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August 12, 2003



This kind of thing astonishes me, too, but not just about comic-book movies. How can it possibly be that a multimillion-dollar Hollywood blockbuster--and nowadays it's not just A but almost EVERY--wind up with a script that is LESS coherent than an average episode of, say, The A-Team? The answer that I keep coming back to is that the producers (in the broadest sense, not just those with the title) not only don't care but can't even recognize basic craftsmanship in plotting anymore. That seems incredible, but what else can it be? It's not like a coherent plot requires rare talent, or greatly increases the cost of production. I'm baffled and disappointed, to the point where I tend not to even rent action flicks anymore unless my friends (most of whom, like you, cannot bring themselves to completely miss anything that relates to comics no matter how awful it looks).


(Oops. Hit Post too soon)
... unless my friends really like it. That happened with Spider-Man and X2, but not with DD or The Hulk.

Mark Buehner

Of everything in that movie, its the guy getting stabbed in the arm and still fighting that you don't buy? How about a crappy boxer that eschews putting his hands up and leads with his head who beats the world champion (on the second try granted)? No-one watches movies about people who get stabbed, roll over, and die. Thats real life. We go to the movies for the extraodinary. I love Daredevil comics and I dug this movie. It wasnt the greatest but it 'got' Daredevil. This is about a guy who gets by on moxy, not powers. If he crawled away from Bullseye, he wouldnt be a very good man without fear now would he? Thank god you didnt write that movie.

Timothy Burke

It's all about genealogies, really.

Superhero comic books have two major well-springs since the Silver Age: themselves and everything else. The first they actually formalized, especially at Marvel, with little asterix-point references to past issues ("Damn, you, Mandarin, you've been posing as my yellow manservant again"* *Mandy last posed as a sneaky valet in Iron Man #34, frenetic ones) . The second was and is still one of the great charms of superhero comics--a new writer or artist can grab wildly from a zillion pop cultural sources and reinject life into a pretty stale character just by adding some ninjas or spaceships or soap opera. Superhero comics illustrate just how wonderful pastiche really can be as a cultural modality--they are simultaneously absolutely their own thing, bounded off from the rest of pop culture, and everything.

But that's why they frequently suck as the basis for movies (same for video games), because when you put all that pastiche back into one of the forms it has been vampirically feeding off of, it just seems lifeless and derivative.

Now Burton's "Batman" films solved that dilemma bit first by cracking the representational problem of how not to have a guy in a costume end up looking like Adam West in some Underoos, and second, by crafting a visual mood and atmosphere that invoked the comics while also invoking the cinema.

The problem is, though, that Burton's Batman and almost every other superhero comic borrowed its fighting cinematography for climaxes from a single genealogical source: the first two Rocky films. Two guys fight. They knock each other down. They get up. They knock each other down more. Every time you think one of them is past being able to get up, he gets up. They absorb impossible amounts of punishment. One wins, but barely.

There are other sources that would fit superhero battles--the acrobatic fighting choreography of Hong Kong films, or the swordplay and repartee of swashbucklers, but they haven't been much used, or used only lightly as a veneer on the Rocky mode. (There are also inappropriate models that don't fit superheroes--gunplay from a lot of different action genres, for example).

So Daredevil the film is just more slavishly indebted to the Rocky mode of representing mano-a-mano final battle than many superhero films. Stabbed? No problem! Get up, man, keep fighting! You're a superhero! You have supreme willpower! Just like Rocky.

At least the Wolverine-Lady Deathstrike showdown in X-Men 2 really actively played with and hyperbolically rationalized the "it's only a flesh wound" kind of combat. It's kind of too bad: even in cinematic terms, the superhero film could look for other representational templates to try and choreograph superhero fighting.

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