Comic Movies, Purists and the Box Office
Amidst new reports that there may be issues and changes with the new Fantastic Four movie that Fox can’t seem to get off the ground, fanboys and fangirls still have one issue that they just can’t get over. They can’t get past the idea that Johnny and Sue Storm can be siblings and also be of different races. While it’s a scientific possibility well within the realm of genetics, it’s such a shame that the same crowd of people that have no issue believing that a man can fly, crawl on walls or a woman can control the weather, be invulnerable or turn herself invisible are the same people hung up on such a thing as skin color. While some in this crowd would not consider themselves racist, there is an underlying fact that many do cling on the belief that the reason why they abhor the very idea of inter-racial siblings is that it doesn’t go along with the source material. Even though it doesn’t have anything to do at all with how the Fantastic Four got their powers, many still believe that if Fox was to go with the cast that they have now with Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm and Kate Mara as Sue Storm, it would have to be explained in the movie how they were siblings. Really? Genetics people! A sex ed refresher couldn’t hurt either!
So look, as people clamor on about continuity and keeping to the source, let’s take a look at some of the biggest grossing and popular super-hero movies and put their continuity and source material to the test.
**Keep in mind, there may be more issues that are are not listed but upon reading, you can discuss amongst yourselves**
Superman: The Movie – 1978
Production: 55 Million to make
Domestic box office gross: $134 million
Nominated for 3 Oscars
Rotten Tomatoes rating – 93%
Considered by many to be the ‘granddaddy’ of them all and the measuring stick by which most superhero movies are made, if there ever was an issue for purists of ‘source material’, you get not one but 2 issues with this movie. The first of course (and keep in mind we are talking about keeping up with source material as it was in the 70s) was the fact that Lex Luthor was a childhood friend of Superboy. In 1960, Jerry Siegel created a story which showed that via a lab accident and fire, Lex lost his hair as Superboy put the fire out. But in the movie of course, Lex isn’t introduced until Superman is grown and in Metropolis. For the really nitpicky, we could also discuss how in the 70s Clark Kent was actually a TV reporter but hey let’s talk about the 2nd huge elephant in the room. The Deus Ex Machina in this movie was that after everything that happened, (and depending on if you like Richard Donner’s Superman II version) with earthquakes, Kryptionian villains, and a dead Lois, Superman is able to cure all of that by spinning the world back and reversing the time flow like it never happened. Well, if that was the case, why not just spin time back and keep Krypton from exploding? Well, up til then, there was nothing in comics that has ever suggested that Superman did such a thing for such a selfish use. He has gone forward in time when he was with the Legion of Super-heroes and yes there was a story starting in Superman 141 when he did go home to Krypton, but no source has ever shown him to do what he did in the movie.
Batman – 1989
Production Budget – 35 million to make
Domestic box office gross – 251 million
Nominated and won an Oscar for Best Art Direction
Rotten Tomatoes rating – 71%
This was the movie that many would say changed the image of how we viewed the Batman in modern comics. It started with Frank Miller’s classic comic The Dark Knight Returns and continued on in a slightly different fashion albeit still dark and gritty on screen. So what was the issue here? While the movie got mostly a lot right with Batman’s origins, if you want to go to the ‘source’, then it missed a lot of details with the Joker. Remember there was no Red Hood (as depicted in 1951’s Detective Comics #168) nor was he a flunky however the movie still in spirit of the source DOES have him falling into the vat of chemicals and changing his appearance and mental capacity. Great so far ,right? But, how the heck does he DIE at the end of the movie? And of course not fall into an abyss and we don’t know his fate, he falls and splats on the ground! Holy pancakes Batman! And if I was to digress, we can look at the next 2 movies and see that the Penguin died as well as Two Face, all of these villains being some of Batman’s greatest challenges in his rogue’s gallery. Oh and no, I didn’t forget about Two Face dying in The Dark Knight either. So for such a good movie, did someone neglect to tell Tim Burton and Sam Hamm that the Joker, Batman’s greatest nemesis doesn’t die? Oh!! And where in the comics does the Joker pre transformation kills Bruce Wayne’s parents? How did we just throw poor Joe Chill under the bus??? Ahhhh, blame it on the Writer’s strike on that. Hamm did.
X-men – 2000
Production: 75 million to make
Domestic box office gross – 157 million
Rotten Tomatoes rating – 82%
We finally reach Fox’s first outing into superhero movies. And it wouldn’t take long for Marvel studios to see how they erred so badly as to not keep their characters in house for their own projects. And while Marvel hasn’t had perfect movies either (will get to that in a moment) , X-men had some of its own issues. Leaving out the First Class movie (in which Fox further messes up the continuity) what went wrong? Well if you go but the source, the original team itself was wrong and we really could end it there. But since this is on the table, the line up on the original X-men vs what we got on screen are different. The comic was Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast (pre fur) and Angel. What we saw on screen was Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Wolverine and a post Ms. Marvel contacted Rogue. The moment the movie started up, continuity and source was tossed out of the window. And Sabertooth as a mindless brute? Someone clearly didn’t read the comics to know that was completely incorrect and what about Mystique and her relation with Nightcrawler (who appeared in X-2) and Rogue? That was just totally ignored. There are so many others but those are the ones that stick out the most and as the movie series went on, the continuity has just been completely obliterated.
Production – 139 million to make
Domestic box office gross – 403 million
Nominated for 2 Oscars
Rotten Tomatoes rating – 89%
Aww this is just entirely too easy but I will save the obvious. While Raimi’s Spider-man movies hold some great box office records, purists for the source would tell you it’s probably one of the ‘worst made’ origin stories. Why is that? Well for starters, while it got a lot right with Peter having issues with classmates and getting bitten by the spider to get his powers, a few things went left of Raimi’s story telling. First off, the thief that killed Uncle Ben didn’t die the first time he faced Spider-man, he actually died (in Amazing Spider-man 200) when he tried to rob Aunt May, of a heart attack when he realized that Spidey and Pete were the same person. Yes, that happened. The spider powers? Organic webs and no web shooters? Nope. Harry Osborne’s drug problem? Nope. Green Goblin becoming the ‘face’ of organized crime? Nah buddy. But You guys aren’t reading to hear that but I mean if you are a purist, you need to know what else was missed. You all are sticking around to hear about how in heck did MARY JANE WATSON completely displace Gwen Stacy in the origin movie without so much as a mention until the 3rd movie. If anything else, that was the biggest pet peeve that purists had with this movie. Not only that, Raimi attempted to recreate the fight between Spidey and Goblin in which Gwen dies but MJ lives to see another day. No, we won’t talk about the goblin suit. Let’s act like it didn’t happen, please.
Iron Man – 2008
Production – 140 million to make
Domestic box office gross – 318 million
Nominated for 2 Oscars
Rotten Tomatoes rating – 93%
Last but not least on the list, arguably one of the best of the origin superhero movies ever made, this was Marvel ‘s first movie in their cinematic universe and shown what could happen when done ‘right’. But if you are a purist and want the story done correctly, what went wrong? Well one can argue about the differences in the comic and movie about Tony being captured in Asia vs Afghanistan but it’s well within reason that for today’s audiences people would relate batter to the Middle East more than they would Vietnam. What WAS missed however is Tony’s meeting up with wounded soldier James Rhodes and how they wound up becoming friends. Also missed was of course one of the first major villains to face him which would be Crimson Dynamo as well as Titanium Man but again due to changing times and norms, it wouldn’t have made sense. Of course the Mandarin would have been acceptable but we saw how that worked out in Iron Man 3. Another issue that was missed early on was of course Tony’s drinking problem and Rhodes’ taking over of the armor when Tony became too impaired to use it. So although Marvel got a good majority of it right, there is still enough change between the original source for purists to fume over. And oh my GOD Jarvis is an A.I. and NICK FURY IS BLACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So at the end of the day, what is the point of this exercise? It’s to simply show that no matter how many times people will clamor for movies to stick to the source, it’s not going to happen.
Please remember also, you as a purist, these movies are NOT made for you. These movies are made for everyone to enjoy and if it generates any interest from the movie, then people can do further research to see what was the same or different about the story being told on screen. And this just isn’t for comics but for any movie that has a story told in a different medium prior to it hitting the big screen. Many times it comes down to how much you can tell in the 2+ hours allotted to the movie as well as how much times have changed to reflect what was going on. Many times other forces such as who is hired to write the script as well as simply money will determine what goes from the comic to the screen. Regardless of that, people will still go and pay the money to see them and many will enjoy what is on screen despite the fact that what comes from the source may change drastically once it hits the screen. Many movie goers care more that the story is well executed rather than what is missed from the source material. Think of how many movies that didn’t make this list because it stuck too closely or veered far off from it’s source. The Watchmen and Wanted are 2 examples of this. So please remember, if you are one of those people who always clamor for your movies to be close to the source, if you don’t like it, don’t go. As long as people pay money to see it, they will get made.
And some of you complaining will probably be the first ones seeing Captain America: Winter Soldier in a few weeks…just so you can complain about the changes from the source. I will see you guys soon.
Author’s note: I dedicated my retort to my fellow comic lover and brother Bryan Matthew Juergensen, rest in peace X-Man.
“Many times it comes down to how much you can tell in the 2+ hours allotted to the movie as well as how much times have changed to reflect what was going on” This part at least does not hold water. Other factors within your argument have validity, but this is ridiculous. Implying that time limit is a factor in destroying the source material is silly. A talented writer can/could shape the script close to the source material and do so within the allotted time frame. Adjustments for relevancy, while this arguably has some merit, many of the classic stories are hard to envision outside there related timeframes -we did not see Captain America frozen in time post-Vietnam, it would not have made sense, thus this part of your argument is also invalidated.
The purist argument you so easily excuse is what made these properties viable in the first place to so easily dismiss the concerns of those who have built these companies and properties is disrespectful of the many comic lovers and many millions (possibly billions?) of dollars spent by comic enthusiasts that keep the source material viable. It is the comic lover not the 10 dollar see it once fan that keep these properties and their related source material afloat.
An attempt to boil down the concerns over the comic in question “Fantastic Four” are not over race as much as you might wish it to be so. Apparently you believe that all the commotion over this film is about race -B to the S- I will raise the BullS*$T flag on this one sir. Possibly, I suppose there is some race relations impaired idiot out there who would say “I don’t like it because Johnny’s black.” To that person I scream-MORON-. However for those of us who have invested the time and energy in reading, adoring, collecting and living for comics, we ask that which we spend our time on be cared for, and depicted accurately. If they made a Black Panther, Luke Cage or Cyborg film with an Asian or Caucasian person, believe me comic fans would flip their lids.
To lay the blame on the comic fan is misplaced, and sorely so. Societal conventions and more importantly sales are what has unfortunately kept the faces of minorities out of a more prominent place in comicdom. As more minorities invest in reading comics hopefully the demographic that is increasingly using their purchasing power will be reflected in the pages we love to turn. I and many comic fans do not ask to have accurate images portrayed because we wish to sideline future actors based on race, but because of all the time we have invested in the pages keeping these properties alive in the first place. When more of the characters written and drawn are minorities we will defend them just as vehemently as we do those we know and love already whatever their depicted race may be. Believe that. We do not care what color our heroes and villains are, just that they (Hollywood) get it right. You start making the Hulk orange we’re not happy. You start insisting that we must conform and remove all the beloved stories and characters from our imaginations to suit your needs, your wishes, we’re not happy.
Without the comic fan the casual observer/moviegoer would be stuck with more Hollywood schlock (read- everything not based on comic characters) instead of bringing to life “FANTASTIC” stories “FOUR” all to enjoy. Asking Hollywood to accidently get it right is not a statement on race, but a yearning to not have that which we invest in depicted as written.
Whoooaaaaa Liam!!! The purist argument is NOT excused. Not one bit EVER! This whole thing was written in sarcasm to the fact that purists seem to think that they have a claim that superhero movies should be done right. And I agree!!! I don’t care if Johnny is white or black as LONG as they get the story right! The purpose of me writing this is to show as much venom is being flung Fox’s way over one casting as fandom has done in almost a year that MBJ was considered for the role, that the ones that call for ‘purism’ in comic movies need to look at some of our ‘classics’ and also see where they got it right and wrong but yet, there has been no outrage.
As always man, thanks for your response!