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Irredeemable/Incorruptible’s Irredeemable Ending

There was a brief shining period when the Irredeemable and Incorruptible series were some of the most exciting things going on in superhero comics. Forget the umpteenth death and resurrection of Batman, Batgirl, Superman or Spiderman, here was a Superman gone mad and a supervillain gone heroic.

It was a big concept and they had no idea what to do with it.

If Superman goes evil and he has no easy kryptonite solution, how do you stop him? You don’t. So the Plutonian runs wild wiping out the planet while the superheroes stupidly sabotage each other. Q-Bit saves the Plutonian from being killed once and then saves him when he’s banished to an alien insane asylum and brings him back to earth for more devastation. Finally after earth is on the brink of destruction, Q-Bit convinces the Plutonian somehow to help save the planet and he dies in the process.

The ending spoiler is just too embarrassing to be worth spoiling.

For a while Incorruptible’s Max Damage looked like the better series, but Max Damage had nowhere to really go, just like the Plutonian had nowhere to go. The Plutonian was an aimless villain with nothing to do but destroy. Max Damage was an aimless hero with no idea how to be a hero. And the writing went to all the predictable places, something about Nazi gangs, more so than not.

But it’s the end of Incorruptible that is truly ridiculous. Not only does it turn into an Oprah special with Max Damage dealing with his feelings, but Max Damage flashes back on the time he used a device that takes away powers to fight the Plutonian hand to hand. It’s a nostalgic memory, which is insane because for the entire series the world has been trying desperately to stop the Plutonian at the cost of wiping out the entire planet.

After all that Irredeemable’s ending was the really irredeemable thing.

Garth Ennis is a Hack

After muddling through most of The Boys and cross-sections of Crossed, there is just no escaping the conclusion that Garth Ennis is a hack. When Preacher came out, Ennis looked good because there was nothing quite like it. But The Boys had to run side by side with Irredeemable and Incorruptible, the series which for all its flaws did the evil superheroes things much better than Ennis. And Crossed is a poor man’s Walking Dead with gore splattered everywhere. Even its premise seems lifted from Warren Ellis’ superior Blackgas.

What The Boys and Crossed punishingly bring home is that Garth Ennis has absolutely no ideas. The only reason to read through anyone that Garth Ennis writes is to see superheroes, criminals and people in a zombie apocalypse who talk like the guys from a Guy Ritchie movie. That’s fun in a way but it doesn’t nearly justify the price of admission.

The Boys had just about wrapped up after endless delays and routes left, which were far more inexcusable than when Garth Ennis was fumbling around with Preacher. Garth Ennis doesn’t do plots well, that’s no real surprise to anyone, and he doesn’t do conclusions too well either. The big battle with Homelander wasn’t much of a battle at all. But battles are another thing that Ennis can’t really do. His characters win fights because they have the better lines, not because they really do anything.

The question for those who defended The Boys is what does the series actually do well?

The Boys just revived Garth Ennis’ own The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe concept and swapped out the Punisher for a British version who is drawn to look like a softer version of Frank Castle. Then he threw in a Captain America origin story for the entire crew and his thoughts on American politics drawn from Guardian editorials and 9/11 Truther videos.

How much of a hack is Garth Ennis? Go look back at the superheroes in The Boys. How does Garth Ennis characterize them? Ennis only has one way to do that and that’s sex. Some are evil because they’re gay. Some are evil because they’re promiscuous. Some are evil because of some more exotic fetish. Batman has sex with everything. The X-Men are pedophiles. One superhero has a gerbil up his ass. Another has sex with transvestites. It’s boring and borderline homophobic and it’s the only idea Garth Ennis has.

Hughie, like every Garth Ennis hero, is a good man because he’s in a heretosexual relationship with a sweet girl. Butcher once used to be good when he had that kind of relationship, but when the Homelander raped his wife, he turned into a ruthless vigilante. Ennis is relying on the same exact lazy characterization of a 1940’s movie spiced up with every fetish he can think of to characterize the bad guys. And this isn’t new for him. He did it in Preacher too.

Pull back the curtain a little and the superheroes in The Boys aren’t bad because they’re bad. They’re bad because they have a lot of sex. Ennis can dress that up in lots of graphic scenes, but it’s the same exact message you would get from a 1940’s movie.

Now for the rest of it.

After 65 issues, we have finally gotten to the point where Hughie, an irritating character who whined and fumbled through the 65 previous issues is finally forced to face off with Butcher. Butcher and Hughie are the only characters in The Boys that Garth Ennis cared about. That didn’t stop Ennis from drawing in three other stereotypes and spending entire issues on backstories that were a joke, just not the funny kind, and from killing them off.

Everything that has gotten us to here comes down to the same plot that the X-Men have done forty thousand times. And it’s just there so Hughie and Butcher can swap some lines for two more issues. That’s all there is here.

The Boys and Crossed forced me to reach the conclusion that Garth Ennis’ style is his cover. He doesn’t hate superheroes, he just can’t tell a story. The smug superior attitude and graphic content are defense mechanisms because they and characters drawn from British gangster movies are the only things he brings to the table. Garth Ennis is a hack. He writes the way he does because he hopes no one realizes that he can’t do any better.

The Avengers Avenge with the Avenging

Forget for a moment that the Avengers is supposed to showcase Marvel’s genius in getting all their cinematic ducks in a row and combining some of their franchises into one movie… and the Avengers trailer looks a lot like the trailer for some Fantastic Four sequel. It’s generic, “urban shot”, “we have to fight”, “some huge danger is coming”, “urban areas are being blown up” and if it didn’t have the cachet that it does, it would be Generic Superhero Movie Trailer #96.

The only appealing thing about the trailer is also the only truly successful movie in the bunch, and that’s Downey’s Iron Man, which is why the trailer features him. But Iron Man 2 was already watered down by the Avengers connection, moving Iron Man into Avengers feels like an even more watered down movie.

I was never a fan of grouping superheroes together into the Justice League or the Avengers, it never made much sense or did anything more interesting than they were apart. The Avengers movie doesn’t look to change that. It looks less interesting than all the movies in which Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc appear.

Maybe it’s the cookie effect. When you’re young enough, you just want more cookies and you think a big pile of them will taste better. Then you realize it doesn’t work that way.

The Spirit movie review

The Spirit film posterThe Spirit is one of the odder comic book movies ever made, but its spirit is much closer to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again. It’s one of the few comic book movies that actually is a comic book, not just in the way it looks, but in its crazy energy, unfulfilled ambition and pulp traditions.

Sit through the whole thing and you come away with a completely different experience than the modern comic book superhero blockbuster. The Spirit has nothing in common with Nolan’s Dark Knight or Bryan Singer’s X-Men, the movies that define the 21st century comic book blockbuster. It does its awkward horrifying best to be a comic book on film. And it’s the closest thing to seeing Frank Miller on film.

Like most first time directors, Miller is way over his limit and doesn’t realize that he hasn’t yet learned how to tell a story. But there are glimpses among the ruins of what The Spirit might have been if Miller had been given a reality check by a producer who knew his stuff.

The worst thing about The Spirit is Samuel L Jackson as The Octopus, a monster of crime who’s all Id with no Superego. It’s not Jackson’s fault that he’s been set loose with no tether and mugs for the camera like mad. What else is he supposed to do. Especially when he’s being dressed in a Nazi uniform or a Samurai scalplock. There’s nothing Jackson could have done to fix this mess. That was Miller’s responsibility and he blew it.

But the best thing about The Spirit is the Spirit himself. Macht isn’t a great actor, and the narration is usually over the top, but the Spirit’s mad race through the city, his pratfalls and escapes, capture the pulp energy that once made comics so exciting to generations of kids. There’s a freedom here that’s completely missing from the summer blockbusters. A freedom that goes beyond the panels. That says anything is possible.

The encounter with Sans Serif in her hotel room, The Spirit riding up in a transparent elevator past falling snow and gargoyles captures the quintessential urban pulp noir feel. But Miller doesn’t know when to stop. Most scenes with The Spirit’s allies go on way too long. The Octopus is so far over the top that it’s unwatchable. There are too many women around The Spirit and all of it runs in a comic book story which doesn’t work on film.

Then there’s the mismatch of art styles, a problem that crippled The Dark Knight Strikes Again, it’s not as bad in The Spirit, but it’s a major problem. Playing with art styles in comic books is one thing for a pro like Miller looking to test the boundaries of the medium, but Miller doesn’t realize that he’s not a pro here. He’s an amateur director and when you’re an amateur, you need boundaries.

There are some beautifully lit and shot moments, but the movie feels like browsing through DeviantArt at random. There are some gorgeous scenes, and plenty of amateurish ones, and none of it hangs together as a consistent whole. The Spirit needed dramatic reediting and a few reshoots. Had Lionsgate done that, The Spirit wouldn’t have been a major success, but it wouldn’t have been a punching bag either.

Still what The Spirit has is valuable. In a summer when there are a ton of comic book superhero blockbusters that all feel the same, it’s a reminder of something undeniably different. The spirit and energy of the comic book living faithfully on screen.

Why the Comic Book Movies Are Failing

DC and Marvel have thrown three comic book superheroes at the big screen and they all got shot down. Not badly shot down, but performed weakly. None of them have turned a profit on the domestic box office. Not Thor, X-Men First Class or Green Lantern. And that should be an alarm bell ringing in the offices of studio executives who decided that they could turn every property they had into another Batman and cash in.

The problem? No name brand superheroes. Green Lantern has a brand, but it’s not 200 million dollars worth. Thor is well known, but more for the mythology, than for the Marvel property. X-Men First Class is a prequel to a series that had too many movies around it already. If you’re going to bank on a 300 million dollar domestic box office, then your superhero needs some identity.

Iron Man made that happen, and it was a harder trick than Marvel realized, taking a character that maybe 10 million people were familiar with and breaking him out. And that was done by making him larger than life. Green Lantern and X-Men First Class have no one larger than life. Thor sorta does. And the sorta is why Thor performed a little better than the rest as audiences knew they were going to see a big muscular guy hit things with a hammer. Even if they had never read the comic book.

Captain America, Finally a Superhero Trailer that Looks Good

After the unintentionally funny Green Lantern trailer, the Transformers 2 vibe from the Thor trailer, I didn’t have high hopes for the Captain America trailer. But this… this is not bad. Maybe even good.

I wasn’t following reports, but surprisingly this is a classic Captain America set in WW2, not a modern up to date Captain America. The bullied weakling, and all that 40’s ambiance. Joe Johnston hasn’t had a great run, but he’s captured some of the feel of his own great classic, The Rocketeer. This is not the superhero movie you expect Hollywood to make, but it just might be good.

Does the finished product hold together? Who knows. Wolfman was a mess. Captain America’s script comes from the duo writing the Narnia films, which depending on your feelings about those movies may or may not be a good thing. But Johnston has a lock on that classic idealistic movie sincerity, which he’s shown in Rocketeer, October Sky and Jumanji. If he brings that to the table, this may just be a winner.

Every Alternative Superhero Trailer Out There

The trailer for Super, that movie made by Pam’s ex-husband starring Dwight and the girl with the hamburger phone is here. Yes I know their names, but why bother writing them out. And yes it looks a lot like Kick Ass. Which looked a lot like every other alternative superhero movie made. Even the Zack Snyder butchered Watchmen. Or the Woody Harrelson short bus superhero movie. Don’t remember the name and don’t care to look it up. Or Mystery Men. Or Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet mess. Or the Specials, which was the daddy of all these back in 2000.

Where the standard superhero movie exploits a franchise, the alternative movie is supposed to be subversive, poke fun at the conventions, show you what happens when a real person tries to be a superhero and makes a mess of it. And it’s all been done. What’s worse is that there are actual people putting on superhero uniforms and getting into fights or trying to fight crime. Anti-movie crusaders might blame one on the other, but it also makes this whole gimmick redundant. Want to see what really happens when a normal person tries to do this, follow one of the actual costumed vigilantes around town.

Go back to the Specials and Mystery Men and there’s nothing new about these movies. Kick Ass and Super get more extreme. Green Hornet applies the same formula to turn an established superhero into a stoner movie. There’s nothing more to say. Nothing more to do with this. And still I bet there’s a few more movies like this back in the pipeline. Maybe more.

Cape Canceled

I can’t mourn too much. After seeing the pilot, I had a soft spot for it, but the show was just too slow, the lead actor too annoying and the material too badly executed. It could have been done better, with some different casting, sharply written scripts and good pacing. But that didn’t happen.

I don’t know what everyone involved was expecting. The Cape looked like a holdover from the Silverman era of Knight Rider and Wonder Woman reboots, except done on the cheap. It was like one of those interminable syndicated action hours that used to be everywhere all the time. Generic hero puts on cape and does stuff. The mythology of the cape wasn’t bad either. But a lame hero and a lame villain didn’t make for great entertainment.

It was a surprise to see something like this even get aired and now its final episode is being burned off online. It’s sad that an opportunity to put a genre show out there got wasted. Now it’ll be replaced either by a Modern Family ripoff, something that J.J. Abrams wiped his ass on and sold as a pilot, or knowing NBC something even worse.

David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman As Bad As Expected

Bleeding Cool has a limited script review. Very limited. And yes it’s Ally McBeal with superpowers Between the ice cream sleepovers and the pining for Steve Rogers and Beyonce flavored action scenes, this will set back Wonder Woman to the 50’s.

Remember the girl power scene in the awful reboot of Bionic Woman. This sounds every bit as awkward. There’s even a “You go girl” mixed in there. It’s less about superheroes, more like another excuse for David E. Kelley to create a hideously dysfunctional female character who’s going to spend a lot of time being uncomfortable.

I don’t see a law firm or any obvious issue exploration, but I’m confident it’s there. It can’t not be, in a David E. Kelley project. If he can’t have people screaming at each over a current issue, then what would he write about. Do monkeys have souls? Is it ethical to buy products made by underpaid workers? Can an invisible plane be used to violate civil rights. All this and more.

The Cape

You know this could have been good. And it wouldn’t have taken all that much for it to be good. The show has a lot of the right spirit. Cast isn’t too bad either. The story is even mostly there. But it has a lead who’s completely wrong for the part. A lame villain. And not a lot of forward motion. The Cape would have been okay in the 80’s. It might have even passed as a syndicated series in the 90’s. But launching this in 2011 on a network. What were they thinking.

I want The Cape to succeed. I would love it if it would. But watching the lead stumble through more lines, and play a superhero, grieving father and cop while looking like he just got done with a set for his Led Zeppelin tribute band at 2 AM is just hard to swallow. Summer Glau is wasted on a role where she’s not expected to be weird. I’m not sure she can play a non-weird person. Her awkwardness has been put to good use as unnerving in shows like Firefly and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but in The Cape she’s just uncomfortable.

Then there’s the whole circus. It’s not a bad setting, but do we have to keep coming back to it. If you’re going to do a superhero show, then do one. My guess is the budget isn’t there for the proper fights and effects. So we have a lot of scenes of characters talking to each other and then a cheap cape effect or two. It might have passed then, but isn’t doing so well now.

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