Believe The Hype?

Philosiraptor says...You read the film was announced, heard who was cast, read the phenomenal previews, saw the trailer and couldn’t wait for ‘your’ film to drop. You’re there first day of release in your seat, popcorn in hand, and two hours later you want to grab the remaining corn kernels, hunt down the director and force them up his/her nostrils to the point it tickles their brain until they apologise for that abomination you just wasted your life on. We’ve all been there. We’ve all bought into the hype of a movie. Why do we do this, and should we continue to buy into Hollywood’s hype machine?

Getting press for your latest upcoming film is something of a no-brainer; publicity’s needed to bring in the customers after all. And nowadays the companies behind your favourite products have capacity to seep into every crevice of your life and expose you to “what’s to come”. But widespread awareness and hype does not a great film make.

Indeed, the same is true for most multimedia, with video games pulling in enormous sales on a yearly basis, especially thanks to blockbuster franchises such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Both of which have famously fallen foul of having so much hype surrounding them that they could never live up to expectations. Mass Effect 3 in particular brought in tens of thousands of disgruntled fans who bemoaned the ending of their cherished franchise: not because it was over, but because of how poor it was. Imagine that cardboard box at the end of Se7en didn’t contain a head, but a tube of Pringles that magically carried Freeman, Pitt and Spacey to the moon for a party with Bugs Bunny – that’s how misjudged and down-right weird it was for many. In light of this, the people behind the franchise went as far as amending the ending to suit the public’s demands 4 months post-release. A movie however, is an entirely different beast.

Sarcastic WonkaOne of the most hyped films of 2012 has without doubt been Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus: the long in development spiritual predecessor to 1979’s Alien (I know – it’s aged fantastically for a 30+ year old movie, as has Sigorney Weaver). Every magazine, website and newspaper boy was extolling how great this film was going to be. It was like knowing about the second coming of Christ in some circles. Then when the reviews came out… they were mixed; although it scored a respectable 7/10 with critics and audiences alike, it fell short of many people’s expectations. This was pegged as a “Film of the Year” contender, but it’s clearly not going to get that title any time soon. I mean, sure, we all liked Michael Fassbender acting as an android with scary realism, and liked learning a little about the mythology of the Alien franchise, but the writing sure was haphazard in places; see HISHE‘s YouTube clip below for a brilliant send up. I’d sure like a rewrite on that ending, as opposed to the deliberate sequel-bating that’s so rife right now… but I think I’ll save that rant Opinion article for another day.

Looking for another prime example? How about Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace? Possibly one of the most eagerly-anticipated films ever considering people have been asking “I wonder what happened before Part IV” since it aired in 1977. As I’m sure the majority of you have seen this film it goes without saying that it didn’t live up to the hype… damn you Jar-Jar Binks. And STILL, after we were all bitten by this Ebola-carrying abomination, we still went back again for Episode II, and AGAIN for Episode III. Why? Because we were all promised “this one’s guaranteed to be better” by every publication under the sun. Don’t even get me started on Indy vs. Aliens (commonly called Indiana Jones IV)…

So should we believe the hype, considering how cruelly we’ve been misled by the press in the past? Or do we look to the examples of where the hype was realised, as with Avengers Assemble and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Do we think that Django Unchained, The Hobbit et al., are going to live up to our expectations? Though I must admit, the thought of stretching The Hobbit (a single book) into THREE films probably damages the hype for me. Personally, I think “hype” is great for public awareness of a movie, but shouldn’t be used to gauge quality. We all like to get excited about the latest installment in our favourite franchise / film from our favourite director, but manage your expectations. My advice? Watch a trailer and see the film for yourself… or let The Phage tell you what to think… then watch it.

What do you guys think: is the hype surrounding these massive potential blockbusters merited? Or would you rather go in to a movie blind and be totally surprised by what you see – a bit like walking blind into a dark-room orgy. Sure, it might be fun… but you could come out wishing you were forcing popcorn kernels up your nose, as opposed to forcing **** in your ****, whilst your **** ****s. And no-one likes that.

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A Superhero Movie Too Far?

Batman slaps Robin

If we don’t talk about it, we won’t jinx it!!

Batman 1999 v 2012

Batman ’99 vs Batman ’12: Pretty accurate portrayal of the public’s view of a comic book movie. From frumpy to bad ass.

If you mentioned that you liked comics back in 2000, people would assume one of two things: a) you’re a small child, or b) you’re probably a bit of a social pariah and that you should probably avoid a). Then a movie came along that changed everything: X-Men. It featured a relatively unknown cast of actors, spare a couple of big names such as Captain Picard and Gandalf (before he was Gandalf), and told the tale of a group of genetic mutants who had fantastic powers. And boy did it resonate with audiences. Sure, there was the brilliant Blade in 1998, which could be argued as the “first” big movie, but it wasn’t that much of a hit! The success of X-Men and Spider-Man two years later opened the floodgates to a slew of superhero movies from major and minor characters alike, culminating this year in the juggernauts of the box office that are Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises. But now the question is: what next? And more importantly, how much longer can Hollywood’s latest fetish survive before it implodes? Too big to fail you say? Now where have we heard that before…?

Humble Beginnings

Undoubtedly, we’re right now riding the wave that is the Golden Age of comic book adaptations. Marvel Studios’ success with their tales of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor, and Warner / DC’s success with Nolan‘s Batman universe have cumulatively brought in over $5,400,000,000 (you need the noughts just to realise how many McDonald’s cheeseburgers that could buy you), with the split being $3.7 billion to Marvel and $1.7 billion to Warner (so far; the Bat is still flying). But crikey Batman, how the golly did we get to such jeeperiffic figures? They’re just comics!

The secret to their success, I believe, is two-fold. On one hand you have a collection of stories that are on-the-whole believable, or at least plausible for the most part, which is something I’ll come to later. And on the other hand you can’t help but notice that they’re somewhat a symptom of the times: gloom. It’s the same perfect storm that results in fast food sales soaring during times of economic hardship; this manifests in the need for escapism and heroes at the box office. Sure, some of the first big hits came pre-2008 meltdown, but all the gargantuan films: the Dark Knights and Iron Man(s) came post-2008. Hell, if you were being really analytical, you could even say the threat of global terrorism following 2001 also fed the public’s need for heroes. That’s a controversial point, but I think it’s valid. So… so long as the world is still at risk of going bankrupt or blowing itself up, the superhero can do no wrong right? I mean, the public tolerated Nic Cage‘s antics as Ghost Rider (twice!), Superman‘s lacklustre return and watched the Blade, Spider-Man and X-Men franchises tie themselves in knots; yet all was forgiven when the latter two returned recently. Not sure we’re going to see Wesley Snipes stopping people “ice skating up a hill” any time soon though. Unless the IRS lets him… Or Twilight takes a hard left turn in its final bow later this year.

Blade: Breaking Twilight

But can the studios sustain this enormous momentum, or is something looming on the horizon that could bring the whole house of cards crashing down?

There’s a Storm Coming…

The Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy: The Four Horsemen (and a Tree) of the Comic Book Apocalypse?

As I mentioned in my round-up of Comic-Con 2012, Marvel made some peculiar announcements this year, namely by choosing The Guardians of the Galaxy as a flagship film franchise. For those unfamiliar with this group, they’re essentially a cosmic group of heroes who fly around in space, preventing intergalactic tyranny. Sounds like a typical sci-fi film right? And there-in lies the problem. The most successful comic book movies have more-or-less had some semblance of reality, whether its being bitten by a spider, having genetic mutations, or building a high-tech suit of armour. Thor, who for all intents and purposes is classed as a “God” was explained through comparing magic and science and saying they’re the same thing (hokey, but it worked). So he’s essentially just a scientific freak who wears chainmail. And is ripped. But I haven’t got to the outworldy part yet… is the public willing to accept a living tree, some aliens and a talking raccoon (cumulatively known as The Guardians of the Galaxy) as superheroes? I know Disney are involved nowadays, but a talking raccoon and tree? Last I remember, the TV series The Raccoons ended in 1991… maybe that’ll have a resurgence? God I hope not.

And in the non-Marvel Studios stable, we hear rumblings that Warner is looking to open Pandora’s box and unleash all manner of oddities on the cinema-going public, now that their baby bat has flown the nest. The Metal Men? Lobo? Really? It’s a case of a studio reaching the “terrible 2’s”, seeing what Marvel has and saying “I want, I want”. Add this to the in-production reboots of failed franchises such as Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Green Lantern and you’re risking meltdown with the public, being the fickle beings they are, not caring any more.

What’s my opinion? Hell, I love the comic book genre, and was one of those little kids that read about Spider-Man and X-Men and religiously watched the cartoons on Saturday mornings. And I’ll no doubt watch every movie that comes out, even the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance‘s, Elektra‘s and The Punisher‘s of this world. The only fear I have is that we’ll return to that pre-2000 mindset, where only us nostalgic fans remain… in our rooms… talking of the now mythical Golden Age of comic book movies. But then again, people have been predicting this bubble will burst for years now, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Possibly a tree that isn’t a superhero.

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