Nerd-Rage at the Movies
Do you like comic books? (Humor me and say yes) Excellent! How about movies? Of course you do! What about comic book movies? Whether you love them or hate them, Hollywood doesn’t appear to be slowing down the production of comic book movies any time soon. But back in the day, by which I mean the glorious 90s, comic book movies were few and far between – there were some terrible Batman sequels and Blade. Ok, so maybe the 90s weren’t the most glorious of days (I blame it all on Pogs), but then Spider-Man and X-Men exploded onto movie screens in the early 2000s and Hollywood found its new massive moneymaker. However, as is the case with any genre, some comic book movies are good, and some are bad. I’m not going to do in-depth movie reviews or even discuss plots or acting in detail, because I don’t think that criteria is what nerds such as myself primarily consider when judging a comic book movie. I think that many of us nerds often judge a comic book movie based on how psychologically attached we are to the characters that the movie is based on.
For example, the Avengers movies are damn good in my opinion. They’re entertaining, have great casting, decent plots, and sprinkles of humor. There isn’t one Avengers-related movie that I have seriously disliked. However, I’ve never cared about the Avengers as characters that much, so if a minute detail has been changed in an Avengers movie, it hasn’t bothered me. While I read some Avengers comics, those aren’t the books that I look forward to the most each month.
I’m not saying that because I don’t feel an enormous attachment to certain comic book characters that I am incapable of finding fault with movies based on such characters – some movies are just bad, like Punisher: War Zone. In my opinion, it wasn’t the actor who portrayed Punisher in War Zone that was terrible. It was literally everything and everyone else. As a nerd, it saddens me to see comic book characters portrayed poorly on such a massive scale. I take pride in my nerd-dom and it’s unfortunate when something that I care about doesn’t utilize all of its potential. That said, I didn’t post my negative opinions all over the internet or go to all of my friends and bash War Zone. I shrugged my shoulders, counted my lost money, and went on my merry way, primarily because I don’t feel a personal connection with Punisher. The reaction I had after viewing certain X-Men movies, however, was markedly different.
Mutants are what attracted me to comics over 25 years ago and I love them now as much as ever. I was a (relatively) grown-ass man when I found out that Pyro died, but I wept like a goddamned child. When X-23 killed her mother, I spiraled into a deep, dark depression for days. When Magneto brought Shadowcat back to Earth from a galaxy far, far away by using his power to save her from the enormous bullet in which she was trapped, I literally gave the master of magnetism, a fictional character, a standing ovation. I love everything about those characters – their emotions are relatable and the conflicts they experience are captivating. So when Hollywood dug its claws into the characters that I have loved since before I could tie my own shoes, I got defensive.
I think that X-Men: The Last Stand was a terrible movie for a variety of reasons, but I remember walking out of the theater after first seeing it and feeling pretty good. Hugh Jackman stabbed some bad guys, Jean Grey made a lot of things float, and Pyro tried to melt Iceman, but the internet was buzzing about how bad the movie was! Did the internet and I see completely different movies? Because I was so attached to those characters, I felt that it was my duty to defend them. When I had difficulties during my childhood, the world of mutants allowed me a joyous escape, and people were now insulting the X-Men. After watching the movie a few more times, however, and then watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I could no longer defend the films. I was angry, and you wouldn’t like me when I’m…something, something…
I was livid after seeing the first Wolverine movie and I wanted to let everyone know: the internet, co-workers, strangers on the street who eventually called the police on me, the police – everyone. How dare Hollywood ruin my mutants? Blob and Gambit, two characters with extensive histories, were awful afterthoughts, Sabretooth’s dialogue was corny, the romance between Silver Fox and Wolverine was silly, and Deadpool was…not even Deadpool! They got so many facts wrong! Did anyone who worked on X-Men Origins: Wolverine even read the comics? Because many aspects of the characters were changed and the movie producers didn’t stick exactly to any storylines from the comics, I was infuriated. The movie executives should have just hired me as a consultant so that they could have gotten everything right because I know mutants better than I know my own family (shit, is this even my house?). But who was I to give input into something that wasn’t even supposed to be an exact replica of the comics to begin with? Though I’m a nerd at heart, I’m just like any other moviegoer, and Hollywood doesn’t have to pander specifically to my wishes.
What I’ve tried to do since the experiences with the above-mentioned X-Men films, is go into comic book movies not necessarily with lower expectations, but different expectations. I have to realize that the writers who are responsible for my favorite comics every month are not going to be the same writers for the movies based on those properties, so a great comic book title isn’t guaranteed to have great movie production. Besides, do I really want to watch something for 2 hours that I’ve already read, word for word? What’s the point of spending $10 ($45 if there’s popcorn involved) if I already know exactly what’s going to happen? While certain comic book characters have had poor movie adaptations, I remember hearing some griping on the internet about Jesse Eisenberg having long hair as Lex Luthor. Was that really a huge point of contention? If something in a movie was terrible, let’s hear about why, in movie terms, it was terrible, and not, “because this isn’t exactly what happened in a comic book,” it was bad. Certain aspects of characters and stories are going to be changed because movies are telling their own versions of stories – not exact replicas of the comics.
I understand feeling protective over certain characters and I can still get annoyed when a comic book movie falls short of fantastic, especially if I know the characters really well. For the most part, however, I try to be happy that comic book movies are thrusting superheroes and supervillains into the mainstream – maybe there will be new comic book fans as a result of the exposure. But really, I just don’t want to walk around feeling angry all of the time. I’ve worked on a level of acceptance so I can now discuss what was wrong with a comic book movie and also what was done right. Sure, The Last Stand was a pretty bad movie, but it did do a few things well (very, very few). When an X-Men movie is bad, I take solace in the fact that those who worked on the movie aren’t going to be writing Uncanny X-Men every month, so I can go home, read a good issue of a comic, and have sweet dreams of Dazzl…um, none of your business.
I know that one bad issue of a comic book title can be quickly forgotten when a great issue comes out a month later, but Hollywood doesn’t produce movies quite that quickly, so any bad taste that a shitty movie leaves unfortunately lingers. But we comic book nerds know the source material and can wash the bad taste out of our mouths with a good comic book (it’s a metaphor, don’t actually put a fucking comic in your mouth). Just remember, all of those comics that you love are still there even after that bad movie is over.
I certainly don’t practice what I’ve just preached perfectly all of the time, but I’m definitely not the embodiment of rage that I used to be. I wrote this because I have internet access and I know for a fact that plenty of others have had the same angry and defensive reactions to comic book movies that I’ve had. Though I understand where it comes from, I think that we nerds who angrily rant about specific elements of a character and/or story getting changed are doing nerd-dom a disservice. We’re telling others that we’re bitter and standoffish when we’re really just passionate about something. Let’s try to celebrate being passionate about something instead of raging over altered details.