The Age of Instant Backlash

By Shamus
on May 23, 2014
Filed under:
Movies

Earlier this week Peter Hall at Movies.com put up the article Geeks Are Entering the Age of Instant Backlash and It’s Getting Really Tiresome, talking about how comic book fans reacted negatively to the announcement of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Maybe movie journalism works differently than videogame journalism, but from where I stand we’ve been in the age of instant backlash for about a decade or so. Hall says:

[…]Internet immediately lost its mind and pounced on the title like a bunch of ghouls feasting on a newborn. And as I watched the vitriol flow across social media, all I could do is sit back and wonder why everyone is so angry all of the time these days.

There’s a certain irony in accusing people of “feasting on newborns” when talking about how they over-react. At any rate, this probably has more to do with where you hang out on the internet than with anything going on in geekdom. In my experience the backlash was basically a bunch of eye-rolling and head-shaking. I witnessed no anger, much less newborn-feasting.

Here was my reaction:

That was a completely instant gut reaction. I wasn’t jumping on any bandwagon or contributing to any echo-chamber. I had not read any opinions when I wrote that, and had no idea what other fans were saying.

Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? We hear some news and then react to it? It happens in real life all the time. If I’m sitting on the couch with friends watching trailers because I’m too lazy to find the remote and fast-forward to the DVD menu, then I’m likely to comment to my friend:

“This looks like it might be kinda good. Wait nope. Brett Ratner. It’s probably ass.”

“Ugh. Are they still making these? Didn’t they sort of run out of ideas two movies ago?

“Hey cool. Michael Caine is still alive.”

The only difference is that when it happens on the internet, there are a hundred thousand of us on the couch. I think it’s significant when those hundred thousand people all say roughly the same thing. What would Hall prefer they do? Not comment? “Man, I have something negative to say but I’ll keep it to myself just in case thousands of other people come to the same conclusion and we form a backlash.”

And if you’re unhappy that someone, somewhere is having an apoplectic freak-out over entertainment news? You might as well get mad at the weather. You might have a point, but there’s no fighting human nature.

In this case, I suspect the backlash is the result of prolonged frustration. It’s not just that the title of this particular movie is bad. By giving Batman top billing in Superman’s movie, it shows that Warner Brothers is still clueless and repeating mistakes that have been plaguing the studio for years. They do not get why the audience likes these characters. The DC movies so far (and I’m including the Nolan Batman in this) are a series of basically competent movies that fail to capture the tone and thematic thrust of the source material. The most recent Superman movie wasn’t a bad movie. If it had been about some new hero I would have really enjoyed it. But the tone was wrong for a movie about Supes. I spent the whole time sitting there thinking, “This doesn’t feel like a Superman movie.” Too dark. Too grim. Superman is morose and conflicted instead of stalwart and optimistic.

I’m not deep enough into movies to get why this keeps happening. Wrong directors? Wrong screenwriters? Lack of a plan? Too much executive meddling? I have no idea. Marvel has made it look easy. DC fans are hoping to see an optimistic, colorful, and vibrant take on Superman that lives up to the kind of crowd-pleasing adventure that Marvel gave us with Captain America. And this Batman v. Superman is a step away from that. Batman is a reliable draw, so rather than addressing the problems with the previous Superman movie they’re adding Batman. The backlash isn’t, “Boo hoo, I don’t like the title of this movie I haven’t seen yet.” The backlash is, “It looks like nothing is going to change and we’re going to get more ugly grim big-budget movies that don’t satisfy our desire to see our heroes on the big screen.”

Rather than blame the rampaging mob, maybe we should put some blame of the studios. There’s no law saying they have to dribble out an endless series of hints, leaks, and trailers. In fact, the only reason to do that is to provoke a reaction. They either want feedback as a kind of informal focus testing, or they want to build hype. In either case, the studios are getting what they want. Getting mad at internet backlash is like getting mad at the audience for cheering when the stand-up comic says how much they love [current_town].


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From the Archives:

  1. TouToTheHouYo says:

    “People on the internet complaining about other people on the internet complaining about things (and people) on the internet.” Just another day on the internet.

    If only there was a way to shut people up, like that lovely little red “X” icon at the upper right of the window…

  2. MichaelGC says:

    Hmm. Tried to find something above I could disagree with for comically-overdone instant backlash purposes, but failed. Looks like we have a storm-front coming in, though, so I’m going to go outside and fling profanity & invective at the sky.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      If you succeed,can you come to my country and yell at the flood?

      • MichaelGC says:

        Sure, I’d be happy to! And actually, it’s bright & sunny again now. So either I’ve uncovered a hitherto unmanifested mutant power, or it was a total coincidence. I’d better run some more tests…

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      Well I think this sort of exemplifies the one thing Hall said that Shamus didn’t address: Tone.

      When an argument is well spoken in a calm and reasonable manner, such as Shamus’ articles usually are, backlash doesn’t seem bad. It’s like participating in a forum in the old sense of the word: a place for discussion.

      But as Hall said, much of the internet expresses it’s displeasure in the most bile filled ways possible, a far cry from calm discourse. I believe this is what can make internet backlash seem so frenzied.

      • TouToTheHouYo says:

        That and there’s generally no real repercussion for what most people say on the internet, so they’re free to spew whatever wherever they please. Unless you have a reputation to protect you can say nearly anything and just slink back into the shadows.

        • Henson says:

          And for some people, bile IS their reputation. They rage not because they’re upset, but because that’s what they do. And we all watch because it’s our entertainment.

        • Rasha says:

          I like to think of it as anonymity bringing forth honesty. How people act from the perceived privacy the internet can offer is how they would actually act if they weren’t worried about some consequence or another. Now this does come with some warts… Okay a lot of warts. That doesn’t change the fact it has allowed for some of the most informative conversations I’ve ever had.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ive just realized something:Man of steel is not about the primary superman we know of,its about superboy prime.Thats why the next movie is him versus batman.Batman is actually trying to stop him from killing the earth to death because everything was better back on krypton!

  4. Biophision says:

    The only part I disagree with you about is when you said “The most recent Superman movie wasn’t a bad movie. […] But the tone was wrong for a movie about Supes.” Man of Steel was a malodorous train wreck.

    • The Schwarz says:

      Exactly! I wasn’t sitting there the entire time thinking “This doesn’t feel like Superman”, I was thinking “Why did he just do that? Why am I supposed to care about any of these characters? Why is Lois here? Who the hell is this Jenny girl? What is up with Clark’s dad?” etc.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Nah,it was run of the mill average action flick with explosion and cool effects.It wasnt full of offensive stereotypes and unfunny jokes like transformers 2.But just because it wasnt bad,doesnt mean it was good,just average.

      Having it be about superman,however,is what tips it from average to bad.Especially in an era where we do have a boy scout action hero in 3 fun good movies.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I wouldn’t go that far myself, but I WILL say that there wasn’t really anything real memorable about the movie – it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really good/great either. In retrospect the flaws seem more obvious, but I think it’s more important that things were not constructed to be all that interesting in the first place.

      …Though I will say the degree they decided to bust up the city (which I assume is New York because it ALWAYS is) was just a little excessive/unbelievable.

      • Eric says:

        It was Metropolis… so, yeah, it was New York.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        People who watched both say that godzilla did less damage to the city.So yeah,pretty excessive.

        • Deoxy says:

          Actually, I’d say that the combat scene at the end did about the right amount of damage – two essentially indestructible beings throwing each other around with unbelievable strength at mind-numbing speeds should do that.

          Go have a wrestling match with a friend of yours while standing on an anthill. Yeah, it’s like that.

          The only reason it seemed excessive is because so many other superhero movies are so UNrealistic in the damage.

          • Matt Downie says:

            He’s Superman. Being concerned about civilian casualties ought to be his number one priority. Saving lives is his specialty. Why not lure Zod away from the city, instead of throwing him at random parts of the scenery?

            • Mike S. says:

              Exactly. There’s a place for realistic speculation about what a no-holds-barred conflict between incomprehensibly powerful beings in an urban area might look like. And if you want to see that, Marvel is in the process of reprinting Alan Moore’s classic Miracleman, which should reach the appropriate point in the story sometime next year.

              But that’s not the sort of thing that results in anything like what we know as Superman: after the battles in Smallville and Metropolis, no one would be saying “Look, up in the sky!” as anything but a fearful warning.

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                It doesn’t result in a classic Superman story and I wouldn’t want to see this as a continued feature of the series. But for a Day One Superman, I think all this damage and this one instance of being forced to take a life could be part of the formative experience that makes him vow to do better, vow to be the classic paragon.

                As a fan defending Superman from your side over decades, I’ve noticed that people tend to see Superman as too stodgy or too restrained. Showing them first hand what happens when Superman cuts loose will help them understand why he doesn’t normally. And if you’re going to do that, then his very first superfight against beings of basically equal power is the time to do it.

                Plus its cool spectacle. Everybody was complaining after Superman Returns that Superman didn’t never threw a punch, didn’t get to fight a supervillain like all the other superheroes were doing.

                Personally I’d like to see action next film thats a mix between Returns and Steel with Superman doing a balancing act between fighting a villain and damage control. Containing disasters is a great way to distinguish him from other superheroes.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            No,it is excessive because in other superhero movies the heroes try to steer the carnage away from the people.In avengers,for example,the first thing they do is to tell the police to get everyone away,then they work to remove the possible stragglers,and only then do they focus on defeating the enemy.A superhero doesnt just beat the villain and call it a day,they actively try to save as many people as possible.

            Sure collateral damage is inevitable,but superman is actively causing it himself.And when you are a character who is supposed to care for people,and even have a scene where you kill one of your own in order to save people,yet the amount of damage you cause is less than that caused by a mindless rampaging beast,thats excessive damage.

            • Shamus says:

              Yeah, this is where the realism-versus-tone thing comes in. Sure, you could have Captain America shooting dudes like he’s the Punisher. Given his foes, that’s reasonable and justified. But it wouldn’t be Captain America anymore. Likewise, if the Scooby-Doo villain of the week attacked the kids and they had to beat his ass with fisticuffs, that would be both realistic and tonally wrong.

              In the context of a comic book, hitting the right tone is way more important than realism. (Particularly if the “unrealistic” thing is already an accepted part of the setting.)

              • C0Mmander says:

                I think in the newest scooby-doo cartoon had the villans attacking the gang but never hurting them. And the kids didn’t retaliate because more often than not they were fighting some sort of robot suit.

              • Tizzy says:

                Comic books have given rise to sickeningly good guys, in the sense that they’re ludicrously idealistic, more than the best of us could be even in the real world. The danger is a disconnect from the audience, and therefore scorn for the character.

                I think that the Captain America movies have shown how you can have a character who embodies this trope and who can nevertheless be very easy to relate to and root for. So despite the risk mentioned above, there is no need to tone down idealism if it’s done right.

              • deda says:

                Saying that the tone is wrong is a bit of an understatement, the movie seems to be going for an “epic action” “good vs evil” scene and yet the entire thing feels more like a lovecraftian horror story, it also doesn’t help that the fight is so repetitive and boring I couldn’t focus on anything other than the 100000s that were dying. Then, to add insult to injury the thing that superman feels bad about is the fact that he kills zod…. and the thing that makes him do it is that he was going to kill 4 more people… but I guess he cares this time because he can see their faces. And THEN the movie says “screw realism” and everybody acts like they hadn’t just witnessed one of the greatest disasters in the history of mankind.

                I don’t know much about comics but I have heard people say that what makes superman interesting is how he is an inspiration for people to help others and be a better person, that scene makes it very clear that it doesn’t matter if you dedicate your life to helping others and make the world a better place, if 2 superpowered aliens (that only have their powers because of genetics) decide to have a fistfight in your city you will just get squashed like the insect you are along with everyone you know and love, your life will amount to nothing and there is nothing you can do about it, that’s the message of this movie.

                • False Prophet says:

                  I think somewhere between the Star Wars prequels and the Matrix sequels, Hollywood started making action scenes 3-4 times longer than they need to be. And that really sucks a lot of the tension and gravity out of them.

                  Yeah, Mr. Director-Man, I get that these guys are really badass, but for storytelling purposes, could you make that point in 5 minutes or less? How does having them wale ineffectually on each other for 15 minutes better make that point?

              • aldowyn says:

                I read a critique of man of steel (FilmCritHulk, maybe?) that said it would have made a huge difference to have just a couple short scenes of him trying to save civilians or finding a way to get them out.

            • Radagast says:

              I was originally mad at the Transformers movie because Optimus Prime was so totally owned by Megatron. I wasn’t upset that he lost so much as I was upset that it seemed he never had even a chance of winning.

              Someone pointed out to me that it was most likely because they were fighting in a city and Optimus was holding back to try to save civilian lives.

              Then we get the forest battle in Transformers 2 where Optimus very nearly beats Megatron AND two other decepticons at the same time which in a way proves the point.

    • Steve C says:

      I’m with Biophision. Man of Steel was a train wreck of a movie. Adding superman to it (not worth capitalizing) made it a city wreck of a movie instead of just a train wreck. This four minute video explains perfectly everything wrong with that superman movie.

      BTW: I think this has a grammar error: “By giving Batman top billing is Superman’s movie,”

  5. Jack Kucan says:

    Is this that Wonderwoman movie everyone’s been telling me about where she doesn’t even get billing, or am I getting it confused with a movie that was already made?

    • TouToTheHouYo says:

      Probably this. Warner Brothers is cramming as many superheroes as possible into the film to use it as a hasty springboard for Justice League. Anyone other than Bats and Supes probably won’t get much more than a passing mention or brief cameo. Alternatively, it could pan out like Amazing Spiderman 2, re: a total fuster cluck.

    • The reasons above is why I don’t want a Wonder Woman movie right now: Those in charge will, at best, make a forgettable movie that won’t capture any of the reasons why people like Wonder Woman. At worst, it’ll be the Amazonian version of Green Lantern.

      As for what DC should do, I’d say, “See what your animated movie people are doing? Do that.”

      Wonder Woman (and many other characters) are ones that really need a wider superhero universe to seem not quite so ridiculous when you think about them. The same is true of the Fantastic Four (which is why I really hope they someday go back to Marvel/Disney), Power Man & Iron Fist, or any other heroes/groups that sort of “live in the ‘real’ world.” If they’re the only one of their kind, they’re not considered heroes, they’re considered lab experiments. Marvel has been busy building up a world where Ant Man can exist, and you go, “Okay, sure. He’s in the same place where a millionaire is running around in battle armor and a Norse God is working with a secret government agency. He makes sense.” Without the previous films, he wouldn’t even have gotten past the script proposal.

      DC is, I fear, going to make a HUGE mistake jumping straight into the Justice League without having done a decent movie or two just laying the groundwork for their ballooning cast. Unless they pull an “Astro City” and just have loads of heroes everywhere, it’s probably going to be like those Batman films where they try to stick too many villains in and nobody gets a decent plot out of the deal.

      At least the Justice League & JLU cartoons are available on DVD…

      • Jason-L says:

        “As for what DC should do, I’d say, ‘See what your animated movie people are doing? Do that.'”

        I’d edit that to be “See what your animated movie people used to do? Do that.” Because the last few offering from the animation division have been about as bad as anything the live action or comic book crew is cranking out. So hey, brand synergy, right?

      • Mike S. says:

        “How about “see what your TV people do?” Do that.” Which covers the DCAU from Batman:TAS through Legion of Super-Heroes, plus Arrow and the Flash trailer. All of which seem to get superheroes better than anything DC’s put on the silver screen since Superman II.

        • That made me think of why JLU worked out so well (assuming what I was told is true):

          When JL became JL Unlimited, I heard that the suits put down an edict from on high that there was to be a major cut in the involvement of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, as all of these heroes had a movie coming up (at the time) or were being considered for appearances in other media. The “logic” was that if fans saw cartoon Supes, WW, and Bats, fans wouldn’t watch them as movies.

          Yeah, I know.

          Anyway, this seemed to spawn a bit of creativity, and we got a LOT of second-stringers who otherwise didn’t often shine: Black Canary, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, The Question, etc. In a way, the cartoon went through what Marvel went through after being acquired by Disney: It’s major properties (Spider-Man, the X-Men, the FF) were all under contract with other studios, so they had to go with heroes not as well known to the moviegoing public.

          Maybe DC SHOULD stop making movies about its most famous characters and drop things down a few rungs. They need to pick ones that can hold their own against interesting foes, not cause enough of a stir that congressional hearings start up (unless they’re also as well-connected as Tony Stark), and yet be low-tier enough to take risks that could sink their specific movie. They could build up the DCU from there, taking their time and making it WORK before just doing yet another solo movie about Superman’s origin or whatever. I think the payoff would be worthwhile, though I guess it’s too late for that, eh?

    • MichaelGC says:

      I won’t be especially surprised if Wonder Woman shows up as a main protagonist … of the closing scene after the credits.

      (Actually, there’ll probably be three or four such scenes – it seems to be getting a little out of hand.)

      PS Apologies for all the nuclear snarky bullying in this comment, but it’s been too long since I last feasted on a newborn and I think my blood sugar must be getting a bit low.

  6. “The Internet” is not a single, amorphous blob. Some people are going to make smart ass remarks when stuff like this comes up. Other people are going to make more thoughtful, interested noises when it turns out to be not so bad. How often is it the same people? Also, as more people get involved with social networks, and the listener gets deeper with more connections, more comments like that are going to show up.

    I think Shamus is right, and nothings has changed other than you can talk about this publicly on twitter rather than just with your buddies on the couch.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      This is the point I always think of.

      There are so many people willing to comment on the internet about the news that you’re always going to have some groups of people being excessively negative.

      The majority of people are probably only mildly interested at this stage, until all the trailers and stuff hit just before release.

  7. Tychoxi says:

    I was annoyed when people complained about the Batfleck, but it doesn’t seem like something to make such a big issue out of. Maybe my main problem is that Peter Hall appears to be conflating ALL fan criticism as unwarranted and overblown… which is completely false.

    Also, for what it’s worth I think the “Dawn of Justice” monicker is a neat subtitle.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I quite like what they’ve done with the logos up there. (The superimposition perhaps doesn’t quite square with the whole ‘versus’ thing, but it looks pretty cool.)

    • theNater says:

      “Dawn of Justice” isn’t objectively horrible, it’s just not very meaningful.

      They could have made it a great title by carefully playing up the Dark Knight and Last Son of Krypton angles for Batman and Superman respectfully, but they didn’t.

      I sigh for the missed opportunities.

      • I looked up “Justice” on IMDB’s title listings. It’s very hard to put “Justice” in a title sans being followed by “League” without sounding corny or like you’re making a Kung-Fu movie.

      • Tychoxi says:

        naah, as uninspired as “Dawn of Justice” is, it works. I shudder to think what dumb subtitles they could have come up with.

      • Retsam says:

        Wait, you think a pun based on “son/sun” and “knight/night” would have been better than a subtle nod to the Justice League? I’m not sure we can be friends.

        • theNater says:

          The presence of the pun wouldn’t prevent it from being a nod to the League. The best superhero titles have several meanings; my issue is that this only has one.

          That’s not a huge problem by itself, but you have to have been following the movie news for that one meaning to make any sense. For somebody who’s entire familiarity with the setting is the other movies in the same continuity(that is, just Man of Steel), it’s just a handful of random words.

          By building up the pun properly, deliberately demonstrating that Batman is a creature of the night and really hammering home Superman’s connection to the Sun, you get an extra meaning that everyone can enjoy.

  8. Eric says:

    This whole time, I thought WB would do the sensible thing and call the movie World’s Finest. They do own the rights these properties, right? Why are they so intent on not using them?

  9. Neil D says:

    I dig “Dawn of Justice”. And I think that while this was originally intended to be a Man of Steel sequel, they have since shifted their focus to a Justice League origin (hence the subtitle, obviously). It is only a Man of Steel sequel in the same sense that The Avengers was an Iron Man (and Hulk, and Thor, and Captain America) sequel. It takes place in the same continuity, with the same characters, but the focus is no longer on just the one protagonist.

    • Except in The Avengers, we had several films to lay the groundwork for most of the cast and the audience knew who these characters were. Here, we’ve got Not-Bale Batman (though if they’d brought Bale and his Bat-Voice to the party, I’d be nerd raging right now as my ears would start prematurely bleeding), neck-breaking Superman, and… Who else? Bad Movie Green Lantern, Wonder Woman who hasn’t appeared in a film before and whose origin needs establishing (there are several), and then its pretty much a laundry list of possible candidates that’ll have to be explained to at least some degree.

      This doesn’t even begin to establish a villain. Myself, I’d love to see a good version of Darkseid, but there’s this whole Justice League cartoon, Superman the Animated Series, Batman the Animated Series, etc. that had built up to something like that and executed it marvelously.

      I can’t see this being a particularly deep movie. It sounds like Amazing Spider-Man 2, but with a bigger budget and an even more unwieldy cast.

      • Neil D says:

        Okay, but I was just commenting on the idea that Superman is getting eclipsed in his own sequel – it’s a sequel in the sense that it shares the same continuity with that movie, but it’s become more of a DC Universe sequel than a Superman sequel.

        Whether it will be good sequel or a bad sequel is something I’ll reserve judgement on until I see it (although just going by Man of Steel I’m not overly optimistic).

  10. Bloodsquirrel says:

    In which Bloodsquirrel angrily rants about something once again:

    I’ve seen this kind of whining a lot from video game developers as well, and it’s never a good sign.

    Don’t want people to have opinions on your product before it’s released? Fine. Then don’t market it. Because that’s what marketing is. It’s trying to get people to have a favorable opinion on your film before you release it. You don’t announce the name of your movie, release promotional photos and posters, and drip feed us information about it because you don’t want us reacting to it. You want us reacting to it. You want us posting about it on forums. You want us talking to our friends about it. You want us liking it on facebook.

    But you don’t get to tell someone to have an opinion on something and then get mad and act like a butthurt little baby when it’s not the one you wanted them to have. If your marketing gets people laughing at your film then you screwed up your job somewhere. Don’t blame that on us. Sure, it might make your life easier if everyone was a bottomlessly optimistic drone that reacted with rabid excitement every time you threw marketing at them, but why don’t you just skip the whole “making a movie” business and just demand that they send money straight to you if you’re that dismissive of your audience?

    Most of us have spent our entire lives being exposed to this kind of marketing and learning to figure out when we will or will not be disappointing. Some of us have even gotten pretty good at it. For all of the grief that people got for reacting to DAII’s announcement, they turned out to be pretty much 100% right about it. And now you’ve made a movie where Batman is being played by an actor that doesn’t have the best reputation among geek circles in a Superman movie when the general consensus is that they haven’t gotten Superman right yet (Even after trying twice).

    If you want us to get excited at this point, it’s on you to convince us that you’ve got something worth being excited over.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Don’t want people to have opinions on your product before it’s released? Fine. Then don’t market it. ”

      However,there is a small problem with that line of thinking.Today,the excessive marketing for everything,people expect for you to do marketing.So if you avoid it(and are known enough)people will still speculate,and sometimes bitch and whine about why there is no info about it.Usually they will say “Well it must be bad because they are hiding it so”,because that is the tactics makers of shlock employ most of the time.

      But,you can always just ignore all that stuff floating around the web by simply not engaging with it in any way,so yeah,complaining about backlash is silly.

    • straymute says:

      I think game developers took this attitude to the next level with early access, pre-orders, and kickstarter. Apparently early footage is representative enough to let you buy the game years in advance, but not representative enough for you to post a negative comment on the internet.

  11. Peter H. Coffin says:

    So why do Marvel films work so well in comparison? Essentially all of their films in the past 15 years, even working with different studios, have been generally pretty good movies, if occasionally a little off-tone or compromised from canon somehow.

    • Thomas says:

      Without the Avengers I don’t know if we’d be here though. Iron Man managed to be a successful film because it was subverting the non-comic book opinion of what a hero should be, but every film pre-Avengers was at best a solid B or a B+ with Captain America. Iron Man 2 was almost plain bad, Thor was pretty much entirely boring. I haven’t watched The Incredible Hulk, but nor have I heard anyone describe it as a great film or even really a good one. The best of them was a Batman Begins and none of them were Spiderman 2 or even X-Men First Class.

      But when you do have a legitimately great film in style and canon with the earlier films, then it enriches the films that came before it.

      And then Disney followed that up with an understanding on how to build up on that success and use that character renown to make the next set of films better.

      Whereas DC had an entirely personal tone, atmosphere and canon with the Batman films. When they tried to create a new tone for a new film, they gave it to people who turned it into a train wreck (Green Lantern). When they tried to repeat the same tone for a different superhero, it didn’t work because it was a different superhero (Man Of Steel).

      There only success has been on a project that can’t be transferred to others, and instead of going their own way or trying to take their time, they’re still trying to ram a square peg into a round hole because someone else is making money.

      I don’t think they should be trying to push superhero films so quickly. Take the time, find the writers who want to write. Consider really hard if it’s worth trying to copy something that someone else is already doing way better than you and if it is, then copy them right. You can’t make an Avengers without Iron Man. You can’t have an Iron Man without time patience and a lot of luck.

      For an alternate universe situation. Imagine if Robert Downey Jr didn’t sign on to Iron Man. That’s why trying to force the issue won’t work.

      • Geebs says:

        Most of the Marvel movies have been astoundingly average; iron man was good enough (entirely due to RDJ as the above poster mentioned), the Avengers had a couple of moments but was otherwise forgettable, both Thor movies were utter drek that Kevin Sorbo would have been ashamed of. I know that continuity is popular but a) it’s the worst failing of comic books in general, and the reason why every other thing is a reboot and b) the overarching plot is completely generic, so I really can’t see why it’s considered such a big thing.

        One other point – to somebody not deeply invested in comic books beyond knowing who some of the more popular characters are, Green Lantern wasn’t subjectively any worse than the Avengers movie. The reason the movie tanked at the box office is that nobody outside of geekdom gives a toss about Green Lantern.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “One other point – to somebody not deeply invested in comic books beyond knowing who some of the more popular characters are, Green Lantern wasn’t subjectively any worse than the Avengers movie.”

          Yes,it was.Waaaay worse.The acting,the action,the plot,the cgi,as a movie,it was worse on every aspect.The reason it tanked is because it was bad.

          • syal says:

            Yeah, Green Lantern was a long series of cliches played way too straight and half of it was a straight-up cartoon. Loki had more personality than any bad guy in Green Lantern, and every single hero in the Avengers had more personality than Green Lantern did. The best part of the GL movie was when it broke down at the end and we got free tickets to a different movie.

            And seriously, we KNOW Sinistro’s going to be a bad guy, his name is SINISTRO, stop trying to give him this big dramatic fall, HIS NAME IS FRICKIN’ SINISTRO!

            • Geebs says:

              “So, what did you say that guy Loki was god of again? Never mind, I’m sure we can trust him.”

              (I don’t know anything much about Green Lantern, but I’m sure being played by Mark StrongBad is a clearer indication of villainy than having a name which makes you sound left-handed)

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                And when exactly did they trust him?

                • Geebs says:

                  If I remember correctly, the main characters totally failed to realise what he was up to in both Avengers and Thor 2: Miami Heat. Not that I can remember much about either :-/

                  • Daimbert says:

                    In Avengers, certainly, they didn’t trust him, but couldn’t figure out what he was actually up to, which I think was the case in Thor 2 as well. In the original Thor, they did trust him, but that was because even though they considered him a trickster, they considered him a LOYAL trickster … to them, anyway.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Being putplayed by someone =/= trusting someone.

                  • MichaelGC says:

                    Heh – they do sort of acknowledge Loki’s untrustworthiness in Thor 2. (Hand-wave? Lamp-shade? Fridge-magnet? – I forget the proper term.)

                    Thor flat out tells Loki he doesn’t trust him (but then obviously cracks on anyway just as if he did). A bit of comics-logic, I guess – if comic book characters all acted as forewarned as they really should be then at least half the stories would never get off the ground.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “Thor flat out tells Loki he doesn’t trust him (but then obviously cracks on anyway just as if he did).”

                      No,he cracks on anyway because he cannot think of anything smarter to do.So either he risks loki betraying him(which he does in the end,but in a fashion thor didnt expect)or he lets the other guys destroy everything.

                    • MichaelGC says:

                      I agree!: I almost made the same point about not thinking of an alternative. There was probably another way to have got to where they needed to get to, but time was of the essence and whatnot. (And it did work quite well storywise – not to spoil anything, but Loki obviously had his own strong motivations to go along and help out.)

                    • Geebs says:

                      @Daemian

                      Yeah, but going along with Loki for lack of a better plan doesn’t really excuse anything, because Loki’s schemes, far from being ingenious manipulations, mostly seem to involve him pointing a shotgun at his own foot and threatening to bleed on everybody if he doesn’t get his way…

                    • MichaelGC says:

                      @ Geebs

                      You seem to have nutshelled the essential deep tragedy of the character there!

                      :D

        • I’d disagree about canon: Callbacks and references to previous movies/comics are cool. They’re a reward to the fans for being along for the ride, and they actually allow for character depth beyond a 2-3 hour visit with a guy in a cape.

          Also, the nice thing about comic book movie continuity is that with one studio and director/producer behind it, you can choose the best of the comics for your continuity and take the time to have it more or less make sense. The Dis/Mar movies have basically been an adaptation of The Ultimates (which is also a kind of re-establishing of a Marvel U without all of the silliness of the 50’s and 60’s), whose first two trade paperbacks I highly recommend.

    • Sagretti says:

      The best explanation I’ve seen a few times is that Marvel is making movies that try to embrace the inherent fun and silliness of superheros, while most DC productions seem to be ashamed of their comic book origins. Marvel movies stay true to the tone and personality of the characters, even if they change some of the details.

      The Dark Knight films worked as an isolated trilogy, because of a good director and a character that worked in a grittier, more realistic world. Unfortunately, DC has continued to apply that template to all their properties, even those that don’t fit the style, like Superman. The main screenwriter for most of these films has also expressed his hostility to comics and their fandom, even pulling out the old “comic fans are virgins” chestnut.

      Nobody wants a ridiculous fiasco like Batman and Robin again, but turning all properties into grimdark cynicism is just as bad or worse.

      • Blackbird71 says:

        Oddly enough, of the 90’s era Batman flicks, I rather enjoyed Batman and Robin, mainly because it didn’t seem to take itself too seriously. The cheese was of a level that made it feel at times like I was watching Adam West and Burt Ward walk along a wall with the camera turned sideways again.

        • Sagretti says:

          I fall more on the spectrum of liking the first Burton Batman film and Batman Forever’s level of cheese. Batman Returns was essentially a Tim Burton dark fantasy that happened to have a guy called Batman. Batman and Robin just makes me cringe through most of it. It doesn’t help that it tries to blend tragic backstories, fatal diseases, and constant ice puns in a tonally dissonant mess, plus awful acting by the bat sidekicks.

        • krellen says:

          I’m with you, man. Schwartzneggar cracking puns is the Batman I wanna see.

  12. Tizzy says:

    This is my non-insider take on things: The problem is that the culture in Hollywood is one of complete and utter contempt for audiences, coupled with resentment. Everything is bottom line, and audiences are fickle. Movies bomb or are smash-hits, without any simple formula to predict what will happen until the product is close to finalized.

    Thus, the relationship with audiences is adversarial from the get go.

    Add to this the comic-book dimension, and it’s a real disaster. On the one hand, most Hollywood folks appear to have little interest in comics, don’t really get them or the people who love them, and treat all of this with as much contempt as they do everything. On the other hand, the comic book fans, who are not nearly enough to be the target audience for the movies, have exceedingly precise expectations and the feeling that their years of devotion to a certain franchise is what makes a movie even possible. And they’re probably right about that feeling, too.

    By now, fans have been burned often enough by cynical cash grabs that they have gotten even more thin-skinned, and prone to overreaction to even the smallest teaser.

    I’m not a Hollywood insider, and I’m not part of the comics culture either, so I may be way off the mark. But the outsider perspective can be less cluttered with details, and all of these remarks strike me as reasonable.

  13. Mark says:

    A few things occur to me:

    – I have to wonder how much of this is that the backlash is now public and able to be queried via social media. The reaction to this echoes the reaction to “The Phantom Menace” (at a time when everyone was still very hopeful for the Star Wars prequels), but the intensity seems worse now because we can see everyone’s reaction (instead of just a few anecdotal reactions from friends).

    – Totally agree about the new Superman movie, but I do think that the Nolan Batman movies were decent. Batman is allowed to be a little grim and brooding, that’s his schtick. Supes isn’t supposed to be, and if the latest Superman movie was actually “stalwart and optimistic” as you mentioned, this Batman vs Superman thing would be a really interesting notion – you can see why those two would clash, even if they’re nominally good and heroic. As it is now, we’ve got grim and gritty on top of grim and gritty, and there’s no contrast, it’s just going to be more of the same. I’m sure it will be entertaining and fun enough, like the latest Superman movie, but I’m guessing it won’t feel quite right. Alas, only one way to find out!

  14. Abnaxis says:

    I don’t know why, but every time you make a blog post like this, I feel compelled to play Devil’s advocate, even when I largely agree with you. I might have a problem O.o

    But anyway, I’m with you, except where you try to extend the couch analogy. You make it out like the backlash is the result of a thousand individuals online all independently coming to the same conclusion. I think the backlash-ers are a lot more connected than the anarchic mob you make them out to be.

    To me, this is an issue of Social Capital, or the ability of any sub-group of people to leverage their social ties into practical change. With the advent of the internet, the capacity for any group to build social capital has skyrocketed–be they rebels in the middle-east or nerds angry about the next Superman flick. I posit that, if released ten years ago, Batman v. Superman would have caused just as many eye-rolls as today, the difference is that now the geek collective has the infrastructure and the tools to make the publishers feel their displeasure in very real, tangible ways.

    (Incidentally, this is why I think “over-backlash” is often characterized as a “geek culture” problem–as Shamus said, we’ve been at this for over a decade; we nerds as a sub-group have a distinct advantage when it comes to leveraging the internet for our purposes)

    The net effect of the changes brought on by the internet is a significant shift in power away from directors and developers to audiences. We have built our institutions on the internet to facilitate backlash against developers. Think about it–before you made that tweet, how did you think your friends would react? How would they react differently to someone supporting the movie? Which would you feel more comfortable tweeting, “B-Man v Supes is going to be so awesome! We’re finally working up to the Justice League” or “Wow, Batman v Superman looks like a train wreck”? Which do you think would garner more snark in reply?

    We create a unified front, not just because we agree on the same point, but also because we have created a social structure the engenders criticism. That unification makes us stronger.

    The concession in power is rightly going to make anyone with close ties to the movie industry uneasy. You liken your reaction to you saying something to your brother across the couch, but people get fired over these kind of controversies now. Projects get cancelled. Our ability to maintain a unified voice of displeasure can accomplish things our living room banter never could. And while “feasting on newborns” is certainly venturing into hyperbole territory, if you personally know a member of the production team who just lost a paycheck and has a family to feed, the hyperbole doesn’t strike quite as extreme.

    Note that I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this. I don’t think anything needs fixed about this situation, and I don’t think there could be anything done to fix it even if it were called for. However, I can sympathize with someone on the other side of the power shift being uncomfortable when fans are hurting their bottom line with a collective “meh” that’s based on first impressions.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Very interesting & well-made points, which I confess I don’t feel qualified to address directly! That admission may colour what I did want to say, which is that the large agreement comes across at least as strongly as does any devilish advocacy. In short, it doesn’t sound to me like you have a problem. :0)

      (I will say that the Extended-Couch and Social-Capital notions aren’t mutually exclusive; hence it feels to me as though you were developing Shamus’ points & introducing new ones, rather than flat-out disagreeing.)

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Along the same lines, it could also be aversion to having to appeal to cultural gatekeepers all the time. If the crowd follows a few leaders, and the leaders are opposed to some particular company, it’s not so much a reflection of the work itself as it is bullying. I’m not saying that this is actually what is happening (because, how could you tell?) but I’ll bet it can feel that way.

      On the other hand, all of this is even more incentive for creative companies to get in touch with their audience BEFORE investing in a particular direction. If the first time you ask for input is after the shooting is complete, you can’t really blame people for responding with “You aren’t listening!” in disappointment. Maybe the hatred is out of control, but if that’s really the case, there’s all the more reason to be careful to never anger the audience in the first place.

      One could counter this argument with “but it’s the job of artists to upset people in order to open their eyes to new things” in which case, as Shamus says, they are getting what they wanted. The upset part, anyway. I don’t know if the artistic revelation thing is working so well.

    • Daimbert says:

      I disagree that the Twitter/instant reaction part of the Internet favours criticism, having seen more than enough “OMG this will be so COOL!!!!” comments about things that I didn’t or don’t think I’ll like. The instant reaction tends to be an instant reaction that swells into a crowd reaction, as people like and jump onto and off of the bandwagon. If you get two opposing reactions, you get various Internet flame wars, but if most people fall on one side or another you get this surge of interest. If positive, it’s good marketing. If negative … well, not so much. But for the most part both are based on essentially judging how good something will be or how something will work with only the barest hint of what will happen. Which isn’t new, but isn’t actually fair in most cases.

      But for creators, jumps to “This is going to be great!” make them happy, so they forgive it, but jumps to “This is going to suck!” without even having seen it, rightly, annoy them. So they react to the criticisms strongly, and often too strongly, which only encourages the posters to fire back, leading to much longer debates over the issues. Which would be why we remember criticisms longer than praises.

      The ideal would be for us to stop judging the overall quality of the product before we really know what it’s about … but that’s never going to happen.

  15. Hal says:

    They do not get why the audience likes these characters.

    Sounds about right. I was reading some comments on David Goyer’s take on the Martian Manhunter in this movie. Apparently the character will only technically be a martian (being a petri dish experiment grown on Earth) and won’t be a manhunter. Apparently he’s also under the impression that people who know who the Martian Manhunter is haven’t been laid before, either.

    So yeah. Screenwriters who understand neither the characters nor the audience. High hopes for this one.

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    To continue your point, not only are complaints about backlash wrong-headed, but they are pretty much bragging. “Isn’t it terrible being famous? I just hate being the center of attention.” Which is clearly the opposite of the truth, because that’s the business they are in! I mean, I suppose it’s possible they just hate their job, but no one is holding a gun to their head to make and promote this stuff… I hope?

  17. Phantos says:

    I never thought I’d see the day where the least-terrible-looking Superhero movie is the one with Rocket Raccoon.

  18. Alex says:

    I prefer to think of it as The Age of Refusing to Feign Surprise. If you let Orci and Kurtzman write the script for your movie, I’m not going to pretend that I’ve never heard of them, I’m going to point out that everything they touch turns to shit. And when the inevitable happens and their script turns out to be shit, I’m not going to pretend that there was no way that the studio could have seen this coming.

  19. Lord Nyax says:

    I’m a bit late to the party, but as far as the whole “making Superman just like Batman” thing goes this link is pretty relevant.

    http://youtu.be/L-SJG4KXtk8

    If you don’t like clicking links, its a song featuring the Nostalgia Critic that compares the two, it’s nice.

  20. Alec says:

    “DC fans are hoping to see an optimistic, colorful, and vibrant take on Superman that lives up to the kind of crowd-pleasing adventure that Marvel gave us with Captain America”>

    Except, er, Shamus, we got one of those. It was called Superman Returns. And no one saw it, except a couple of guys and none of them liked it (except me). Maybe the problem is not WB. Maybe the problem is Superman, and what the wider culture expects of him.

    I live in Australia. No one I know (and I’ve been in a very geeky crowd all my life) knew who Thor or Cap were before the movies. Now we’re all big fans.
    Everyone knew Superman. Yet they hated the most Supermanish Superman movie in thirty years. Go figure. Maybe we’re being too hard on DC/WB.

    • Alex says:

      I liked one scene in Superman Returns. He’s okay for stuff like that – to let the audience bask in the awesomeness of a ridiculously overpowered character. It’s when they try to challenge him that they fall flat, because we just don’t buy it – he struggles for an arbitrary period of time and then arbitrarily succeeds.

    • Otters34 says:

      That movie might have been closer than a lot of other offerings to that vague, pseudo-existent Superman Spirit, but Superman Returns was troubled by a lot that had nothing to do with making it a Real Superman Movie.

      Not going to go into massive detail, because who needs that, but I’ll add that one of the biggest and most crippling mistakes you can make with a Superman story(not movie, just story) is assume that putting Supes in physical danger is the key to drama. The whole point of Superman is that he is power embodied, the hidden strength of spirit and will lurking within everyone, ready to leap out and perform amazing feats for the good of others. You can’t hurt or fight that idea except with an even MORE powerful idea.

  21. RCN says:

    The thing about Man of Steel is that everyone ho loved superman hated it, and everyone who hated or just didn’t care for him loved it. I personally always loathed Superman. Not once did I see the point to have a superhero who is basically undefeatable and unphasable by whatever is thrown his way. Nothing gets my eyes rolling faster than the Justice League stories where the whole objective of ALL OTHER HEROES of the DC comics is to get Super back so he can win single-handedly.

    However I can’t for the life of me get why they’d make a movie specifically targeted AGAINST their target audience. I liked the movie for what it was, but also found the idea self-defeating. Unless you’re making an artistic statement, why deconstruct a classic?

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