Normally I reserve this blog for commentary and analysis on books, either in written/digital form or in audio form. I don’t really use it to mention the various movies I have seen, but this time I want to make an exception. Over the past weeks I’ve been to see several films that are comics-based: The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and most recently, The Dark Knight Rises. Since these are superhero narratives springing from some of the very comics I read, I thought I’d say a few words about them.
Of the three, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises are the best…although I’m unsure which of these two I liked more. The Amazing Spider-Man was a pretty good film, and I guess I enjoyed it well enough. Andrew Garfield did a fair job, but I’m partial to Toby Maguire. Maguire was a much better Peter Parker, the loner and geek. Garfield’s role struck me as more hip, being more of a cool outsider. Also, I wasn’t overly pleased that Marvel decided to reboot and re-origin Spider-Man after only three films. Why not just continue with the previous franchise? And there were parts of the film that annoyed me. One of the most prominent was toward the end with the construction workers coming to the rescue. Not only was that overly sappy, but it didn’t make sense. Doesn’t Spidey rely on the city’s buildings and other structures to swing with his web? Why all of a sudden did this change and require the workers to come to his aid? That was more of a plot contrivance to underscore the sentimental and emotional pull near the end. Also, why take so long to get to the actual appearance of Spider-Man? The story of Peter Parker in this film was very decompressed, almost as if Brian Michael Bendis had written the plot.
The Avengers was the most action packed of the three, hands down. But after awhile, a lot of that constant fighting can be a bit much. Then again, what should I have expected? This was a Marvel production, after all, so of course much of the narrative would involve fighting of villains and fighting between heroes. The Dark Knight Rises, as expected, provided much more character and psychological depth. Of the three superhero films that have been released this season, this is the one I was most looking forward to. And for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The “unmasking” of Talia al Ghul at the end was one of my favorite parts–Marion Cotillard was perfect for the role–although I wasn’t overly impressed with Bane. But perhaps the biggest potential obstacle to overall enjoyment of the film was Catwoman. Why was she even in this film? First off, I’m not a fan of Anne Hathaway at all, so I came to this movie as a resisting viewer when it came to her part. Of all the actresses who could play one of the most significant figures in the Batman family, why Hathaway? I felt that she didn’t do much for the role, and I’m not sure if my problems with that character has as much to do with Hathaway as it does the way that Selia/Catwoman was written. To me, she was nothing more than a plot device, used simply as a figure to get Batman from point A to point B. There wasn’t really any development or growth in her character–and no, just because she decided to go back and help Batman doesn’t make her a dynamic figure–and she was perhaps the flattest figure in the movie. There were other issues I had with the film–e.g., less actual screen time for Batman/Bruce, the convenient disappearance of Alfred for much of the film–but the Catwoman/Hathaway presence was a bit of a sticking point for me.
Right before going to see The Dark Knight Rises in the theater, my family and I “prepared” for the new movie by watching the previous two films in the Dark Knight trilogy: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Good stuff. And watching all of this Batman has reminded me of the several Batman comics I have waiting for me to read: Batman & Robin: Dark Knight vs. White Knight, Batman: Gotham Shall Be Judged, Batman: Gates of Gotham, Batman Incorporated, and Batman: Earth One…among a number of other titles. And some of these other titles are recent reprints of earlier Batman narratives. I’m a sucker for Batman narratives, and I usually read them every chance I get (although I usually don’t get the monthly comics, but instead, wait for the trades/hardbacks to come out). But these past couple of months I’ve just let the Batman books linger, putting off plunging into them because of other reading I’ve been doing. That will change soon.
One final word on these films: This weekend I was listening to the most recent episode of The Comic Book Page Podcast, the monthly rundown of the previous month’s trade sales, hosted by John Mayo and Chris Marshall. It was a good episode, as usual, but Mayo said something toward the end that caught my attention. He mentioned that he really hasn’t seen the big superhero blockbusters this summer, and that when he went to San Diego the other week, other comic book fans joked with him that he might not be allowed in the con because he hasn’t seen the films. Mayo pointed out that he’s a much more dedicated comics reader than everyone flocking to the movies, and that he had a problem with equating true comics appreciation with popular movie attendance. I certainly see his point, and I’m of a similar mind. A lot of that publicity and merchandising tends to take away from my thorough enjoyment of some of these titles. Still, I’ve enjoyed the movies and like to see them as a alternate text, or even a counter text, to the kind of reading I actually do.