Monday, November 27, 2006

Blogosphere Multiplex: postmodern barney

I have a soft spot for superheroes. I grew up collecting comics, obsessing on the X-Men long before they were a blockbuster film franchise and eagerly awaiting the next issue of whatever I was into at the moment. I still peek over into the comic soaked portion of the blogosphere from time to time. One of my favorites is definitely Postmodern Barney. Dorian Wright, the mastermind behind "the world's smuggest comics blog!", agreed to be interviewed for this the 12th edition of the Blogosphere Multiplex Series.

10 questions with Dorian Wright of Postmodern Barney

Nathaniel:Dorian, how often do you go to the movies?

Dorian: My average these days is about two to three times a month, with frequent rental viewings at home inbetween those trips out. I would like to go more often, but all the theaters in my area are owned by the same company, so high ticket prices and a relative lack of diversity in films shown keep me home more often than I'd like.

Nathaniel: What is the biggest draw for you in making your filmgoing or rental decisions?

Dorian: There's a sort of hierarchy to films that gets my interest. First is the premise. If the idea of the film sounds cool or interesting to me it will usually get me to check it out, or at least want to know more about it. Second is the cast, if the people in the film are people who I've enjoyed in other films. And then I suppose it would be genre. I'm more inclined to go see a comedy than a drama, or a horror film than an action film, for example. And then it would be writers and directors and various other "behind the camera" people like that. But to get me to a point where I really consider seeing the film, you've got to promise me a story that's new or at least told in an interesting and entertaining way. If the story looks good, I'm often willing to overlook actors and directors whose work annoys me. Within limits, of course. I don't think I'm ever going to be willing to pay money to see Tom Hanks or Mel Gibson in something, for example.

Nathaniel: I think those two should pay us personally, given what they've put us through.

What are your favorite and least favorite superhero films and why?

Dorian: I think "favorite superhero film" is a toss up between Batman Begins and the first X-Men movie. Both "get" the genre and do it right in different ways. Though it takes a fair number of liberties with the comic book origin, Batman Begins is as faithful to the look and mood of the comic of any of the films I've seen. It hits all the right emotional notes and balances them with a good deal of action. It has its flaws, notably Katie Holmes, but the cast as a whole is superb and the end result is very satisfying.

The first X-Men, by contrast, is a bit of a mess. The plot, such as it is, really doesn't make any sense, and most of the actors are just sort of...there. But it captures the big, poppy dumb melodramatic fun of most super-hero comics. Most super-heroes are really just soap operas for teenage boys, and X-Men captures that vibe.

Worst film is, without a doubt, Daredevil. Everyone in it just seems sort of embarassed, except for Jennifer Garner, who went with the "Tee-hee! I'm an assassin! Giggle!" characterization for Elektra that was really jarring. It was just a disaster. I even like the Ang Lee Hulk movie more. That being said, I haven't seen Ghost Rider yet, and something tells me it's going to give Daredevil some competition for the title of "worst superhero film."

Nathaniel: I share the suspicion. And I also share the hatred of Daredevil. Any thought on other upcoming titles --like Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman?

Dorian: Whedon's Wonder Woman is not a film I'm especially looking forward to. I've not been impressed with his work in the past. He tries too hard to hit all the right "nerd buttons" which results in a lot of his work coming off as fan fiction, even when he's writing his own creations. Based on his past works, I have this vision of him casting Wonder Woman as this naive, perky, petitie little brunette, and that just doesn't seem right to me.

I'm also just enough of a Wonder Woman fan to be slightly put out that Whedon doesn't think any of her villains are good enough to be in the film. Granted, Wonder Woman has some cheesy villains, but if you can't think of a way to make characters like Cheetah, Circe, Paula Von Gunther or Ares work on film, maybe you shouldn't be in charge of a Wonder Woman movie.

Nathaniel: I'm afraid Marvel is going to ruin it all by their quantity versus quality approach. What's your verdict?

Dorian: I do think that Marvel is going for a little bit of a quantity over quality with their films, but that doesn't surprise me, as that's how Marvel has historically run their comics publishing division. There's never been a bandwagon or trend that they haven't jumped on and run into the ground, and the same is true of super-hero movies. They're going to ride the gravy train for as long as they can, and flood the market with as many things branded with their logo as they can manage. Part of the problem with their films, I think, is that for the most part, Marvel doesn't really have a lot of big name, headlining "star" type characters. You've got Spider-Man and the Hulk, maybe characters like Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, Captain America, and then a bunch of also rans that people kinda-sorta have heard of. So it often feels like Marvel is in a rush to get these films with their character's names on them out in the market and it ends up having a "throw everything at the wall and let's see what sticks" feel to it.

In contrast, DC has more "big name" characters, but they've been a lot more careful about licensing them out for movies and tv shows and cartoons. They also seem to take a more active role in their properties, for good or bad, than Marvel does. I think this is why, overall, DC's super-hero movies have been a bit better than Marvel's. If the Ghost Rider movie bombs, it doesn't have as big an impact on the popular conception of the character, so it doesn't matter to Marvel if the film is good or not. If the Wonder Woman movie bombs, that could potentially damage a very well known and marketable character, and so DC is going to be very careful about what goes on in the Wonder Woman movie. And that's not a worry without precedent: Doc Savage, Dick Tracy and the Shadow used to have followings, but bad movies featuring those characters pretty much killed them as licensable properties.

Nathaniel: I recently sent a movie meme out into the blogsophere and I've been loving the intriguing responses to this one particular question so I thought I'd throw it your way.

Choose a female bodyguard: Ripley from Aliens. Mystique from X-Men. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. The Bride from Kill Bill. Mace from Strange Days.

Dorian: I'm going to have to go with Ripley. She can take out legions of nasty, acid-blooded aliens. Mystique is great for sneaking into places and not much else, Sarah needed men to come to her rescue, the Bride can beat up David Carradine and other B-Movie actors, and I never saw Strange Days. Yeah, I'm going to want the woman who committed genocide to save a little girl watching my back.

Nathaniel: Let's play a little game. Like an inkblot thing. I say the names of five actors, you say the first super power that comes to mind when I mention them: Robert Downey Jr. Scarlett Johansson. Meryl Streep. Brad Pitt. Michelle Pfeiffer.

  • Robert Downey Jr. -Drinking. Actually, that's terribly unfair, but that's what I think of when I think of Iron Man, too.
  • Scarlett Johansson -Complete invisibilty thanks to her amazing blandness.
  • Meryl Streep -Some sort of sonic death-cry.
  • Brad Pitt -He has the magical ability to make me hetero. I've just never grasped his appeal.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer -The ability to make people forget about her earlier, slightly embarrassing films.
Nathaniel: Yay, that was fun!

What (quality) comic book do you think should never be made into a movie and why?

Dorian: The one that continually gets rumored is Watchmen. It probably shouldn't ever be made into a film. It's a long story, with a lot of side-plots and rich characterization, and there's simply no way to condense the story down to a two hour runtime and have it bear any relation to the source material at all. The other serious problem is that, for the most part, it's a super-hero comic, and the general public probably isn't really ready for something that challenges their assumptions about what a super-hero film should be like.

Nathaniel: What's the weirdest thing that ever happened to you at the movies?

Dorian: I once went to a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show where one guy in the audience apparently had never been clued in to what to expect, and got quite angry about people talking during the movie and standing in front of the screen. I know it sounds like some complicated prank, but no, he was genuinely upset that people were not sitting quietly in their seats and watching the movie.

But other than that, my film-going experiences have been rather prosaic. Apart from the usual hassles of cell phones and people taking little kids to R rated movies, I think the worst I've had to deal with in a theater is a broken reel.

Nathaniel: OK, final question. They make a movie of your life. What's the title? Rating? Who directs? Who plays you?

Dorian: I think I'd want to go with something both pretentious and ridiculous, just to make people feel silly when they go to buy tickets. Hark the Bird Crows at Midnight has a nice ring to it. It would have to be R, because of all the gratuitous male nudity. I think Alan Smithee is probably the only director who'd be willing to do it.

When I was a kid, I used to get the "you look just like Kiefer Sutherland" thing a lot. These days, even though I suspect I probably look more like Donald now, I'm just vain enough to think that Kiefer would still be a good choice.

Nathaniel: Thanks so much, Dorian.

Readers if you enjoyed this interview, please do go and check out postmodern barney! If you're visiting the film experience for the first time just for this, here are some earlier comic related posts if you want to stick around: Lois Lane: Lost in Translation * How Comic Book Films Will Die * A History of... Blue Freaks * Fantastic 1.5 * Catwoman * Spider-Man 2 nominations

Or check out some of the most popular posts from the past: Far From Heaven vs. Brokeback -Whose side are you on? * She's a Bitch (@ the Movies) * Vampires a blog-a-thon * Find Your Inner Kidman * Oscar Predictions -for awards enthusiasts *

Previous Interviews: The Gilded Moose * Jay Lassiter * Dylan Meconis * Martha of Cinematical * ultranow * fourfour * six things * Gallery of the Absurd * How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons * Ron L'Infirmier * Thomas & Co.

Tags: movies, Marvel, Batman Begins, Ghost Rider, cinema, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, DC,film, Comic Books


Anonymous said...

Indie Spirit Award Nominations tommorrow!!! Hope to see Little Children and Little Miss Sunshine...What about you guys?

Barry said...

For the love of everything that is sacred.....PLEASE PUT THE GRADE FOR NOTES ON A SCANDAL UP!

Barry said...

ur killing us all with the suspense!! :)

adam k. said...

I for one am disappointed that The Fountain has only snagged another A-. Even if it does have flaws. "Sweet jesus" only gets an A-??? I demand a seond opinion. So much for there being an A film this year. Sad year.

And I thought "soap opera for teenage boys" was pretty funny and spot-on. What I loved about the X-Men of the Claremont years is that they were really a soap opera for gay teenage boys. If you were paying attention. SO many female characters joining, and rampant sexualization of the male bodies. Wonderful.


um guys, this post is an interview about superhero movies ;)


oh and yes 'soap opera for teenage boys' is an apt description. I remember being completely caught up in whether or not Collosus and Kitty Pryde would ever really make it together.

though, also regarding the interview I'm a bit surprised at the negative response to wonder woman... i thought everyone loved Joss Whedon. But I guess I was projecting. oops

Javier Aldabalde said...

Loved the interview. That poster is just ridiculously awesome, lmao.

PS: Batman Begins is awful, though.

GayProf said...

I don't love Joss Whedon. If Wonder Woman could survive Cathy Lee Crosby, though, she can survive being a Buffy clone. Let's hope, though, that Warner Brothers wakes up to a potential disaster in the works before that happens.

Good interview.

SamuraiFrog said...

This is my favorite one of your interviews yet. Of course, I'm a comics geek, so I don't know what that compliment is worth...

adam k. said...

I would still like to see Swank as Wonder Woman. But she probably doesn't have the good sense to know how to capitalize on all her success and get herself a franchise that casts her as something other than trailer trash that she's actually believable in.