Posts Tagged ‘Superman’

Summer of the Comic Book Movie

June 2, 2011

Yes, summer means longer days, school being out, vacations and blockbuster movies. Yet, this summer the studios will be putting out six, count’em six, movies based on comic books/graphic novels. What gives? There was a time when comic books were considered a sign of the downfall of civilization and were blamed for corrupting young minds. Even Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman, Thor and other superheroes of the Marvel Comics universe, didn’t think too highly of comic books when he first started out. He became a comic book writer because he needed the money and Timely Comics, which later became Marvel, paid him very well for his work. Yet, many years later both he and movie studio executives realized that there’s storytelling gold in comic books. They have action, drama and a love story for when there’s a lull in the action.

Still, if there is going to be a superhero movie during the summer blockbuster season, there is usually one maybe two, not six. Well, here are my theories on the increase, at least for the summer of 2011, of superhero movies:

It’s still the economy, stupid.
Last summer people wanted to escape the recession with animated films, this year the escape “vehicle” is the superhero movie. While last year moviegoers wanted reminders of childhood, this year they want a hero to save them from unemployment and home foreclosure. Unfortunately, superheroes can’t do much about those things, but it is fun to imagine that they could. After all, the U.S. is still in the grips of a recession and escapist films have traditionally done well during difficult times. Last year’s summer blockbuster movie season saw $4.05 billion worth of ticket sales, so the studios must be doing something right.

They get the job done.
Why do people want a superhero? Because a superhero gets the job done. Superheroes get the bad guy without so much of a grumble and they do it with style. Just look at Superman, Batman Spiderman, Ironman and the like. They either have gadgets, strength or a little of both and they get the villain. Crime will not pay if a superhero is on the case.

The story of the superhero goes waaay back.
If you think the superhero story is a 20th century invention, think again. Stories such as Hercules and Samson show how far back the idea of a superhero goes—and those are just from the Western culture. Other cultures have their stories of someone who can perform amazing feats of strength for the good of a community. People all around the world and in all times have had to deal with evil and injustice, so it is no wonder that stories of a person with both amazing physical strength and the will to fight the good fight were told. They were and still are exercises in fantasy and an inspiration for others to fight the good fight, as well.

As for which superhero movies will be very successful and which ones will just bomb, I’ll most likely write about that in a future blog entry.

Sources:
http://www.reelzchannel.com/article/1082/summer-2011-preview-20-movies-well-be-talking-about-next-year/

Cantu, Hector, Heritage Magazine “Stan the Creator” Fall 2008, pg. 52

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118023577.html?categoryid=1237&cs=1

 

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Darth Vader’s Costume & Other Ephemera

November 4, 2010

Christie’s Auctions in London will be selling a complete Darth Vader costume from the Empire Strikes Back at a sale on November 25, 2010 of pop culture items. The costume is expected to sell for between $250,000 and $365,000. The previous owner is identified as an American collector and no reason was given as to why the collector wanted to sell this item.

Wait there’s more the Syfy Channel will be airing a new reality show called Hollywood Treasure.  The show deals with the work of Joe Maddalena, the owner of Profiles in History, a dealer of autographs, documents, photographs and Hollywood memorabilia.  Maddelena appeared on NBC’s Today Show and he talked about a few items that will appear in the show. These items include a golden ticket from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that came from one of the actors in the film, a sketch by Tim Burton for the Nightmare Before Christmas and the Holy Grail of pop culture collectibles, an Action Comic #1, the comic book that introduced the world to Superman.

Yet, the crank in me says “Wait a minute, don’t we have too much junk in our lives?” Shows like Hollywood Treasure encourage people to think that their ephemera is worth something, when chances are the do-dads are only worth what the person paid for them in 1990. As for the Darth Vader costume, other than using it as a Halloween costume, what will the winner of the auction do with it? A costume of one of the most famous villains in film history isn’t exactly an item you display in your living room. That is, unless your home is a shrine to all things Star Wars, then having it in your living room might work.

Then the pop culture aficionado in me says “Shut up crank!” Superman and Star Wars are as much a part of our culture as Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gadsby.  They aren’t just kids stuff. Items of pop culture are both a snapshot of their time and they look forward to the future. They deal with dreams, dealing with loss and finding your place in the world. So, is any wonder that there are people who are willing to spend lots of money to get their hands on an Action Comic #1 or a Darth Vader costume.

Take that crank!

Note: Any mention of auction houses or dealers of collectibles are mentioned for informational purposes only. They are not to be taken as an endorsement.

Sources:
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/39867573/ns/today-entertainment/?gt1=43001

http://www.ology.com/screen/hollywood-treasure-review

http://www.profilesinhistory.com/profiles-in-history.html

Superheroes & Movies—Perfect Together

June 10, 2010

It seems like superheroes were made with movies in mind. Cool costumes, evil villains and abilities that mere mortals just don’t have, add up to a must see movie.  So, which superheroes have made it to the silver screen?

Superman
Yes the grand-daddy of all superheroes and the model from which all subsequent superheroes are based upon. It started out as a movie serial, then it went to television, then it lead to five movies, four with the late Christopher Reeve and one with Brandon Routh. The Superman movies showed that if you put together good acting, good writing, (one of the writers of the screenplay for the first Superman movie was none other than Mario Puzo of Godfather fame) good directing and good special effects, you’ll end up with a great superhero movie.

Batman
This too, started out as a movie serial, then it went to television and subsequently six Batman movies were made. The first two had Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Tim Burton as the director and it is my opinion that Keaton and Burton got the darkness of Bruce Wayne/Batman right. The movies seemed to have lost their way when Joel Schumacher took over, but things picked up with director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale as Batman.

Spiderman
Not to be outdone by the folks at DC Comics, Marvel Comics had a Spiderman movie in the works since the 1980’s but for reasons such three independent production companies that went into bankrupty to the business health of Marvel Entertainment, the ideas were kept on paper until 2002. The rest of course is history. Note: I saw a trailer for the first Spiderman movie in August 2001 that featured a helicopter getting caught in a web that was spun between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  That trailer was subsequently removed after 9/11. Still, it was a cool trailer.

The Incredible Hulk
Not only does this superhero have a troubling past, but the movies aren’t exactly hits. Part of it has to do with the story of Bruce Banner, a mild mannered scientist whose powers, which came about via an accidental exposure to gamma radiation, are activated only when he becomes angry. How do you fight the bad guys when you can’t really control your powers? Two movies, one released in 2003 and another released in 2008, tried to answer that question and box office results showed that they didn’t really answer that question to the satisfaction of moviegoers.

Ironman
Yet another superhero from Marvel Comics, this time it’s about a billionaire weapons manufacturer who creates a suit that allows him to fight the bad guys without suffering any harm. It was very successful at the box office and ushered in Robert Downey, Jr. return to film. Ironman 2 was released on May 7, 2010 and is doing well in the box office.

So, if you are thinking of creating a blockbuster movie, just mine the comic book vault.  Lots of people did and it worked for most of them all the way to the bank.

Sources:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078346/fullcredits#writers

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005JPS8/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1D55TMD6W8KPNR2WV1DM&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

http://articles.latimes.com/1999/mar/02/business/fi-13115/2

http://www.amazon.com/Incredible-Hulk-Screen-Edward-Norton/dp/B001DHXT2U/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1274903370&sr=1-6

The 1970’s, The Greatest Decade in Film?

June 3, 2010

Over the years, I have read quite a few articles that state the 1970’s were the greatest decade in film. Yes, many directors made their mark in the 1970’s, such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, just to name a few. Also, there are a good number of films that were both commercial and critical successes, such as, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, Network, again just to name a few.

Still, a lot can happen after a decade passes and films can fall into and out of favor. So, can any one decade be considered the greatest decade in film? Many say that 1939 is the greatest year in film, since that was the year films such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Wuthering Heights were released. Of course, just because many people say such a thing, doesn’t make it true. Also, as the years went on, some of those films seem dated and hokey to modern audiences.

For me, the jury is still out as to whether or not the 1970’s were the greatest decade in film. So, I’ll just take this opportunity to highlight what I think sets filmmaking in the  1970’s apart from other decades.

Directors were products of universities, not studios
Martin Scorsese graduated from New York University and he was a film major. Francis Ford Coppola majored in drama at Hofstra University and did graduate work in film at UCLA. George Lucas went to University of Southern California film school.  Steven Spielberg went to California State University Long Beach. This list of directors and where they went to school shows that unlike directors of the past they weren’t “apprenticed” under one director or just fell into directing.  The people mentioned above were exposed to not only the liberal arts tradition, they were also exposed to and examined French films, Italian films, German films, Japanese films, Hollywood films, art films and they were getting their hands dirty by making their own films. This exposure to many different movie making modes and being allowed to try out their ideas, lead to Hollywood movies that had a richness and depth that wasn’t there before.

Hollywood recovered from development of television
My theory is that it took Hollywood 10 years to recover from the shock that television inflicted. Yes, developments like Cinemascope and color film becoming standard helped to bring people back to the movies. Still, once the powers that be were convinced that people still wanted to go the movies on a regular basis, they were more willing to give directors like Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas and others a chance.

Willingness to explore social issues
Somewhat related to the above, by the 1970’s, the old school of studio heads had died out and those that came after were willing to okay movies that weren’t just about “Boy Meets Girl”.  The movies of the decade dealt with the aftermath of the Vietnam war (The Deer Hunter, Coming Home), political corruption (All The Presidents’ Men), the effect of television in our lives (Network), racism and the drug trade (Superfly) and the list goes on. These films took on issues and the directors and other involved with the film weren’t afraid to face some controversy.

The Blockbuster Film
I also feel the need to mention that the blockbuster film, as we know it, came about in the 1970’s. Films like Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Superman weren’t just successful films. They broke box office records, had catch phrases and led to merchandising deals and sequels. Since then, it is rare that a blockbuster film doesn’t have some merchandise related to it, does very, very well at the box office and have a sequel or two in the works.

So, while the 1970’s may not be the definitive best decade in film, it does stand out from the decades that came before and from those that came afterwards.

Sources:

http://www.theauteurs.com/topics/2849?page=3

http://movieprojector.blogspot.com/2009/08/best-movies-of-1970s.html

http://www.filmsite.org/1939.html

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000217/bio

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000338/bio

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000184/bio