Marvel Month IV – ‘I can’t even hate this’ or, Why film execs think we’re all stupid
It’s a widely held belief that those of us who reside in the dark and slightly musty area of the creative industry known as criticism really enjoy it when we get to talk about bad movies. Whilst this is true, I really don’t think someone gets into criticism, (maybe on a small film/book blog), simply so they can spout bile and hatred. In fact, thinking about it, I really enjoy bad movies. Watch them in a room with some good friends and a few bottles of drink the whole thing becomes sublime. Even on a critical level when a studio puts out a complete disaster there is a measure of, something approaching wonder, as to how something this bad was unleashed upon the world. The very absence of any technical skill, or artistic vision can approach a kind of modern art. If you don’t believe me, then please check out sublime ‘The Room,’ that elevates the bad movie to heights previously unscaled.
Mediocrity though, now mediocrity is special. The bad movies don’t enrage the critics of culture, what really gets under my skin, at the very least, is mediocrity. the important and crucial distinction for me is that a bad movie , at the very least, has attempted to do something. It may have failed, utterly, in every way but at the very bare minimum there was semblance of soul in the act of creation. Even without quality there can be integrity. Mediocrity is different; the most common way a film ‘achieves’ the dubious honour of being mediocre is really quite simply. A writer comes up with a script, its brilliant, bold and ground breaking – naturally it gets optioned off to a studio and given to a director who manages to get on board and come up with a bold vision to realise the potential of the script. So, our film studio takes the finished product to the marketing guys, the test screening people and it is here where the problems set in. The finished product is too dark. It isn’t uplifting. Maybe it’s too cerebral for the cineplex crowd. And thus mediocrity is achieved.
The reason this gets me so blood boiling angry is that it pre-supposes that the vast majority of the audience for a major release is, well, kinda dumb. And so, to make sure that vast enough numbers of this cinema going public make it to see your, by now horribly butchered, picture then by all means sacrifice vision, integrity and insult the intellect of your market.
Now before anyone accuses me of wanting to abolish blockbuster movies in favour of monochrome art house movies where everyone speaks Danish, hold on. I love going to the movies, I don’t go to be a snob – I go to be entertained and mediocre films are so irritating because they set the bar so low for something that could be so great – Christopher Nolan’s Batman films proved that it was possible to do an intelligent blockbuster. And then there is this weeks film – ruined by the personification of mediocrity himself.
Hi, Ben Affleck. Yes, I’m talking about you. Because you, Ben Affleck made Daredevil just so, totally, utterly average.
Well, let’s be honest I am being unfair to poor Ben. The whole film feels like it’s been cut and edited down to within an inch of its life in order to get the running time under 100 minutes. There are a few niggly changes from the comics to the film but nothing that breaks the bank. However, whilst watching the film I was constantly aware that I wasn’t not loving the film. The visuals of Matt Murdock’s ‘radar sense’ were quite cool and I enjoyed the little nods to the comics by name-dropping certain Marvel writers and artists. There was nothing offensively bad about it but the whole thing lacked soul. Then I got about half an hour through. And then Matt Murdock tried to impress Electra (the token love interest) by having a fight with her. In broad daylight. Whilst dressed as Matt Murdock rather than Daredevil.
COMPLETELY UNDERMINING THE IDEA OF HAVING A SECRET IDENTITY!
Frankly, let me skip over the worse sins of the film because they can be covered by the same caveat. The film feels like a film trying to be the ideal blockbuster films. Character development are slimmed down to the point of anorexia and the characters who aren’t Daredevil seem to just serve the point of getting the plot onto the next fight. And Colin Farrell is the bad guy, oh Colin Farrell…
Farrell plays Daredevil’s villain, Bullseye – a villain with the ability to be uncannily accurate with anything he chooses to use as a weapon. Which is a really cool idea for a bad guy. Farrell, on the other hand, plays this cool character as Irish. As cartoonishly over the top as possible. And as a joke. In a way Farrell is the clearest example of something I initially struggled to put my finger on; the film manages to take the imagistic nature of the comics without taking the substantive writing. Apart from Bullseye the punchline, another good example would be Daredevil’s relationship with the Catholic church. In the comics Daredevil is a lapsed Catholic with a mother who took her vows into a nunnery, he is riddled with Catholic guilt, constantly wrestling with the moral and spiritual implications of violence, goodness and justice. It’s deep and well-written, delving into the issues confronting us all as a post-modern urbanised society. In the film? We get lengthy of shots of Affleck perched outside churches in the rain and there are a couple of fights in a church. That’s it. Taking the cool, and neglecting the real content. It isn’t bad, it’s just superficial.
Thankfully the same can’t be said of the comic run I chose to compare and contrast with, Daredevil Volume 2 written by Smith/Mack/Gale/Bendis/Brubaker/Diggle and with art by Quesada/Mack/Maleev/Lark. The first thing to note is the art. I am going to make an effort to find any more of Joe Quesada’s art – his pencil work is fantastic, fluid, alive and serves as a visual love letter to the gritty streets of Hells Kitchen that the writing perfectly complements.
As I’ve already said I wasn’t impressed by the film, but it wasn’t till I begain to read the comics that I appreciated just how badly the film had let down the source material. The comics are dark but not in a way that is trite. What impressed me the most was the writing from Kevin Smith, who only really appears in a comparatively low number of issues but shows the deft touch with dialogue and story that made Clerks and Dogma a couple of my favourite films. Another fact that elevates my opinion of the comic is, from what I know, I haven’t even read what is considered a vintage run on this character. Make no mistake, I’m going to seek it out.
To conclude, the film is a new way of adapting badly; by adapting superficially from the source material the film feels rushed and insubstantial, without any of the depth or attempt at grappling with serious issues. If you based your knowledge of Daredevil on just the film, as I did, then like me I’ll be surprised if you can say anything about Daredevil that is distinctive or unique. Not that I hated the character, based on the film he was a hero, but forgettable. Bland and safe and designed for mass market consumption. That isn’t the kind of hero I want to become invested in and I don’t think anybody else should either. We’re better than that. Better than the watered down, bland and insubstantial shite we are expected to pay our money to see. Save the £10 you’d spend on the cinema ticket when the next piece of mediocrity comes out. Go out and read a book, buy a Daredevil trade and find a hero you can really get invested in.