Of Hype and Men - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Of Hype and Men

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The first Iron Man movie was hailed as a jump up in quality for comic book movies.  Entertainment journalists everywhere were jumping at the chance to join the throng of people who were hailing Robert Downey Jr’s performance and the overall breeziness of the film. Now that Iron Man 2 is coming out, people aren’t eager to praise the movie, but rather are loving the opportunity to spread the bad reviews and criticisms the movie has been receiving while omitting the positive remarks.  I have not seen the movie, so I don’t know if the bad press is justified, but I have been confused by the way that people love to tear down the movie series that they built up not long before.

Sometimes, the dislike and bad feelings for a movie are well earned.  In cases like Transformers 2, Wolverine and Blues Brothers 2000, everything that made the first movie beloved were gone by the sequel, replaced by clichéd characters, bloat and bad decisions.  I can even see the case for the Star Wars prequels being mocked and scorned because there were many bad decisions involved in those films. I think the problem with those films were because they didn’t live up to the movies that the fans created in their head, but that is a topic for a different article.  Yet, many movies that have been made into a punching bag online and in the media for reasons that I do not understand.

The most perplexing case of this phenomenon of turning on a beloved franchise quickly has to be the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  This is a unique case where, before the first was released, most people thought the movie was a dumb idea.  No pirate movie had been successful in nearly half a century, either critically or financially, and this movie looked no different.  A movie based on a theme park ride screamed creatively bankrupt as it had when they'd made Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror. Then a funny thing happened: people went to see the movie and fell in love with the tone, writing and most of all Johnny Depp’s performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow.  The movie became a huge success both at the box office and with people and two more sequels were approved very quickly. The first of the two sequels, Dead Man’s Chest, came out and was a massive event: record breaking crowds raved about the film, and the action scenes were seen as an example of how summer films should be done.  One year later, the third film of the series, At World’s End, was released and the movie was seen as loud, containing too much action and too many special effects.

I was never a huge fan of any of the movies in the trilogy, but I think all three of them are fun movies to watch.  Do I see any difference in quality between the second and third movies?  Not at all, to be honest, and I probably like the third one a little more because it didn’t suffer from middle movie syndrome where nothing is new and nothing is resolved.  So why did people turn on the films between Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End?  Were people’s expectations at too high a level for the third movie?  Did people just tire of the whole idea after the 5+ hours of film the first two movies covered?  Or was it a case where the second movie made so much money and had so much press written about it that people were  just so sick of it that they wanted to see it fail?

The third option you see a lot in sports when a team becomes a dynasty.  No one roots for the Yankees or Lakers unless they are from New York or LA.  Rooting for the underdog is fun, rooting for the champion is not. I think many times this happens to the movies, with the first movie and possibly the second seen as something new, but sooner or later the freshness fades and everything positive that could have been said about the franchise has been said, leaving the only angle left involves pointing out all the faults.

Often the first time a movie series shows some rust or it isn’t as stellar as the previous films in the run, negative press will be attracted to it like a shark with blood in the water.  No one would say that Spiderman 3 isn't a step down in quality from the first two, but it isn’t as bad as its reputation would have you believe.  The movie had too many villains, too many story lines and the way Raimi portrayed Parker’s brush with the dark side, to be nice, was not exactly the way most people would have gone.

But the movie still has some of the magic that made the first two movies enjoyable. Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman was a very interesting character and should have been used more. The action scenes were handled well and it passes the commercial test (which, for the record, is if I'm watching TV and the movie is on, I will watch and enjoy it when there is a commercial during whatever show I might be watching).

In two years, the third Batman movie from Christopher Nolan will be released in theatres and I'm curious what kind of reception the movie will get. It is way too early to know anything about the quality of the film but it will be interesting to see if it can be the exception to the rule and be loved and admired by both critics and the public alike.  Or will it fall into the trap that At World’s End, Spiderman 3, X-3, Matrix Revolutions, Shrek 3, Alien 3, and many other franchise films have fallen into?

When seeing Iron Man 2, leave your expectations, criticisms that you have read and any other baggage about the film out in the lobby.  Watch the movie for yourself and decide whether it was a good film, or if the magic and charm of the first movie is gone.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what a critic in New York thought of the movie or even your good friend’s opinion.  If a movie is not well liked but you enjoyed it, let your voice be heard, because sometimes the most interesting critique for a movie is the one that strays from the pack.

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Posted by Ryan

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