Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Talkback - Marvel Movie Continuity

I saw Thor this weekend and was rather surprised when I didn't find myself with two or three blog posts worth of material provoked by the film, as was getting to be the pattern of late. I thought it was okay, though the picture quality was visually dark. I'm not sure if that was an issue with the film itself, or the fault of the theatre's projection.

As Marvel movies go, I thought it was better than Iron Man 2, but not nearly as good as the first Iron Man. I'll give them credit for reducing the biggest fault of Iron Man 2 - the continuity porn. (Non-geeks - I'm not talking about actual pornography. That's what comic geeks use to refer to gratuitous references and cameos relating to other characters and stories that really have nothing to do with the main plot.) Iron Man 2 strained to make the Nick Fury and Black Widow storyline relevant to the main plot, and the cameo of the Captain America shield was incredibly clunky.

Fortunately, Thor only had two continuity porn moments. The first was the Hawkeye cameo, which was so poorly integrated and completely apropos of nothing that I'd almost be willing to wager it was scripted by an inept Marvel editor just before he declared a four-part arc be stretched out to eight-parts.

The second was the post-credits scene, featuring Nick Fury providing some set-up for The Avengers. Honestly, I'm not wild about the greater Marvel agenda of setting up this sort of cross-continuity. It works in the comics, but if Thor and Iron Man take place in the same continuities, that means that it would be entirely plausible to see Tony Stark take on the Norse gods from Thor in a future film.

Unpopular geek opinion, but I think this is kind of stupid. I like cross-continuity in my comics, but I do see the merit in one writer's position that it means "The best writer at the company is handcuffed by the worst writer." I think DC's taken the right approach so far by keeping their properties separate. The Nolan Batman movies are awesome because Nolan is allowed to run wild and create an entire world for Batman. I'd hate for some exec at DC to water that down just so Batman can gallivant with the Justice League in a future film. Can you honestly picture Superman or Green Lantern flying in to the Gotham City of The Dark Knight?

And that's how I feel about the Marvel slate. Sure, it seems like a cool experiment in the build-up, but let's see how those individual franchises continue after the grand crossover in The Avengers.

How do you feel? Are you on board with these crossovers or do you prefer your franchises remain "pure?"


  1. I don't know if you've ever seen any of those direct-to-DVD DC Comics animated movies, but I think they handle it pretty well. Each movie stands alone; no continuity with the comic books or other movies.

    If you haven't seen any of 'em, definitely check out Justice League: The New Frontier. It's pretty awesome.

  2. Oh, I've absolutely seen them. I think they've done better with stories that aren't directly adapted from the comics because there's less that they end up cutting out. Because of this, I think Wonder Woman ended up being the best, while sadly, I think Superman: Doomsday was one of the weakest for me.

    I thought New Frontier was okay, and I liked All-Star Superman, even though they had to cut a lot out of the book to make it fit. I wonder what a non-fan makes of that one.

  3. Don't even get me started. I'm still angry over how they handled the Xmen movies.

  4. I haven't seen Thor yet. But I've heard decent things about it. Even so I don't think these characters like Thor or Captain America are big enough to carry their own franchise. Even the ones that are (Batman, Spiderman, Superman) need to be done well or they can fall apart.

    So the fact that they are tying them into something bigger makes me more interested in them than if I knew they were purely stand alone movies. It also helps a lot that what they are linked to is a Joss Whedon-run Avengers. I'm a huge Whedon fan. So I pretty much have to see Thor and Captain America.

    If Whedon wasn't tied to it I'd be much less inclined to go. Whereas with characters like Spiderman and Batman it would take a lot of bad reviews to keep me from seeing it. Superman is different because I refuse to see another "Lois is in trouble, I have to save her...OMG, kryptonite, my only weakness" movie.

  5. I’m not an Avengers fan. Outside X-men, I don’t care much about the Marvel-verse, and yes, the middle finger that was The Last Stand still hurts. Not only for being a bad comic book movie, those happen all the time, but because it lessened what had come before. The conclusion wasted all of Singer and the cast’s hard work. That wasn’t even a cross-over continuity –just one franchise. It seems to lend credibility to the quote about the weakest link limiting the strongest.

    Iron Man surprised the hell out of me, though, and like Dave, I’m on board with anything Whedon is attached to. He’s never let me down and his run on Astonishing was quality.

    As fearful as I am of the innumerable and unknowable perils in the Hollywood machine that lead to bad movies, I watch the Justice League cartoons, and read Trinity, and I WANT that on the big screen.

    I want tag-team powers and smart-ass quips from Flash (who I love but could never carry his own movie for lack of credible vilains.) I want globe hopping and J’onn talking into people’s ears from up on the watchtower. I want smaller characters to come and go as they please, creating a dense tapestry of heroic society. But most of all, I want the soap opera. I want Batman and Wonder Woman to have sexual tension so thick you can cut it with a baterang. I want begrudging respect between Bats and Supes. I want GL and Green Arrow to run of and get into trouble like Butch and Sundance. I want to watch these gods among men function as peers and get caught up in their lives like I would in any good interpersonal drama. And then, every once in a while, a giant space armada invades and shit gets crazy.

    Before the Superman reboot was announced, I thought the time was ripe for nudging things in this direction. I wrote the screenplay that sets up Batman/Superman and takes care of all the weirdness we were left with at the end of Returns (which I thoroughly enjoyed but you gotta do something with that love triangle.) I didn’t kill the kid because it felt like a cop out and a loss of unexplored material down the road. It starts with Intergang and Metallo before adding some heavy hitters later on. It’s fresh, accessible, an tells some of the classic stories that needed a film treatment to introduce them to the mainstream, while ratcheting up the action quota which everyone seemed to agree was needed. And right on schedule at 115 pages.

    Now, of course, we’re getting a Superman II/origin remake and the Donner/Singer continuity is gone (along with my chances of having anyone read my script.) C’est la vie.

    To wrangle this back in and conclude, I hope Marvel’s continuity experiment succeeds, if only to make the DC continuity projects more appealing to the powers-that-be at Warner Brothers. And if we get a kick-ass Avengers movie out of it that, ya know… makes me care about the Avengers, all the better.

  6. P.S. I'm with Bitter. Wonder Woman is the best DC animated feature in recent memory. GL: First Flight was also pretty respectable, but I don't think either of them can touch Mask of the Phantasm.

  7. Gail Simone why I think Wonder Woman movie worked so well (and Simone and Nathan Fillion gave us best Trevor ever (and shoutout to Keri Russell, no idea was her til end, great job)).

    Fan service? It's all good, long as it doesn't slow momentum, why not show some love to fans. Besides, if continuity were that strict, what would fans quibble about? And how would DC spend its time? They'd be stuck twiddling their thumbs instead of creating alternate universes to fix things. And leaving a challenge to next guy, creators know they assume that risk when they enter the comic boxing ring. (Interview read today, Coen brothers would pass script back and forth, each writing the story into corner, other had to get out.)

    Bruce Timm why I think whole series so strong, and bravo DC comics for that win (animated movies). Marvel's done great with the shorter animation, and I'm particularly sweet on Super Hero Squad, very fun, worth catching. But don't start collecting figures, hard to stop, though at least our 5 year old daughter knows every good and bad guy from the universe, and has better grasp of the continuity than I do.

    Can't wait to see Thor.

  8. I know that some of the Marvel movies are made by different studios, but I always wanted references to the other heroes. Like maybe Peter Parker reading a tabloid with a picture of Blade killing some vampires, Wolverine picking up some webbing, just tiny touches like that which would make a geek go "squee" while everyone else dismisses it. Nothing heavy, just a touch here and there.

  9. Walker - Ugh. The Last Stand. Any time I start writing a blog post on what's wrong with that film, I just get angry and have to stop for the sake of my blood pressure.

    I'm also with you on Mask of the Phantasm probably being the best DC Animated film.

    When you say Trinity, do you mean the prestige graphic novel, or the 52-part mini? Because one is awesome and one... wasn't. I don't know how a JLA movie would translate to live action. They supposedly were adapting the broad strokes of The OMAC Project for the aborted film... but the fact that Jay Baruchel was cast as Max Lord makes me wonder what the heck they were thinking.

  10. Referring to the Matt Wagner graphic novel. I was unaware of the other.

    Also, I would pay good money to read your rant on The Last Stand. It wouldn't even have to be constructive. You could just bitch for 600 words. I'd totally be in. :)

  11. I had forgotten that I already posted a semi-rant regarding The Last Stand here. Any time I try to write more than that, it just comes out as two hours of screaming.

    In fairness, the Wolverine movie proved to us it could still get much worse.