An Incredibly Controversial Movie Opinion

All right, here goes. This might be the very thing that pushes everyone over the edge to stop talking to me. But it’s something that, after today, I can no longer keep to myself.

I have to live my truth, no matter what it costs me.

The Opinion

Green Lantern is a pretty good movie, actually. It doesn’t deserve the scorn it received.

Released in 2011 and starring Ryan Reynolds, this is a fun piece of entertainment. After watching it again today at the request of the youngest padawan, I can plainly say that I enjoy it unapologetically.

Reynolds is far more restrained than he is in Deadpool, or even X-Men Origins: Wolverine. (As a side note: the former is not truly as great as its reputation, and the latter is not as bad as its own.) His comic instincts are still great, but it’s obvious that the director kept it turned down to a 7 or 8 instead of the typical “11.”

I like this level of Reynolds’ snark. It’s the same reason Just Friends works so well. He’s just as much of a smart aleck as he needs to be, instead of running roughshod over any semblance of emotional connection for a quick laugh.

The effects are overly ambitious, but I like ambitious effects. The production design is still very solid, and I like the tweaks they made to the technology to sell it as part of our “real world.” The supporting cast is strong, and sell their parts.

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds | kesseljunkie
I said what I said.

It’s Fun

Mainly, though, it’s just fun. It has that comic book energy that’s been slowly draining out of that genre of films ever since executives realized they could focus group them into money printing exercises.

Of course they wanted to make money with this. Of course they wanted to make this their Connected Universe jump off point.

The amazing thing is, this is a perfect jumping off point for a connected universe. You’re on a galactic scale from the beginning, and building a world that would accept a Superman, Wonder Woman, or even a Martian Manhunter.

There are parts that don’t work. I’m not presenting this as the modern era’s Superman (1978) or Batman (1989). But it does have the grand scale and world-changing stakes that those did, while also having a sense of humor about the natural absurdity of it all.

It’s possible, even, to see Man of Steel is a logical counterbalance to Green Lantern, and therefore a better puzzle piece than starting point. Man of Steel is also far from perfect, and has a bit too much self-seriousness about itself, but is clearly a part of this world.

If you were to watch both back to back, I imagine you could draw the line from Dour Superman could find his way toward sharing screentime with Green Lantern’s more whimsical sense. They could then both learn from each other how to balance it all out.

Heck, Green Lantern’s super-saturated color palette could also bleed a little into Superman’s washed-out hues. You see the two extremes next to each and discover the direction both need to take to meet in the middle.

Too Much

I’m not trying to read too much into it. Again, Green Lantern is decidedly imperfect in a few key ways, not the least of which is too much plot crammed into a story that’s not robust enough to support it.

But it’s of a similar construction to 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. While that’s not as good as Green Lantern, it nonetheless has a similar flaw of trying to cram just too many producer demands into a single film. Green Lantern, however, at least has a more engaging ending and satisfying resolution.

I know what I risk by putting such a statement out there. I accept what is coming my way. But I’ll say it even more clearly this time.

I’d watch Green Lantern a hundred times again before I re-watch Iron Man 2 or even Thor: The Dark World. I could go even more controversial than that, but I think you get my point.

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds | kesseljunkie
I know I’m not alone, too. Rally around me!

The Legacy of Joel Schumacher

Like many “nerds” of a certain age, I took my turn at the zinger cannons to lob disrespect and vitriol toward the talents of Joel Schumacher. A longtime director, Schumacher nevertheless became the focus of “fan rage” unlike any that had been seen up to that point.

A little background for the youngsters is in order. After the divisive Batman Returns came and went, fans in some circles weren’t as certain of their love for Tim Burton anymore. It had a lot of what they had liked in 1989 with the first Batman, but for some it had a bit too much Pee Wee’s Big Adventure about it. It also cemented the template of “two villains per movie” that has had a mixed track record of success.

Sure, some would be quick to point out that Batman Returns has a fairly strong rating from both audiences and critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the great arbiter site of opinion. We don’t have to get into the weeds about that, except to say that I lived through the reception at the time and while it wasn’t awful it wasn’t nearly as universally adored as its predecessor.

Again, Rotten Tomatoes “tells a different story,” if you want to read it that way. Again, having “been there,” it seems to be a bit of historical revisionism.

It doesn’t matter. The “consensus” at the time was that the series needed a new director. And we all know that a “consensus” is all that you need in order to make a plan.

In stepped veteran director Joel Schumacher.

joel schumacher the lost boys behind the scenes | kesseljunkie.com
On the set of The Lost Boys.

The Blockbuster Franchise

I’m not going to debate the merits of his two Batman entries, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. They are what they are. Suffice it to say that I am a huge Batman fan, and that should give you a little context.

Schumacher went for something that didn’t work for a lot of people. Note that there wasn’t a big-screen Batman film for nearly a decade after his last. It was considered that he had “killed” the franchise. Only Superman had a fourth installment that paused a franchise so dramatically. (Superman still holds the record, with 19 years between fourth movie and reboot.)

What fascinates me is that Joel Schumacher was actually a good director, but it isn’t the first thing that people said about him for a long time. The first thing tended to be about Batman.

He had 35 directing credits! His long and storied career spanned everything from music videos to giant blockbusters to streaming shows. He managed to adapt through times of giant technological filmmaking shifts. Read about it all on his IMDb page.

You could even argue he was a great director, delivering the type of genre-shifting movie like The Lost Boys, which was a teen-friendly vampire flick that still managed to make vampires scary. He brought insight to movies like A Time to Kill and Phone Booth, or Falling Down. He had an eye for talent as evidenced by the cast of the cult classic D.C. Cab.

The Poison Pills

The point of me eulogizing him a bit is that as I grew older and attained some more perspective, I started to feel this weird regret about what had been done to his legacy in certain circles.

Thanks to the geeks gaining great volume in the era of the Internet, which was poised for its big breakthrough right around the time Batman & Robin was released, he became known as “the guy who wrecked Batman.”

There was no escape. His name was practically a curse.

A Batman animated series episode had a joke at his expense as well. It was a very “meta” moment.

He got lampooned on Robot Chicken, a stop-motion animation comedy show that aired nearly a decade after the fact, wherein he was declared “history’s greatest monster” and attacked during a nerd riot. (It was pretty funny, actually.)

He felt the need to “apologize” for Batman & Robin two decades after the fact. Let that sink in, if you will. Twenty years had passed.

Again, I freely admit that I gleefully took part in the mocking of him and the movie at the time. For the record, I still hate Batman & Robin. (Batman Forever isn’t too great, either.) It doesn’t work for me at all. It seems not to work for many.

The True Legacy

But Joel Schumacher created a lot of good works as well. His only “unforgivable” sin was creating something that fans didn’t like. He didn’t deserve to have it hung around his neck like an albatross.

He didn’t deserve to have nearly every headline at the time of his passing mention his Batman movies only. His legacy became those Batman movies, which was a job anyone would have been nuts to turn down.

Maybe there’s a lesson there that the mob is predisposed to focus on your missteps, and not your successes. Maybe it’s that waiting for those moments it can latch onto dysfunctionally, to drag you down however it can. Maybe it’s that people take their entertainment way too seriously.

Maybe I’m a romantic at heart. Maybe I’m just all too aware that no one has a perfect record. What matters is that they tried, and when they failed they picked themselves up and kept moving.

Either way, I will spend my time remembering the good stuff that Mr. Schumacher did. It’s how we’re supposed to honor the dead, for one day we all will be.

I’m Already Tired of #AvengersEndgame

I’m sure that headline is going to get as much attention as it can, given that I don’t put much effort into pimping this blog. It’s not as evocative and troubling as Naked Yoda, and not as potentially problem-causing as the republishing of my letterboxd review of Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

Despite my self-imposed absence on social media right now, there’s still something that’s made it through the veil of silence. Advertising and hype for Avengers: Endgame. Or, as seems mandatory to type it now, #AvengersEndgame.

That spins me off in a different tangent, but I’ll save that for another time. I’m still trying to maintain my streak and make it to 30 unbroken days of blogging, and I have to squirrel away as many topics as I can.

Don’t Worry, I Still Want to See #AvengersEndgame

Let’s be perfectly clear here. I am looking forward to seeing it, but largely because I think I’m ready to close the Marvel®™© franchise chapter of my life.

I am a fan of Marvel®™© movies. I’ve seen the majority of them in theaters. I have seen all but three of them, even Iron Man 2, which…was Iron Man 2. I’m a fan of certain movies more than others, and downright dislike a few, but I’ve been a casual fan.

I know I am openly critical of the way people approach their “reviews” of Marvel®™© movies. It’s with good reason: people who are fans of the franchise view the movies through distorted lenses. Their perceptions are colored by each entry’s place in the larger narrative. Excuses are made.

Being off social media for the time being, I’m largely unaware of how hard the push is for #AvengersEndgame. I know that it was quieter than expected because of various speculated reasons, as they gamed their SEO strategies to funnel all the curious questions into site traffic.

Yet I’m tired of all the hype already. It’s partly residual burnout from the run up to Avengers: Infinity War. But this marketing behemoth is so unstoppable, it reached me during my social media sabbatical. I saw each poster, got links about when tickets were going on sale, got updates until I didn’t want any more.

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark who is Iron Man in Iron Man 3 where Tony Stark is talking about Iron Man in Iron Man 3.
“To be fair, most of my dialogue is simply a bunch of one-liners like an Arnold Schwarzenegger role.”

The End of a Marathon

What complicates it all is that I’ve been with the Marvel®™© machine as long as everyone else. I got hyped for early releases. As boring as it is to recite now, I still think Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a magnificent work with important things to say.

I also think that the intended audience doesn’t care half as much about what the movies have to say as the simple segment of the larger arc they represent. That’s one thing that really jumped out about Black Panther; it had something interesting to say.

To its credit, Avengers: Infinity War also had something interesting to say, but everyone was so caught up in sharing their emotional turmoil from the end of the movie that it seems lost by the wayside. That’s not the movie’s fault, though, so no points deducted there.

#AvengersEndgame is known to be the closing chapter to an enormously well-managed larger story arc. Each piece has been hand-crafted with the sole purpose of coming together like a big puzzle. This is the final piece in that puzzle.

This is the reward for sticking with it. Then new movies will come along. But for at least one set of these characters, this is the end of a long, long race.

It’s the end of a marathon for those of us who’ve watched since the beginning.

man running at marathon event
“Loser has to buy everyone’s tickets!” Photo by Lukasz Dziegel on Pexels.com

The Sun Also Sets

It’s just that I’m ready to stop caring. Whatever happens will happen, and this “era” in Marvel®™© movies will end. The next “phase” will begin and I’ve given over so much attention and money that I’m coming to realize how much other quality film gets lost in the wayside.

I’m legitimately curious to see how things play out in #AvengersEndgame. I want to see them work their way out of the corner, and if my guesses – or anyone’s – are right about what the solution is.

Then, once I’ve seen it, I’ll gladly ride off into the sunset as a fan. I’m sure I’ll catch the ones that intrigue me more than others, whether in the theater or on home video.

There’s been some real entertainment along the way. But as far as hype machines, advanced ticket sales, and other things…I’m out.

brown and green grass field during sunset
Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

P.S. This is not an invitation to try to have me transfer excitement to the DC movie universe. That’s not how this works.

Never Been Nerdy

Recently, a friend and I discussed what we saw as a palpable shift in “Nerd Culture.” We agreed that a tectonic shift happened once the things “nerds” loved came to dominate popular culture.

I offered what I thought was a neat insight, that “nerds used to be punk rock.”

Nerds Used to Be Punk Rock

The gentle implication of that is that the “nerds” from “our day” were once proud iconoclasts comfortable with being on the outside of social circles, and finding their own tribe.

The more damning read is that the “nerds,” now in the dominant position, are the bullies. They’ve become what was always perceived as the antithesis of the nerds, the “popular kids.”

I’m not going to go through the “litany” of nerdy things that are now “mainstream.” You know them, and I’m not trying for word count this time. The Big Bang Theory leveraged nominal pop culture references to a lengthy television run while cloaked in a patina of “nerdiness.”

It’s the classic conundrum. Have “nerds” become the very thing they hate? Are we all Charles Foster Kane?

Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films ever created. I don’t care whether it’s hip to think otherwise now.

A Passionate Note

While thinking through this all, it seems that the metric for determining if someone is a “nerd” about something is, simply, passion.

Am I passionate about things some people consider “nerdy”? Sure! I’m passionate about a lot of things, from grammar to the the fact that you should eat with your mouth closed. Some have told me through the years that I’m too passionate about some things. I concede

People are passionate about a lot of things, though. There are people who are passionate about watching The Bachelor. There are other people passionate about well-maintained yards.

For that reason, I’d disqualify simple passion as the identifier of a “nerd.” Since people can be passionate about anything, that’s a real broad metric and would mean just about everyone would be a nerd. As attractive a thought as it might be to champion while walking home from the The Breakfast Club, it’s more than a little reductive.

A Question of Fixation

You could postulate, then, that what you’re passionate about would “make you a nerd.” This would follow as a way highlight personality distinctions between someone passionate about Dungeons & Dragons as different sort of person than someone passionate about horticulture.

That sentiment seems primed for a charge of “gatekeeping.” While it’s a very popular thing to do when someone doesn’t comprehend a larger point and so someone wants to undercut your point, it would be a stretch to say that I’m setting criteria to determine membership in a group, or acting as a virtual bouncer at the metaphorical door.

It should be clear I’m not judging anyone’s likes or dislikes, or setting a bar for entry. As an aside, I find such charges curious since no one can determine what you like but you, and can sod off otherwise.

I’m talking about my attempt to figure out what, specifically, causes someone to be called a “nerd” in the first place.

Wikipedia seems to fixate, itself, on the idea of the “nerd stereotype” and have difficulty on its own nailing down the definition. There is a fascinating portion there of it about the possible etymology of the word, which I guess makes me nerdy because I read it?

Napoleon Dynamite nerd used for SEO purposely because it's soulless and manipulative
More of a geek or a dork, honestly.

Closer to the Root

As I kept digging, the question isn’t whether “those things are nerdy anymore,” but rather, “Were they ever nerdy in the first place?

The faint hint of this insight was caused by the thought that things considered “nerdy” when I was younger are “pop culture” now. It made sense that a source of discomfort for older “nerds” was that the things which were niche – comic book characters especially – are now commonplace.

That could make it a function of age, of a giant midlife crisis in slow motion. I’ve seen plenty of people wander that path, insisting what they loved when younger was a better version of what people love now. I’m talking about a different attitude. I’ve seen a discomfiting habit, among “nerds” in my own age range, to phase out of current culture and fixate on things they know from the past the same way our parents’ generation did.

The things we called “nerdy” were always pop culture items for kids. Everything from Transformers to G.I. Joe, to comic books and more, has always been pop culture, and heavily marketed. They were toys given long-running television shows which were 30-minute commercials at their core. The one exception might be the aforementioned Dungeons & Dragons, except even that got a cartoon and a movie I never bothered watching.

In other words, the things that I, and almost all the people I’ve personally known who called themselves nerds, have always been the focus of box office success, televisions shows, and overpriced trinkets for the crapper. Things haven’t changed, it’s that people have refused to let go of the things they loved as kids.

Still Pondering

As I kept mulling  these ideas, I began to doubt if I’ve ever truly been a “nerd.” It seems now that it might simply be a mantle I claimed, but don’t deserve. I’ve loved things with a childish love, but as established above, passion isn’t a solid criterion.

Passion would certainly explain the behaviors of some nerds who are now the bullies. Even the ones who claim they’re against bullying are all about proving their…whatever. I don’t pay attention, honestly, and don’t know why other people do.

What’s different is priority, I guess. My own father nurtured a love of model trains for his entire life, but  never got excited enough about model trains to seek out arguments with total strangers about them. Perhaps he would have, if social media had existed.

I doubt it. I knew the guy pretty well, he was fairly grounded. At the end of the day, then it seems that the qualifying characteristic of a nerd is…childishness? That can’t be right.

Can it?

Sybok
OK, maybe the fact that I made this image is evidence I’m a nerd. But if so, a funny one.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Stooge

Please understand I write this from a place of love. If you have a problem with it, bear that in mind.

I’m also going to pre-emptively disqualify anyone who tries to use “multiverse” storylines to try to refute this by reciting how a character behaves on Earth 245B. I’m obviously dealing with the well-established notions of the characters in the culture.

I Like Batman

I love Batman. I’ve loved every incarnation of the character I’ve encountered, even when he’s acted like his extreme descendant, The Punisher. My house has just about as much paraphernalia celebrating the Caped Crusader as it does Star Wars.

But as I pondered Batman one day, after reading Superman Unchained of all things, I came to an awful realization.

It’s Batman that’s the government stooge, not Superman.

That Damn Bat Signal

The notion of Superman as an extra-judicial tool of government oppression was made popular first by Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns, and hasn’t faded since. His “Boy Scout” nature was portrayed as an easy lever by which to upend the power balances of the world. It remains an easy grab for people looking for a reason to dislike the Last Son of Krypton, and I’ve used it myself.

Screencap of the final shot from Tim Burton's 1989 masterpiece, Batman
“You want to fight crime/But you’ve got laws/So call me, maybe..”

Batman, also since The Dark Knight Returns, has been allowed to flourish as the tortured defender of individual freedoms and safeguards. He’s Captain America of the Night.

It’s also not true.

This champion of individual heroism has been turned into a tool of the government by the constructs designed to absolve him of vigilantism. He has been turned into a police stooge specifically because of how he has tied himself to Jim Gordon and the Bat Signal.

Superman, on the other hand, does exactly what Batman fans claim is at Bruce Wayne’s core – he stays true to a moral compass despite no limits on what he can accomplish on Earth. If anything, Superman flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even when faced with the opportunity to rule Earth, he doesn’t.

You get the sense that Bruce Wayne creates his own chain of command specifically to prevent himself from going too far and becoming a monster. While I respect this as a form of discipline – he acknowledges a human being as a fallen creature capable of terrible temptations to do the wrong thing and so takes steps to prevent it – it winds up making him the Secret Police.

Circles of the Bat

We can debate in circles to try to give Batman an “out,” but we wind up trapped by the Bat Signal. The only creators I’ve known to take Batman outside that comfort zone are (wait for it) Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. In Batman (Burton), Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan), Batman acts independently from the police. When he acts of his own initiative, I have far less a problem with him…which seems to be quite the statement about me.

But while vigilantism presents certain moral quandaries difficult to resolve, putting Batman at the beck and call of a police commissioner turns him into the unaccountable field agent of an unelected official. That does, in fact, make him even worse.

Further, Batman shows a disturbing loyalty to Gordon in specific. What vetting does Batman have aside from a long-standing friendship? Placing trust in the judgment of a single person as if they’re some all-wise god-king allows them to rule you by executive order.

In fact, it elevates Gordon above the mayor of Gotham. While there’s a certain Romanticism to Gordon-as-Roosevelt-Reforming-New-York (the undoubted inspiration, down to the mustache), and I’d be horrified if the World’s Greatest Detective were at the beck-and-call of someone like the legendary Marion Barry, the point is I don’t want him loyal to any specific government official.

In Conclusion

In the Social Media era, we could excuse Batman as an anonymous online detective. I’d sleep easier, though, if he did no detecting at the behest of Commissioner Gordon.

While it doesn’t use the same weak rationales as the Brocialists who call Batman “fascist” because he’s violent, and they don’t understand what fascism is outside of an Internet talking point, I’m giving them the reasoning here. It’s a generous gift to the intellectually lazy, that I’m counting as charity.

An image search came up with Russell Brand as a result for Brocialist.
This came up in an image search for the term “Brocialist.” Your move, Russell Brand. (Image hosted/via newstatesman.com)