Okay: mostly, I’ve been playing Minecraft. A lot. Like, every day. A day being around thirty-six hours. Got SkyBlock; finished it with a monsterfactory and a supervillage and a dead dragon. Got OceanBlock; did the same thing. Went back to my map—literally mine, since an unwritten rule of Minecraft involves customing a seed using your own username, where mine’s wastedinc, which results in this tiny private island a couple hundred metres southwest of the nearest tree and just east of an Ocean Monument trying daily to electrocute you—and now I’m in the process of building a supervillage nearby so I can come up with a way to import villagers from a kilometre away.
But, also, I’ve been thinking about something.
Marvel have been making a lot of films recently. I’m not actually sure how many there are, since I’m not entirely certain when they started. To define a term, I’m thinking of Marvel as Disney; XMen and Spidey don’t count, since they’re being held [mostly] hostage by Fox and Sony. So, Marvel have been making films since IronMan at the latest. Though you’d kinda hafta argue that Hulk is part of the whole saga, despite Universal having made that abortion. If it matters, I’m talking about that mess they made in 2003, not the moderately cleaner mess they made five years later. I assume that both of those count, since otherwise Banner comes outta nowhere in Avengers in 2012.
On the whole, Marvel are doing pretty well with this. Hulk sucked, then sucked a bit less as a sorta remakey sequel in 2008; IronMan was good, while IronMan2 was weak, while IronMan3 was decent; Thor was okay, while The Dark World was okay in a different way; Captain America was a film, while The Winter Soldier was better; and I think I was the only guy I know who, A), knew about Rocket Raccoon before last year and, B), wasn’t shocked when Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t suck.
Then there’s Avengers, which has always been unfilmable on the order of Watchmen and Naked Lunch—both of which have been filmed, and one of which has been filmed at all well. And that worked because Joss BuffyToyStoryAlien Resurrection [a killer script ruined by an incompetent director] Buffy again AngelFireflySerenityDoctor HorribleDollhouseCabin in the Woods Whedon wrote and directed it; the only other guy alive with half a chance of pulling that off woulda been Kevin Smith, whose most ambitious film to date has probably been Dogma.
Avengers was good. And Ultron was good, despite everything working against it.
What was working against it was what’s usually working against sequels: a given film is pretty much by definition an origin story; a given sequel is almost always a surprise only to the people making the original, since everyone else seems to know long before the studio does that the studio are going to remake the original with more money and less point once the original does at all well. That’s how you end up with sequels to things like Ghostbusters and Men in Black and Halloween which are pretty much the film you already saw, and yet less. The cinematic version of that one moron who accidentally blathers out something funny, gets a laugh, and then keeps saying the same damned thing every five minutes for the rest of the night. Because the most important element of his existence came and went an hour ago, and his only options for the rest of time are saying that one thing again, or reverting to parroting out Austin Powers oneliners. And we’re finally to the point in the evolution of mankind that parroting Austin Powers oneliners will get you killed. I hope.
As a rule, origin films are one hit wonders. Regardless what eventual BSides are inflicted upon us in later years.
But, Ultron was good. I don’t think it was better than the first film; but there was no indication that it would be. That doesn’t happen often. Arguably, it happened with Star Wars. Because a guy whose catalogue to date had been a dragracing film and an orwellian robot film made a western with dogfights and laserswords set in space for, like, eleven million bucks, made that back in the first three hours, and had enough money to either buy a continent or make a sequel. With Avengers, it’s not like Marvel made money for the first time ever [though it was close to it, which is why Fox and Sony own XMen and Spidey]; Ultron was never gonna be the bigbudget followup to a tiny independent fluke—it was gonna be another ninefigure production written and directed by one of upwards of two guys who could ever fully understand the gig.
There are those who don’t like Ultron, because they’re butthurt conspiratards tumblring that Whedon chicked up Black Widow for the purpose of oh look a distraction; but no one cares what those people think. Once you eliminate the whimper that Romanoff is a superspecial womyn who can totally still have kids and doesn’t adore Banner and can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan and never ever let you forget that chauvinism remains alive and well and mysterious to the illiterate who think it’s just another big word for misogyny, Ultron is a pretty good standalone film.
Pictured: Radical Feminism
Well, there is the other complaint, which is less invalid and more spoilery; go see the film before reading the next paragraph….
The other complaint is that Whedon only got Quicksilver [and made him less worth watching than Fox had] as the unfortunate PlusOne to ScarletWitch. And that’s a fair complaint. Because there’s really no denying that Wanda Maximoff was totally the River Summers of Ultron, replacing BlackWidow’s Buffy Tam from Avengers. It’s Whedon; the guy probably sneaked a Slayer into that Roseanne episode he wrote.
‘I’m cookie dough. This is not a metaphor.’
Mostly, the whimper is that Whedon wasn’t allowed to kill Quicksilver. To which I say Call a Cop. At best, Quicksilver is what happens when Gambit sucks a bit less. Meaning that, at worst, Quicksilver is anyone but Gambit.
Okay: almost anyone.
None of this is what I’m thinking about. When I’m not playing Minecraft. Which is never. I can think and play Minecraft at the same time. Sorta.
What I’m thinking is that Marvel are heading for a statistical certainty. And, when they reach it, it’s not gonna be good.
Sometimes, comicbook films suck. Put a better way: usually, comicbook films suck. Let’s back away from Marvel specifically, and look at the sum total of comicbook films for a minute.
Superman, in 1978, wasn’t bad. For its time. Its second half/sequel thing was…it’s like it seemed okay, at the time; looking at it again, you can really see that it’s found its path toward Superman III: The Toy Uses Computers and Superman IV: The Quest for Spaceballs II. By the time we get to Superman Returns from Not Being on Earth when the Twin Towers Fell, and Zack Remake of the DeadWatchmen Snyder’s strangely unwatchable Man of Steel [to say nothing of the forthcoming Freddy Wayne v Jason Kent thing no one’s expecting to be worth watching], the human animal is no longer surprised to see Superman suck, and just kinda wonders who’ll play Lois I Won a Pulitzer in Preschool Lane this time.
Swamp Thing. Not good. Not worth mentioning. Except that it seems like it might help my argument if I show that I know which films came from comicbooks. Off the top of my head.
Red Sonja. The top of my head is a big place.
Conan the Destroyer. Its best quality is having been the last film in which Arnie didn’t enunciate I’ll Be Back.
The Punisher. Dumb comic; worse film.
Batman. Better than Adam West’s liveaction cartoon; far short of what coulda been, if Bill Murray had been Bruce Wayne instead of Peter Venkman: The Secret of the Ooze; also Jack Nicholson trolling in as the largest casting mistake since…
…Tank Girl. Not buying that Lori Petty is Australian. Less buying that Ice T is a kangaroo.
TMNT. Any. All. To date. It’s never gonna work. Ever.
Spawn. Really, I could just copypaste from Punisher, above. MacFarlane makes decent actionfigures; he should stick to that.
XMen. I think the last decent film made by Fox was probably Alien. By which I mean the one from 1979. Which never had any sequels worth acknowledging.
Daredevil. This sentence exists for the people who liked Daredevil, and therefore can’t read, so it looks like I wrote something in support of my argument.
Elektra. Like, I could illustrate this out in Fahrenheit451 airline safety panels, and they wouldn’t grok my storyline.
Fantastic Four. I seriously don’t understand why Fox are even trying.
Spiderman3. Not bad because Parker’s an emo twat; bad because it completely ignored Venom’s origin as Spidey’s suit from BattleWorld in Secret Wars. Yeah: I’ve read some comics.
Green Lantern. Didn’t exactly disappoint me, because I was warned it was gonna suck: someone hinted that Green Lantern would be in it.
Days of Future Past. Nearly a good film. But it had that one scene toward the beginning with the searchlights. Implying that Fox made it. That’s all it takes, anymore.
I left out a couple dozen, partly because they’re sequels and prequels and remakes and premakes to the ones I didn’t leave out. And don’t get me started on television shows, from Hulk in the seventies being shorter than I am now, to Wonder Woman in the seventies being shorter than I am, to the fact that you’d never know that this didn’t actually happen in the seventies:
The more times I watch this, the more I think it woulda been at least better than the Star Wars Holiday Special.
So, all things considered, there’s this statistical certainty: Marvel are due to make a really suck comicbook film.
It’s not like Disney can do no wrong. Remember that fourth Pirates film? The one they all but released Direct to RiffTrax? That’s what’s coming up. And soon.
That said, I actually don’t think it’s gonna be AntMan. Though history might eventually see AntMan as the first place they dropped the ball. Simply because they’ve got a couple of really ambitious ideas plotted somewhat out and, when they don’t fully work because no one but Warhol could make a film long enough to cover everything they still need to cover, we’ll see AntMan as the place some of that coulda been covered before it ultimately wasn’t.
What may well suck is Civil War.
The good news is that Marvel have Spidey back. A little. Sony are basically leasing them the character they now own; Spidey’s kinda important to the plotline. So’s Frank Castle, a little; but, again: dumb comic.
The bad news is that Civil War is harder to film correctly than Avengers was. Though it’s still easier than filming Secret Wars would be; that would take, as a start, Warner and Comcast merging, and buying Disney, and producing a dozen films each three hours long. Without somehow giving Michael Bay a job.
Random Thought: I actually wanna see Secret Wars. And, while I’m wanting things, I want Ridley Scott to make it. For ten figures.
If Civil War doesn’t suck, then, A) I’ll be pretty impressed, and, B), the statistical certainty remains.
Doctor Strange could suck. But, let’s be real: everything about it could murder kittens by its very existence, and Bandersnatch Carpetshark would still save it somehow. So it’s probably not that.
Depending whether they bring Hulk back with Planet Hulk or World War Hulk, that could suck. I wouldn’t wanna hafta be the guy writing Planet Hulk as a film. It’s a neat story; it’s a bit short on dialogue. But World War Hulk could be amazing; so I’m hoping this isn’t where they start sucking.
The next Guardians could suck. Because the first was both funny and a standalone origin film. Potential sharkjumping at gag recycling.
I don’t expect Thor: Ragnarok to suck. But it could plummet into pure action and stilted shakespearean blathering; so I’m not ruling it out.
Infinity War could be the weak link, simply because it’s two of them. Both Avengers films to date have been pretty long, but not long enough; so it’s possible that the third needs to also be the fourth, just to keep the thing under five hours. But Whedon’s not doing it; so, unless Kevin Smith is willing to give up Reality Wars, or whatever haunted storage thing he’s got on AMC…I’m not sure the Russos can carry it.
Black Panther and Captain Marvel have the potential to suck. In fact, they almost certainly will suck. So, really, my question is whether we’ll postpone the inevitable until 2018.
And, Inhumans could kinda go either way. Agents of SHIELD has already touched on it, a little; I suppose the question is whether everything else in the MCU, for the next four years, can start dropping a few hints. Tricky, since it’s really a Fantastic Four thing, which is Fox again.
I really kinda hope that I’m wrong about all this. So far, Marvel are holding up pretty well; IronMan2 has been the worst film they’ve made within the whole Avengers Saga, and it wasn’t exactly terrible. Maybe they’ll make it work.
Maybe the real suck will be that there’ll never be a way to do Secret Wars. Or, worse, that they’ll try to do it anyway.