The Age of the Dark Knight of Steel: Getting More Cynical About Comics Adaptions

It’s no secret that I’m one of the people here at MuseHack who is expecting a Hollywood meltdown to happen (or the current one to get worse). There’s too much going on, too much going wrong, too many checklists trying to save the cat, and 2015 is loaded with Blockbusters. It’s a collision course with reality, and I’m expecting some pain.

Now that being said, I’ve also found some of the current releases quite good. I enjoyed “The Avengers” even if it was rather standard. I do need to see “Man of Steel” because Serdar, ever holding high standards, was impressed. But looking at the latest announcements, something has upped my cynicism levels even further.

Big Name Adaptions within existing properties, specifically, comics.

Sure, we know Captain America is going to use the Winter Soldier plot line. I’m not familiar with it, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. No big deal, and personally more Chris Evans being awesome is fine with me.

But then there’s the Avengers Age of Ultron which . . . sounds like it’s just using the name of the comic arc and not actually playing into it. There’s no Hank Pym (I guess he’s waiting on Ant-Man), which has me wondering how much is actually coming out of the Age of Ultron arc . . . or if this is for name recognition.

Finally, there’s the announcement that the next Man of Steel is apparently going to be Batman versus Superman, in the vein of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight. I’m seeing squee all over the internet, but there’s something in this announcement and the other movie plans that troubles me. These troubles in turn make me more concerned about comics adaptions having a big meltdown that even Rocket Raccoon can’t fight.

See, first, this is obvious pandering to comics fans. Perhaps its good pandering and the adaption of good plot lines. But the level of hype (especially with Ultron and the next Superman film) makes me nervous that the pandering is coming first. This can lead to audience disappointment to say the least, and is a bit of a gamble.

Secondly, just because it sells to geeks (hey, even I got curious) doesn’t mean it’s going to be the draw for other audiences. People know Batman – they don’t know the Winter Soldier and to them “Ultron” sounds like an artificial cloth invented in the 60’s. Pacific Rim is a nice fat warning that geek may not always sell here – though overseas numbers may help these films, so maybe it doesn’t matter to the studios (maybe it’s “get geeks here, get what you can, clean up overseas.”).

Third, this feels a bit . . . overdone. I mean after Batman and Superman tussle, what next? After pulling out Ultron the Frueidan nightmare robot, what do you do? More adaptions of famous arcs? How many are there that will actually pack theater and get attention?

I’m especially concerned that Batman and Superman’s only possible “topper” is going full bore Justice League and that Marvel is headed for the whole Infinity Gauntlet thing. Because there’s not much further to go after this – and that can leave movie plans with no directions. Plans with no directions are hard to detect when you’ve got a load of checklists anyway.

So pandering, questionable marketing, and a chance to overdo it too far have me more concerned about a possible 2015 meltdown in comic films (along with the general geek films and films period). It feels like it’s a checklist filmmaking approach trying to do too much, very fast, and maintain the hype. That in turn is problematic if the films are good, let alone if there are any bad to mediocre.

Now as the Geek Job Guru here I’ve warned a lot about the issues Hollywood faces, and to keep it in mind if your career is targeted there. Enough said.

But I’m figuring that, as more and more a meltdown looks likely, maybe we should be asking more what’s next and what needs to be. That may be a way to take our careers, if we’re Hollywood and video-bound.

(Maybe it’s already the foreign market anyway . . .)

– Steven Savage