I haven’t written an editorial before but I think I’ve hit my final straw when it comes to this Internet pet peeve of mine that I feel like I have to at least vent my frustrations with it. Probably the final straw for me what yet another in a long line of hyperbolic bile flung the way of Man of Steel. Without going into spoilers, I’ll just sum up by saying many are upset because in the movie Superman does something which is apparently “out of character” and therefore they are justified in hating the entire movie because of this character “BETRAYAL!!!”.
Now Internet spam hate is nothing new but it seems especially in fashion this summer in particular where every new nerd movie is sending everyone’s hackles up. Week after week something is the new worst affront to cinema. “I can’t believe X happened in Iron Man 3 that SO didn’t happen in the comics. I hate this!” “OMG Star Trek Into Darkness is making Gene Roddenberry spin in his grave therefore I hate it!” “Superman does X which he doesn’t do in the comics (except he did) that ruins the whole movie for me!”
Remember the Russell Crowe Robin Hood movie that came out? I can’t believe the number of people that listed that movie as being one of the Worst of 2010 for the main reason it was not a light hearted adventure ala Errol Flynn because that is who Robin Hood *really* is.
Now I’m not saying you can’t dislike or hate any of the movies listed. There are issues with each of those movies and I can understand a person not liking it for those reasons. My beef is with people who will slam a movie because a character is played/characterized in a different way, or they film the movie in a different tone than what it is best known for.
Let’s take comic book characters and their different iterations. Batman has been done for camp with the 60’s TV show/movie and I wasn’t hearing betrayal for that, he has been done gothic with Burton, he has been done more family oriented with Schumaker, and back to gritty realism with Nolan. Or take Spider-Man who has gone from campy to gritty to light-hearted relationship with “Spiderman loves Mary Jane” to even a musical in Turn Off the Dark. Or since I brought up Superman, let me bring up the fact he has been campy, gritty, a Communist, a dick, and even the villain. Go read something like Dark Knight Rises by Frank Miller where we see Superman’s good traits twisted just slightly to where he is a villain.
Let’s look at classic story characters. Robin Hood has been in light hearted adventures with Errol Flynn, straight action with Prince of Thieves, romantic with Robin and Marian, war movie with Robin Hood (2010), and comic with Men in Tights. Sherlock Holmes has been a detective story (duh), comedy (stuff like Sherlock Jr. or The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother), buddy comedy with Guy Ritchies Sherlock Holmes, kid adventure with Young Sherlock Holmes, cartoon cyberpunk with Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century and so on.
And because I can’t help but beat a dead horse with a stick let’s look at the spinning grave of Gene Roddenberry. Long before JJ Abrams fired up the centrifuge to the idea of Roddenberry’s peaceful utopia, take a good look at Deep Space 9 which is many people’s favorite Star Trek series only so because the second half of that series is complete war with the Dominion and a harsh spit in the face rebuttal to Roddenberry’s rose colored glasses. Oh no, Star Trek isn’t an action movie they claim but in the same breath with say First Contact is a good movie for a dumb action movie.
The point of all this is that characters and series aren’t religious dogma written on stone tablets and handed down from Mt. Sinai. Each person has their own interpretation of the source material. One person looks at the situation and sees gritty drama and another person sees wacky comedy. It is not the changing of the tone that makes something bad but how the writer/director/storyteller handles it.
If they made a Star Trek musical, I wouldn’t have a problem with it on that basis alone. Like I said, it would be based on how everything is handled from the music to the acting to the story. I wouldn’t immediately put two strikes against it because Gene Roddenberry didn’t envision Star Trek as a musical and it totally isn’t taking the sci-fi themes seriously.
My most recent argument about this came to a impasse when I didn’t play into my opponents pre-conceived notions. He asked “Well, you only say that because you don’t care about Superman. What would happen if the character you loved most did something completely uncharacteristic?” He failed to realize two things. One, Superman is my favorite comic book character and I didn’t have a problem with anything that happened in Man of Steel. But to table that argument for a moment I will tackle his question at large. What would happen if someone took my favorite fictional character of all time and did something uncharacteristic? *ahem *
Now just for clarification, if a writer is inconsistent within his own world then it is bad writing and you get into plot hole territory. But if we are talking about within the world as created by the storyteller a character does something that is uncharacteristic of what he would do with his most popular iteration? I don’t care as long as he does it well. If that is too theoretic, then let me give an example.
Let’s take Superman who is considered a peace loving man who is all for truth, justice, and the American Way. Now let’s make him a cold blooded killer. I am talking Hannibal Lecter psychopath. Would I have a problem with that? No…as long as it was handled well. Maybe there is a legitimate reason for why this character felt the need to do that. Maybe he was raised by people other than the Kents. Maybe he was raised by a psychopath. We already saw what happened if Superman landed in Soviet Russia during the Cold War (Red Son). As long as the storyteller establishes the universe, provides a clear explanation for what his characters are doing, and keeps it consistent, then I have no problem.
Are you starting to see a theme to what I’m saying? A character isn’t locked in to one thing and can be plugged into any genre with the only thing holding it back is the skill of the storyteller. Don’t like the comedy in Batman and Robin? I’m fine with that. Not a fan of the action scenes in Star Trek Into Darkness? To each his own. Think there is too much exposition and filler in Man of Steel? I hear ya. But the moment you say “Character X would never do that” or “Existent property Y was never meant to be a comedy/drama/action movie/whatever” I don’t care because that is a bankrupt argument. It is an irrational attack that has no bearing on the actual quality of the film. The fact I’ve had to spend an hour writing this already has me as a loser since I am giving voice to the trolls. Well played Internet. Well played.