gets the best of the Flash on the show, it’s because the writers have to contrive a way for him not to use his power, to use his power poorly, or just make him a little too stupid to think of an obvious solution. And that’s what Superman writers do all the time with Superman. And while I see your point that Barry, being human, is more flawed that Superman emotionally, which makes for better stories, I’d point out that Barry Allen’s moments of “emotional growth” in The Flash’s first season were the worst part of the show, as Barry would have to suddenly become bitter, stupid, angry or sad in order to have an interior conflict to get over later. Maybe there’s the potential for the Flash show to tell more emotionally satisfying stories than Superman at his best, but it’s not there yet.
So let’s not do away with Batman and Superman quite yet. But let’s be glad we live in a time where their made-for-TV equivalents are so damn entertaining.
Help Me Ronda
Ronda Rousey wants to play Captain Marvel. Thoughts?
I love the fan art of her as Carol Danvers—it’s genuinely fantastic, as you can see above—but I’ve seen Fast & Furious 7, in which she plays the silent badass bodyguard of a billionaire prince. All I can say about her acting is that she had a pretty phenomenal fight scene with Michelle Rodriguez, and as much as she could break every body in my stupid body in under a minute, she absolutely could not carry a lead in a major motion picture.
Right now, the rumor is that Emily Blunt is in the lead for the lead of Captain Marvel, which I would have been ambivalent about before I saw her be completely badass in Edge of Tomorrow. And she’s a genuinely good actress, too. I imagine the part is hers to lose at this point.
So reading all about how big of a mess this film is has sparked my interest in actually seeing this movie for comedic purposes. So my simple question to you is this: Is the new Fantastic Four movie worth it for comedic purposes or is it such a failure that it doesn’t even succeed at failing to a point of comedy?
There is nothing funny about the new Fantastic Four movie. In fact, there is no humor in it whatsoever, either intentional or accidental. Despite being a Marvel property, it could easily have come out of the WB All-Dour DC Movie Machine, where laughs and smiles are forbidden. To be fair, it results in FF’s most memorable scene, when the scientists examine the four after they get their powers, and it’s straight-up body horror. The Human Torch is screaming in fear, the Thing is screaming in anguish, even Reed’s stretching looks like his limbs are malformed and being torn out of him. It’s the closest the FF film comes to doing anything new for the superhero movie genre.
Unfortunately, it’s also completely counterintuitive to the franchise. I may have complained about Man of Steel being too dark for Superman once or twice (cough) but the Fantastic Four is supposed to be a family, starring in what is family entertainment. A good FF movie would basically be The Incredibles—a mix of action, comedy, and a touch of drama to give it some real stakes. Most of all, it should be fun.
But the FF movie had no comedy, almost no action to speak of, completely unearned drama, and was absolutely no fun. You want so-bad-it’s-entertaining? Hunt down Roger Corman’s 1990s Fantastic Four movie, which was apparently filmed on a budget consisting solely of Arby’s coupons (the trailer is above). I would still suggest drinking when watching it, though.
Weaving on a Jet Plane
I was reading your mailbag and noticed you mentioned pretty casually Red Skull would “presumably be played by someone other than Hugo Weaving.”
I read through the comments and can’t figure out why this is a given. According to wikipedia he hasn’t died or been arrested - I thought he did a decent job, did people hate him?
Kind of trivial but I’m just genuinely wracking my brains here.
People don’t hate him, but he has publicly admitted he doesn’t want to come back to the role. I don’t know if there was bad blood on the set, if he’s one of the many actors who Marvel tried to short-change, if he hated the make-up process, or maybe even if he’s just tired of nerd fare. But he has unequivocally said he doesn’t want to come back.
That said, he did sign a multi-picture contract, so unless that’s expired, if Marvel demands for him to skull it up he’ll have to, but I sincerely doubt Marvel would want the negative press that would come with forcing an actor to work against his will—especially when it’s a role anyone could theoretically play once the make-up has been applied. So if Red Skull does pop back up in the MCU, it’s going to be much better for both parties to let Weaving out of his contract and get someone new.
Now that Sony is talking about bringing Spider-Man into the MCU, how much would have to be raised in a Kickstarter campaign to buy back the X-Men from Fox? I’m sure for an extra $10.00 or so they would throw in the Fantastic Four seeing how they can’t seem make a movie that anyone wants to watch.
Please, god, do not start a Kickstarter so Marvel can buy back the Fantastic Four license. I understand the intention, and I know about the only chance of there being a halfway decent FF movie is for Marvel Studios to get their hands on it.
But they don’t need extra money. Last year Marvel Studios made $1.49 billion just through Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and that’s not counting the profits they got from Marvel movies they didn’t put out, like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Big Hero 6, etc. Their parent company, Disney, made nearly $8 billion in pure profit in 2014. If Marvel/Disney really wanted the license back they could pay Fox off instantly.
They don’t need your money. Excuse me, they need your money—you buy their movie tickets, after all—but they don’t need more of your money, and they certainly don’t deserve more. Besides, given that even a crappy Fantastic Four movie franchise will earn Fox several hundred million bucks over the next decade or so, it’ll also take several hundred million for Marvel/Disney to re-acquire the film rights. Unless you have 10 million or so friends who are also happy to send Marvel a free $10 bill, it’s out of your price range.
Old and Busted
Hello Postman! I trust that the Moloids haven’t gotten you and you receive this letter enclosed in Time Capsule [Redacted]. With the announcement that the third Wolverine movie is going to be Old Man Logan, I am wondering how you think they will handle it. Fox or Sony (Fox I think, I forget) owns the property to the X-men and Fantastic Four, but that’s it, right? I actually just read Old Man Logan, and how are they going to have the Hulk family and all the other things that happen if those properties are owned by Marvel? Will it be Old Man Logan in concept and name only? Without following the storyline of the comics? Or how do you think they will go about with this story?
They won’t. Hugh Jackman is either trolling fans or he doesn’t know what the Old Man Logan storyline is, because there is no way anyone would ever put that comic on-screen, even if they could. And they can’t, like you said, because the Hulk is the main antagonist.
I am 99% certain Jackman is using “Old Man Logan” (actual panel above!) as a catch-all term for a movie where Wolverine is older and near the end of his journey more than anything else. I would sincerely doubt he’s even read Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan or knows really what it’s about other than “Logan as an Old Man.” Either he, his assistant, or someone at Fox confusing the Old Man Logan comic with a story about Logan past his prime is infinitely more likely than the idea that OML will be the basis of the third and final solo Wolverine movie.
Which is for the best, because you know Old Man Logan is terrible, right? It’s Mark Millar at his Mark Millariest. It’s a framework for shock value, like the antagonist being the Hulk and his several inbred redneck kids (who he’s had with his cousin She-Hulk, of course). If you want to read about a future Marvel universe where almost all the superheroes are dead, there are plenty of better options to choose from.
This is more of a philosophical question, so I hope you have the local equivalent of an IPA to mull. When did we decide that it was okay for Starships to come out of space? The Original 60’s Enterprise started to burn up when it entered the atmosphere; it was -HUGE- news when they said up-front the Voyager was designed to enter atmosphere.
Now, though, we have the Enterprise underwater and Star Destroyers hovering above cities in “Star Wars: Rebels.” What happened? What was the pivotal moment when we decided to throw any semblance of reality in sci-fi out the window for “this looks cool!” I am by no MEANS an advocate for “hard sci-fi” (you may have to define that for readers ;-) but this seems like a complete break from what has come before.
When J.J. Abrams was hired to turn Star Trek into Star Wars.
Star Wars has always played fast and loose with anything regarding the realities of space—the explosions, the sounds, the weird forcefields that allow ships to fly into hangars but don’t don’t suck out all the Stormtroopers into the cold vacuum of space, etc. That’s fine, because Star Wars is space fantasy, and it’s more fun for ignoring all that stuff
Star Trek, on the other hand, at least tried to play by the rules of physics, as did many other scifi series. But then Trek was rebooted into a movie, and J.J. Abrams was hired to try and make it cool for modern mass audiences, and he basically turned into a Star Wars movie, with a focus on action and adventure rather than scifi. I don’t blame him, and I don’t actually think the studio was wrong to make this choice—they had to do something extreme to get people interested in the franchise again.
However, I thought this would allow the second movie to be more authentically Trek-y, and instead Abrams doubled down on the action and the adventure to the exclusion of anything that made the tiniest amount of sense.
Short version: Star Wars started it, and it was cemented when Hollywood decided people like Star Wars-y Star Trek more than actual Star Trek. The good news here is that while Abrams might have made a terrible second Trek film, the fact that he clearly always wanted to be making Star Wars is a very good sign for The Force Awakens.
A discussion involving monkeys in capes eventually led to Superman and and an important question: If Superman, and by extension, his bodily products are invulnerable (or as near as). Would the most embarrassing way to be foiled by the Man of Steel be getting taken down by a hypersonically flung handful of Superpoop? And if not, what would be worse?
Well, as I’ve argued before, if Superman’s hair is super-strong, and he can create massive wind-gusts with his breath (or even just sneezing) then really, all of his bodily functions and products should be super-powerful in some fashion. In fact, here’s my theory:
Remember how Superman would always take a lump of coal in his hand, squeeze it, and the pressure would turn it into a diamond? Are you going to tell me his sphincter is weaker than his grip? Of course not. Now, isn’t most of what we eat, whether it be animal or vegetable, essentially made of carbon? You see where this is going, right? SUPERMAN SHITS DIAMONDS. Seriously, every loaf that comes out of that man’s ass should be a 14-karat diamond necklace that he can give to Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Wonder Woman, or whatever alliteratively named girl he’s dating in his current continuity. They should probably wash them first, though.
If Superman throws his poop at someone, he would almost certainly be throwing a diamond at them, which is a weird way to be incapacitated, but not embarrassing, per se. I mean, I doubt the diamond smells particularly good, but that’s probably something you could keep to yourself.
So what else is there? In a word: Farting. There is no way you can maintain any dignity if you are defeated by a fart, especially if that fart propels you into the next county. It announces your humiliating defeat with blaring rectal trumpet music, and a smell that will haunt your nostrils’ nightmares for all time. How could you ever fight another superhero again?
Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the firstname.lastname@example.org! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!