Friday, November 9, 2012

Names I'm Sick of Hearing in Fanboy Conversation

Fans are just woefully predictable.

I mean WOEFULLY predictable. Every decade, or so, some entertainer or creator rises in the esteem of fanboy circles, and is held up as CAN DO NO WRONG." Then, without fail,, within 5 or 6 years, they make a wrong move, and they become AN UTTER HACK.

Take Peter Jackson. Riding so high after the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then, after King Kong and The Lovely Bones, it became clear that he was just as human as anyone else. Even moreso in the realm of sentimentality and falling overly in love with his work. You can see it begin with the unending denouement of The Return of the King, and spillover into uncontrollable with his sloppy version of King Kong. A film that didn't need to be three hours long in the first place, and certainly didn't need an extended version (I, personally, find it hilarious that Universal have never bothered to release this version on Blu-Ray).

Jackson stood revealed as a filmmaker who just didn't know when to quit. Who didn't seem to understand, at all, the concept of brevity. That image was justified, and compounded, when the announcement that his upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, originally planned as two films, would be three. The first is two hours and forty-five minutes long.

Still, The Hobbit is a slight book. A friend recently pointed out you can read the entire book in six hours, and Jackson is likely producing a nine hour adaptation. Why? Money is an obvious answer. I have no doubt that some of this decision lies with the studio, who smell three big moneymakers instead of two. Still, it's Jackson returning to the world of J.R.R. Tolkein, he should be able to wield some clout, if he felt this wasn't the best idea.

It's not like I'm finding many people to defend him on this. No one I speak to seems to think The Hobbit should be three films, some big fans of the book pointing out that the Rankin-Bass animated version of the tale from 1977 very nicely condensed the story to less than an hour and a half. I also feel like the excitement about the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was greater a year ago than now, with the release a little more than a month away. It was like the more people saw, the less exciting it seemed.

Now, of course I'm going to see it. I expect to enjoy it. I enjoyed all of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I will say right now, the only film of that series that is TRULY brilliant, for it's entirety, is The Fellowship of the Ring. The others have moments (the scenes of Theoden on the battlefield in Return of the King offset the pain in my ass as, but don't sustain the pacing or storytelling the way the first film did.

There was a time, in 1999, when George Lucas could do not wrong. When it was inconceivable that The Phantom Menace might not be the greatest movie of all time. That was a given, and no one doubted it.

After the film came out....

Now, I'm not so harsh on Episode I, or any of the prequels. I like them, but I get that many don't. I also have a very clear view on why people revile it so much; because they came to believe that a specific person, Lucas, was infallible. Then they felt "betrayed" because it turns out he was just human, like the rest of us. The fact that many felt it was a "betrayal," mind you, says more about fanboy mentality than the actual film.

Ditto for Jackson. King Kong is reviled in certain quarters, and worse, forgotten in others. We'll see how The Hobbit ultimately fairs. I wonder if Jackson isn't going to face his own "prequel moment" in the next few months. The elements in play are awfully, awfully similar.

Which is just prelude to my we're in the Joss Whedon era. He was beloved for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (neither of which I can stand), rose into the realm of the "wronged genius" for the Firefly/Serenity (which I love with the burning passion of a thousand suns) misadventure, then proved himself a mainstream crowdpleaser with Marvel's The Avengers. Well and good, and great for a writer and creator I do admire.

However, we've reached the "overblown genius" period here. Marvel's The Avengers isn't "the greatest superhero movie ever made," I'm sorry, but it's not. "The greatest" of something, in my book, will transcend the genre in some way. I LOVE The Avengers, I saw it four times in theatres, bought the Blu-Ray on the first day, and I enjoy it every time I watch it.

Christopher Nolan's Bat-films, as an example, decimate it as cinema. The Avengers, hell all the Marvel films, are artfully constructed commerce. Nolan's Batman trilogy is highly commercial art. Honestly, Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger comes closer to transcending the genre than The Avengers. You'd also have to put Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie in that basket.

I say again...that doesn't mean The Avengers is bad, nor am I trying to ramp up some sort of "Nolan is better than Whedon" thing. They are two very different kinds of films, with very different goals. I am not suggesting that The Avengers is a failure, at all, just that it's not the end-all, be-all that some would have you believe. This is also not Whedon's problem. He's doing the job Marvel paid him for, crafting exceptional entertainment, and having a great time doing it. I think he's great, but he's also not the god of creatives that some have positioned him as. He's not the guy that can do anything, and will make anything perfect by being involved with it.

No. One. Is.

Let me say that again: No. One. Is.

So, my teeth grind every, single time, I hear this "they need to bring in Whedon to write/direct _____" thing. The latest, of course, being the final trilogy of the Star Wars saga, announced with Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm. As if Joss sprinkled magic dust out of his anus that, if we all just BELIEVE enough, will make everything brilliant.

It's right up there with this insane idea that Firefly/Serenity will come back, no matter how much the principals have told us it's not, somehow. (Let's be clear, "I'd love to do it again," doesn't mean, "I'd upend all my other professional commitments to do it again," or "I am working actively to try to get money for it.") If it did come back, I'd definitely watch it, probably enjoy it, but you just know a (undoubtedly loudmouthed) portion of the audience would be pissed that it "ruined" what came before. Some people already feel that way about the Serenity film.

So, frankly, what makes my teeth grind in relation to this deification of Mr. Whedon. Because I know that. within a decade, the worm will turn, he'll make something that people won't like, or feel let down by, and then I'll be inundated by overly-emphatic fanboys bitching about how he "raped their childhood," or something equally offensive and stupid. My money for the moment it happens would probably be on the Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog sequel, if it ever actually gets made. If it doesn't, I'll consider Joss more of a genius for dodging the bullet.

I can hear the Whedonites right now, "Joss would NEVER let that happen." Right. Keep telling yourself that, binky. Everybody slips, and everybody, eventually, loses their mainline to the zeitgeist. Your insistence on his infallibility is what's going to make it happen.

Ultimately, what bothers me the most is that not one of these guys deserves this. Not Whedon, not Jackson, and not Lucas. Each of them have given us, literally, hours of  entertainment and imagination. They've fed our souls and minds. When they fall so hard, it's almost never because what they've created is as horrible as the the insane outrage, outrage over the fact that they "let you down" by not living up to your over-inflated expectations of them, that is heaped upon them.

The simple answer is to stop acting like one guy is the panacea that is going to make all of your fanboy dreams come true. Start being willing to experience new things and new ideas, rather than just wanting more and more of the same things that made you giddy as a ten year old. We resent anything that changes, because we're so damn scared to do it ourselves. We spend so much time trying to retard our own growth, and stay children, we start to resent those who actually do change over the years. For the better? For the worse? Not for me to judge, except with my ticket dollars, and none of us have stopped ponying those up.

The other name....Nathan Fillion. Love him, think he's a wonderful actor and a charming presence. Sick to death of hearing fanboys trumpeting his name for every, single character that might, ever be made into a film. Sure, I'd like to see him get out of the increasingly woeful Castle, watching the producers flog his fanbase with cheap "easter eggs," and silly references to better shows. That said, he doesn't "have" to play Ant-Man, Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Green Lantern, Nathan Drake, or any of the other myriad claims I've seen made in the fan press. I LOVE the guy's work, if he did end up playing one of those characters, it'd be cool, but putting it on the internet isn't going to make it happen. It's time to stop acting like it will.

Now, if Whedon wanted to adapt the Brian Daley Han Solo books, with Fillion....Hmmmm.

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