8.9.16 – If There Was a Conspiracy…

*Inspired by O.J. Simpson’s If I Did It*

It’s been well-documented that I am of the belief that there is absolutely zero chance in hell that a so-called “conspiracy” exists in which critics have it out for DC movies but love the ones Marvel puts out (talk about having too much free time). It should also be noted that I think anyone who buys into this crackpot theory is not someone you can have a rational, intellectual, or otherwise intellegent conversation with. Having said all that, however, I started thinking… What if there was a conspiracy?

What if every disgruntled fanboy was right? No, not Disney pay-offs (I can’t give that theory a serious consideration without the help of a labotomy), but a stong critical bias in favor of Marvel. I can see why this theory developed and has taken hold – we don’t want to see what we love represented to the masses in less-than-stellar fare, especially when the last try out the gates was heralded as one of the last great movie trilogies of all time (I liked the first two). Denial is not just the river we drown in. And, of course, it seems like every time Marvel burps it’s breaking records and – more importantly – getting high praise for it. So what would make critics get down on their knees in front of Marvel – suck, swallow and smile – but hate DC?

Let’s think about this. There’s always the reliable “Marvel created a universe first so critics hate DC for attempting one of their own” argument. Except it doesn’t really stack up. What Marvel did was unprecedented and out of necessity. They didn’t have access to Spidey or the X-Men, those rights were owned by Sony and Fox, respectively. They had a bunch of B, C, and D-string heroes. They took hay and spun it into gold – because they had to. Necessity begets great art. On the other hand, Warner Brothers has owned all of the DC characters for forty years.

And Marvel’s just smart about it. They never bite off more than they can chew (well, most of the time… Iron Man 2, among others…) and they take their time figuring out their stories. Marvel has a whole bullpen of screenwriters under contract – they tell them what characters they have available, what they’d like to make into a movie, and see which characters are right for which writers. They don’t just throw out a release date and then race to make it. Most importantly, they aren’t afraid to embrace the more comic book-y elements of what makes their characters great. And since these characters originated in a comic book, that really shouldn’t come across as such a novel idea. But it is, and one DC is still wrestling with (sadly, this embarassment has made its way over to the comics where Batman and Superman no longer sport their iconic outerwear). So no, people don’t have it out for DC because they’re playing catch-up, it’s that they’re unwilling to put in the time, effort and patience to deliver something quality to their fans.

But really, that’s a well-worn opinion. Something less obvious, I think, is the real cause for this clandestine conspiracy (again, if there was one), and that’s the general attitude of DC. Now, when I say DC, I’m primarily talking about the filmmakers who took it upon themselves to criticize Marvel without prompting, making DC look like a sore loser. It goes back to the summer of 2012 when Wally Pfister, director of photographry on the Dark Knight Trilogy, decided to attack The Avengers’ cinematography for no apparent reason, saying, “I thought ‘The Avengers‘ was an appalling film. They’d shoot from some odd angle and I’d think, why is the camera there?” This was in response to the question of what the most important element of filmmaking is, to which he eventually answered “storytelling.” Pretty ironic once you consider he made Transcendence. I remember when he made that comment, too, and I lost a lot of respect for the guy. He’s a competent DP, but nowhere in the same league as, say, Roger Deakins.

Then you had Zack Snyder bashing Marvel on the radio, calling Ant-Man the “flavor of the week.” Now, I think it’s kind of obvious that Zack Snyder is probably a pretty dumb guy, but you need to be straight-up handicapped to watch Ant-Man and call it the flavor of the week. It wasn’t Marvel’s biggest, flashiest effort, but it did something different by injecting the DNA of a heist film into the superhero genre. To call any of Marvel’s films repetitive is a bit of a misnomer. True, they all share a similar tone, but like a good artist, each movie plays to the strengths of the story it’s telling – Ant-Man the heist film, Winter Soldier the espionage thriller, Captain America the WWII movie, Thor the space fantasy, and so on and so on. The fact that these movies co-exist in the same universe is even more impressive.

Most recently, David Ayer shouted “fuck Marvel” at the Suicide Squad premiere. Granted, the dude was caught up in the moment, apparently repeating back what someone in the crowd had shouted, and he later owned up to it and apologized on Twitter. Even Stan Lee gave the dude a pass. And while I’d love to just sweep that under the rug and forget it happened, I can’t wash the bad taste it left in my mouth. As a fan of DC characters, wanting these movies to succeed (despite what you may believe), it made me cringe. It took the whole DC / Marvel rivalry to a place it didn’t need to go. The fans are divided enough as it is. Maybe if Suicide Squad was actually good it wouldn’t look so bad, but the fact that this movie failed on so many levels makes the words of its director seem like jealous ranting.

So if there were a conspiracy out to get DC, I think it stems from their own filmmakers and the attitudes they present. They prepetuate this negative fanboy culture that can’t accept bad storytelling, instead playing the victim card, “critics don’t like us,” when really they just need to pump out some quality shit. It’s a real turn off. One that can easily cause people to root against you. That’s one more thing you have to give it up to Marvel – they’re a class act over there, never throwing shade at DC, because they don’t need to kick a dude when they’re down.

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