In Defense of Reverence

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about this week, but sometimes the Universe provides. A couple of days ago, I came across a piece on Vulture criticizing the new Iron Fist series on Netflix.

Iron Fist Netflix Finn Jones
At this point, I’m thinking that the last four episodes will just be Danny Rand beating the crap out of reviewers.

While I agree with some of its basic points, it really annoyed me in spots. Particularly when it argued that the Iron Fist series should have thrown out even more of the comic book source material, just because:

It’s easy to imagine the strategy: Keep the costume, the karate, the power, and the humor, and throw away all the stuff that doesn’t work. Why should Marvel marry itself to a boring origin story that is hardly a beloved one? Why should they stick with a white guy, when — and I say this not out of progressive belief, but an appreciation of good storytelling — other choices would be more interesting? Why should he even be named Danny Rand? Get a bunch of creative writers who love the superhero genre, then let them run wild to reinvent the character.

Well, I don’t know… How about he’s a white guy named Danny Rand because that’s who the character is? If you want to argue that Marvel shouldn’t adapt Iron Fist into a television series because the whole “white savior” trope has seen its day, that’s a valid argument. I’m all for having more minority characters in MCU, but saying that a Caucasian character must be an Asian character just because he’s a martial arts master is idiotic. It’s just trading in one stereotype for another.

Shang Chi Master of Kung Fu
And besides, if you want an Asian martial arts master, Marvel already has one ready to go.

The Vulture article digs itself deeper here:

Reverence is overrated, and superhero fiction has demonstrated why plenty of times in the past. Hawkeye used to be a colorful goofball with a criminal past until he was reinvented as a leather-clad black-ops veteran in a comics series called The Ultimates, which led to his successful screen incarnation in The Avengers.

Well… yeah, I guess that was successful, except for the fact that the big screen version of Hawkeye is widely regarded as the least interesting of all the Avengers. No one’s clamoring for a Clint Barton solo movie the way they are with the Black Widow. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the group’s least popular character is also the one that’s the least like his classic comics counterpart.

I get why they changed Hawkeye for the movies. The personality traits that largely defined him in the comics, his rebelliousness and sarcasm, had already been co-opted by Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. So Hawkeye needed to be something different in order to stand out. I wonder if part of the reason that Joss Whedon decided to have Clint Barton under Loki’s mind control for most of the first Avengers film was to buy himself a little time to figure out just who this version of Hawkeye was supposed to be.

Honestly, the only place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where I felt like I was seeing the real Hawkeye was this scene from Age of Ultron, which starts out with Hawkeye talking smack to the Norse Thunder God. That’s the Clint Barton I know and love. If they could get more of that cocky underdog attitude into the movies, I think people would get behind Hawkeye more.

That’s why I’d like Hollywood to show more reverence to the comics, not less. If these characters have lasted for 30, 40, 50 years before you got your hands on them, there’s usually a reason for that. And it’s usually because the creators did something — or several somethings — right. So it behooves you to consider exactly what made the character successful in the first place and then figure out the best way to translate that to the screen. That’s a better approach than automatically assuming that you know better than these poor dumb comic book creators and that anything you change will be an improvement.

And the fact is that reverence is the smarter approach. If you look at live-action adaptations of superheroes, most of the really successful ones show a reverence for the source material, and a lot of the big flops are the ones that changed things around for no good reason.

When Batman producer William Dozier tried to adapt Wonder Woman into a TV series in 1967, he made a campy, comedic presentation film that failed to generate any interest, despite featuring future Planet of the Apes star Linda Harrison as a pretty good-looking Wonder Woman (Harrison is the one in the mirror, but be warned: It’s five minutes of your life that you’ll never get back).

When they tried again in 1974, they gave us a blonde Cathy Lee Crosby in a red and blue jumpsuit fighting Ricardo Montalban, which, even as an adaptation of Wonder Woman’s Emma Peel days, was a stretch.

Wonder Woman Cathy Lee Crosby
…Wonder Woman or 1970s Olympic Javelin Champion Kate Schmidt? YOU MAKE THE CALL!

They finally succeeded when they went back to the original material, set it in the 1940s with a dose of feminism, and put a perfectly-cast Lynda Carter into a faithful recreation of Wonder Woman’s comics costume.

Wonder Woman Lynda Carter
WONDER WOMAN, or, as it was known in my household, JOHN ENTERS PUBERTY.

The 1970s Spider-Man TV series with Nicholas Hammond had potential, but it squandered that potential by missing a lot of what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man. It missed the poignancy of the “with great power comes great responsibility” lesson of Peter Parker being responsible for his Uncle Ben’s death, and it missed the trademark humor of our favorite web-slinger. Without those two things, they ended up with a very bland character, and a quickly-canceled series.

Spider-Man 70s TV series
The yarn-like webbing didn’t really help, either.

The first time the X-Men movies tried to include Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth, they gave us Ryan Reynolds with his mouth sewn shut, firing optic blasts. The fanbase was less than pleased. When they made a movie with the same humor and irreverence of the comic character, fans came out in droves, and so did the general public.

Deadpool fireplace
Or maybe they’re all just fans of Burt Reynolds’ 1970s Cosmo centerfold.

I could give other examples, like Evel Knievel Captain America, Brady Perm Dr. Strange, or Keanu Reeves John Constantine, but honestly, it would depress me too much, and I think you get the point. You don’t need me to tell you that the bad stuff was bad. I’d much rather talk about the good examples, anyway.

The Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Incredible Hulk television series took a lot of liberties (thankfully, Stan Lee vetoed producer Kenneth Johnson making the Hulk red instead of green), but it was a well-done show that got the BIG thing about Banner and the Hulk right, namely that the Hulk is a tragic character at his core.

Hulk Loni Anderson Jeremy Brett
Also Essential: The Hulk hangs out with Sherlock Holmes and Loni Anderson.

Despite inventing a new look for Krypton and making some changes to the backstory, the 1978 Superman movie didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, either. The guy that Christopher Reeve played was recognizably the same character we knew and loved the comics. Heck, the movie took an even more classical approach than the comics did at the time, since they had Clark Kent working as a newspaper reporter at The Daily Planet instead of the anchorman of the evening news on WGBS. It was okay that this Superman never had a career as Superboy or that Lex Luthor didn’t dress in a purple and green jumpsuit, because Superman was still Superman.

Superman Christopher Reeve
In a perfect world, every movie would end with this shot.

I think that’s the trick. If you get the BIG things right, you have a little more license to change the window dressing. Part of the reason the current crop of DC movies have gotten so much grief is that they’re changing the big things. Despite all the desperate justifications some fanboys use to try and rationalize Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, the fact is that those movies didn’t do as well as they could have because they got the title characters wrong. A Superman and Batman who kill without remorse are very different from the classic versions of those characters, and when you’re trying to create a cinematic universe to compete with Marvel’s, that’s a problem. DC is building a house on a shaky foundation. If they can’t — or won’t — get their two biggest characters right, what hope is there that they’ll get everyone else right?

I’m not saying that faithfully translating the comics will automatically mean success, but it certainly gives you a better shot than changing everything and putting out something that only shares a title in common.

I’ll give you a hot tip, Hollywood: comic book fans, we’re a superstitious and fanatical lot. And yeah, we’re picky about the things we love. But if we like the movies or TV shows you make out of the things we love, we’ll see them over and over and talk them up to our friends. And repeat business and good word of mouth can be the difference between a modest hit and a blockbuster.

But what if your property is largely unknown to the general public? Surely it’s okay to change things then, right? After all, who cares? But you could just as easily make the opposite argument. If something is proven to work in the comics, why not use it instead of an unknown quantity? It won’t make any difference to the average audience member, and the hardcore fans will love you for it. Look at it this way — it’s decades’ worth of free market research.

Take Iron Man. Jon Favreau and company took what was cool about the character, and made it work for 2008. Together with some shrewd casting and a great trailer, the movie became a huge hit. But Favreau also threw in all sorts of things he didn’t have to from the comics, and the comics fans noticed and appreciated it, because it told us that the character was in good hands.

Iron Man Stark Yinsen
Favreau didn’t have to include the grey Mark I armor and Professor Yinsen, but it was a better movie because he did.

So yes, by all means adjust things for a new medium. Update characters where you need to to make them relatable to today’s audiences, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Faithfulness to the source material isn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe the next time producers find that a comic adaptation isn’t working, they could try a little reverence instead.

32 Comments

  1. Le Messor

    I agree with most of what you’ve said here.

    When I read the title of this article, I wondered why reverence was something that needed defending. Reading it, I now understand… but (and I blame the Vulture article for this) I think ‘reverence’ isn’t the word. (Nor is ‘grease’ or ‘bird’ here, though vultures are birds.) ‘Loyalty to the source material’ is the concept… is there one word that sums that up?

    “Update characters where you need to to make them relatable to today’s audiences”
    … That’s what Zack Snyder claimed he was doing with Man of Steel. And his fans parrot it ad nauseum, apparently with the logic that Christopher Reeves’ Superman was unrelatable because he was way overpowered, so if we make this one a little less way overpowered the audiences will be able to relate to him.
    Either way, he has heat vision. If my relatability scale was based on ‘can do things I can’t’, it wouldn’t cover either version. It’s more based on ability to, say, smile!

    “Why should they stick with a white guy, when… other choices would be more interesting?”
    “saying that a Caucasian character must be an Asian character just because he’s a martial arts master is idiotic.”

    Technically, they didn’t say that. They suggested other choices. What if he were an American Indian, for example?
    But:

    “Well, I don’t know… How about he’s a white guy named Danny Rand because that’s who the character is?…”

    Yeah, I agree.

    “…thankfully, Stan Lee vetoed producer Kenneth Johnson making the Hulk red instead of green…”
    Ugh, what a horrible idea! Can you imagine?
    … wait… 🙂
    Why would they have done that for the TV series?

    “Despite all the desperate justifications some fanboys use to try and rationalize Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, the fact is that those movies didn’t do as well as they could have because they got the title characters wrong.”

    Which is why I don’t want to watch Wonder Woman, but I fear that means the studios will cancel Captain Marvel because ‘movies about female superheroes don’t sell’. (What? Hollywood suits learn the wrong lesson?!? NEVER!!!)

    1. You’re not supposed to be able to relate to Superman’s powers. You’re supposed to fantasize about how great it would be to have those powers. The part that makes Superman relatable to us mere mortals can be summed up with one line from the first movie:

      “All those things I can do… All those powers, and I couldn’t even save him.”

      EVERYONE can relate to not being able to get something you desperately want. From the least powerful to the most powerful. The angst of Superman is that even with all his power, there are still limits to what he can do.

      That’s also why the Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman love triangle works so well, too. It’s that primal fantasy of, “If only the person I love knew what I was REALLY like, they’d love me just as much as I love them!” Who among us hasn’t felt like that?

      1. Roc Kit

        “You’re supposed to fantasize about how great it would be to have those powers. …Superman [is] relatable to us mere mortals”

        That right there is why representation matters. There’s a reason Superman is one of the most popular creations of the twentieth century while the Martian Manhunter is a deep cut (the names are another part of it, course). Superman, for no good reason, naturally LOOKS human, and what “human” means in this context is straight white cis male Christian Midwestern American.

        Seeing yourself as a superhero matters, and any part of you that you never see reflected as super or as the hero or as the romantic lead can easily become internalized as a part of yourself that doesn’t matter or needs to be overcome or ignored in order to project yourself onto the escapist fantasy that exists for the “normal” people.

        Of course at some point it becomes necessary to give up on the idea that your character should be called Iron Fist, but that point is remarkably simple – if the character has a fist, and can make it like unto a thing of iron, you’re good.

        1. Le Messor

          “naturally LOOKS human, and what “human” means in this context is straight white cis male Christian Midwestern American.
          Seeing yourself as a superhero matters, and any part of you that you never see reflected as super… a part of yourself that… needs to be overcome or ignored…”

          I agree that all of that is very heavily represented in comics… if you knock the word ‘Christian’ out of your earlier statement.

          As a Christian reader of comics, I ask you to trust me on this: we are NOT well-represented. We’re talking about a medium where Frank Miller’s Holy Terror is considered an evil, bigoted representation of an entire religion while at the same time, God Loves, Man Kills is considered a classic.

          I can’t let it slide when people say we are.

          (Though some people seem to believe ‘Christian’ means ‘white mid-western American’… it does not. Please note: I live in eastern Australia.)

          1. Roc Kit

            Thank you, that’s a very good point. I’m talking more about the cultural assumption of Christianity than any overt practice of faith – Clark Kent and Peter Parker are more or less assumed to be Christians in the sense of having been baptized into a major denomination, and would presumably be married and/or buried as some sort of Christian. It’s easy for practicing Christians to feel marginalized by mainstream pop culture even while that same pop culture is representing cultural Christians almost to the exclusion of anyone else (even Ben Grimm wasn’t in any way acknowledged to be Jewish until some forty years after his first appearance). It’s true that a Big Two comic book is more likely to have a serious discussion of Santa Claus than Jesus Christ, and it’s not easy to find portrayals of faith that are in any way representative or realistic.

            As with so many things, Astro City does it better – The Crossbreed are mocked and dismissed as “Jesus freaks”, but are the only superheroes willing to give The Confessor the benefit of the doubt without judging him either as a Catholic or as a reluctant vampire.

          2. Le Messor

            “I’m talking more about the cultural assumption of Christianity than any overt practice of faith”

            Yes, thank you – that’s a very important distinction that most people overlook.

            (I haven’t read Astro City, but I’ve heard of the characters you mention before.)

    2. And good point about Hollywood always going to the “female superheroes don’t sell” excuse. The problem with Supergirl, Elektra, and other female-led comic book movies wasn’t that they had women in the leads, it was that all of them were crap. If you make a non-crappy movie with a female superhero, people will go see it.

      Really, it boggles my mind that Marvel STILL hasn’t greenlit a Black Widow movie. The character is known & well-liked, Scarlett Johansson has proven that she can open a movie, it’s an opening into a genre the movies haven’t tackled yet… What’s the problem? Make it quick before ScarJo is collecting Social Security!

  2. “Why would they have done that for the TV series?”
    Roy Thomas told this story about 25 years ago:

    He said, I visited the set of the Hulk, and out came Lou Ferrigno, painted green from head to foot. Knowing all the changes they’d already made, I was surprised. “Well, you got the color right, that’s something.” The studio guy said “yeah, we tried a lot of colors, red, blue, gray, but this just looked the best.” We could have told them that 20 years ago….

  3. M-Wolverine

    I mean, let’s be honest. A lot of reviews nowadays come from critics who long ago gave up trying to appear impartial. (They never were impartial, no one is, but at least they tried to appear neutral; now they just throw their political bombs on both sides). The reason Iron Fist should be changed and isn’t exciting or good enough is because they didn’t cast an Asian guy, which a certain segment really wanted. A segment that parallels media and media critics quite a bit. Ignore the fact that it’s a far bigger stereotype. It’s feel good. It fits the narrative. Just like the original article asking for the change says there’s never been an Asian MCU lead…which depending on how you rank the importance of the characters badly ignores Agents of SHIELD.

    But really all the stale comments and stuff could easily be given to the prior Netflix show, Luke Cage. It had a pretty good first 6 episodes. But the last 6 fall off the rails as it turns more silly comic book than some of the bad examples up there. But critically (if not 100% fan wise) it still gets nods because of a (mostly) excellent predominately Black cast. (Let’s face it, Diamondback is all kinds of awful).

    The truth is neither of the characters has even been really strong enough to be super successful on their own. I would doubt either is getting a sequel series like Daredevil or Jessica Jones. This should really just be set up for the thing that REALLY works with those characters – Power Man and Iron Fist. It was the two of them together, playing off each other, that worked best in the long term. But to call for Iron Fist to be changed but not the even more ridiculous Power Man…I mean, c’mon.

    You picked out what stood out most to me in the article. Picking Hawkeye as a good example is a horrible example. The comic book version is better in every way, and there’s a reason he’s the least liked Avenger. (Not to mention his, and other non-comic relationships tacked onto Age of Ultron is what drags that movie down the most). The sad thing is they cast a GREAT guy to be comic book Hawkeye. In various movies he’s the mouthy rough around the edges rebel to the more straight laced hero. SWAT, Mission Impossible. Great casting, but wrong character design.

    I’ll end on a bittersweet note – too bad the old footage is so grainy, because Linda Harrison Wonder Woman sounds amazing. In some ways she’s the best thing about Planet of the Apes, and that is a truly great movie.

    1. You picked out what stood out most to me in the article. Picking Hawkeye as a good example is a horrible example. The comic book version is better in every way, and there’s a reason he’s the least liked Avenger. (Not to mention his, and other non-comic relationships tacked onto Age of Ultron is what drags that movie down the most).

      I assume you mean the Black Widow/Bruce Banner relationship here (and if I’m assuming wrong, please let me know). Personally, I kind of liked that. It didn’t have a ton of time to be developed, for sure, but I liked that it added something fresh to the Avengers’ group dynamic. I think that’s important, too. I had a similar reaction to the Mary Jane Watson/John Jameson romance in Spider-Man 2. As long as it’s in keeping with their basic characters, why not try some new things?

      The “Hawkeye’s secret family” thing was fine, but I think they did it more out of desperation to do something interesting with the character than anything else. And him being a family man fit into Joss Whedon’s foreshadowing fakeout of Hawkeye being the one to get killed off in AoU (“I’m retiring after this one last job & going home to my wife and kids!”).

      And hey, having Linda Cardellini is your movie is always a good thing. 🙂

      1. M-Wolverine

        I was talking about both, so you’re not wrong. I think the ScarJo/Ruffalo chemistry was OK, but, and you can probably tell from the first part of my post I’m not that sensitive or reactionary, the whole she’s barren and a monster too because of it theme got a lot of people up in arms that a so called ultra liberal women’s rights guy could be so tone deaf, and I can’t say I completely disagree with them.

        And Hawkeye’s relationship was seemingly done just for that; so we have a serve into Quicksilver surprisingly being the one to die. But while it’s an effective bait and switch it’s not really effective emotionally. And further more it gets him even further away from the comic book version. Which probably stuck in everyone’s craw even more as they fantasized about the never going to happen but COULD happen ties to Agents of SHIELD’s Mockingbird appearing at the same time (who with a failed pilot that was a bad idea completely lost one of AoS’s best characters). As a sort of former SHIELD guy it even made more sense.

        But the bigger overall problem is the farmhouse is where the movie comes to a grinding halt. The BW/Banner scene is painful and could be cut with hardly any ramifications. It’s the opposite of the effective scene with them at the bar. And we could do without Hawkeye’s family with no change in storyline. The only things that happen there that are worthwhile could be transported elsewhere; Steve and Tony, and Fury’s appearance.

        And I’m not one who thinks the movies sucks. It’s actually a good movie that keeps from being great by a handful of flaws. So it’s maybe middle of the pack or upper bottom of the Marvel movies. It’s just one of those cases, that no matter how much he whined, Whedon was wrong when he was given the option by Marvel to cut out the expanded Thor vision (not Vision) stuff, or the farm stuff. And he cut Thor’s scene into an incoherent mess, and left the snooze worthy farm scene. Flips those and he probably fixes 80% of the movie’s problems.

        1. “…the whole she’s barren and a monster too because of it theme got a lot of people up in arms that a so called ultra liberal women’s rights guy could be so tone deaf, and I can’t say I completely disagree with them.”

          That I think was another instance of people willfully misreading the scene just so they could get offended & enraged about something. She was clearly not saying that she was a monster because she couldn’t have children. She was saying she was a monster because she was a former assassin and a product of a program that forcibly sterilized its agents. It boggles my mind how anyone couldn’t — or wouldn’t — get that.

          I thought the Hawkeye farm scenes worked fine in the context of the movie. The Avengers were at their lowest point at that point of the film, and it gave them time to lick their wounds and recharge. It also gave Whedon a chance to advance several of the subplots. So I thought it was fine. What really should have been cut was the whole Thor magical pool scene, which didn’t really make sense or add much of anything to the movie.

          But y’know… It’s not a bad movie by any stretch. It’s just trying to do a lot in a short amount of time (servicing all the existing characters, introduce a brand new villain, THREE new Avengers, as well as set up future MCU movies), and didn’t do it quite as artfully as the first Avengers movie. But I’d certainly pop it in before Iron Man 2 or 3, Thor: The Dark World, or the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

          1. M-Wolverine

            The first GotG movie? You know something about the second you’re not telling us?

            Well, they cut out the Thor stuff to the point of incomprehension and left all the farm stuff in. I think their only other large-ish problem is they took all the charm of James Spader but left in little of the menance. In trying to show he was so human they left out hold cold and uncaring of human life he is, and made it more he was a dotty old uncle lacking comprehension than malicious. Again, great casting, but character interpretation hurt.

            I think it’s also hurt by the fact that he’s just another robot, where what makes him more and extra scary is he’s made of adamantium. I still have no idea how he and Cap’s Shield (a vibranium-steel alloy that was the predecessor to adamantium) are stuck as vibranium and not that indestructible and FOX gets it for Wolverine. He may be the most famous guy with it but it was created for Ultron in an Avengers comic. Can’t believe the rights are linked to X-Men. At the very least it should be a shared term. Though it might be funny if Logan has unobtainium bones because they didn’t have the rights. How different things might have been.

        2. Whedon wasn’t “given the option by Marvel to cut out the expanded Thor vision (not Vision) stuff, or the farm stuff.” He was ordered, in no uncertain terms, to add the Thor stuff, and if he didn’t, they were going to cut the farm stuff. It wasn’t an “either/or” it was “Thor or neither.”

          There’s a really good Ultron movie in there, if you leave out all the random crap inserted to tie into the last three movies and serve the next three.

          I think the Black Widow stuff was misrepresented by the critics. Her story is not “I’m sterile and therefore a monster.” It was “they turned me into a monster, and since they also sterilized me, I don’t even get the small redemption of producing life to offset all the death I’ve caused.” Her infertility is not why she’s a monster, it’s an added tragedy on top of it.

          1. M-Wolverine

            I think you’re misreading what he said-

            “The dreams were not an executive favorite either — the dreams, the farmhouse, these were things I fought to keep … With the cave, it really turned into: they pointed a gun at the farm’s head and said, “Give us the cave, or we’ll take out the farm,” — in a civilized way. I respect these guys, they’re artists, but that’s when it got really, really unpleasant.”

            http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/05/joss-whedon-fight-marvel-studio/amp

          1. Le Messor

            I’ve made the comment irl that I’ve noticed that whenever I complain about anything in the movies (and I do, I’m a serial whinger), there are people who will say ‘But it’s from the comics!’ – and they invariably point to Ultimate U.

            I’ve also noticed that whenever I complain about anything in Ultimate U, somebody will say ‘But that was in the MCU movies you love so much!’.

            And the things I’m complaining about are always the same things, whichever of the two they’re in.
            (Full disclosure: Hawkeye’s hidden family is not one of them. I don’t have a problem with it – but that’s not because UU did it!)

          2. I agree; I hated Ultimate X-Men with the fire of a thousand suns, and thought Ultimates was bleak and soulless and existed only to inflict pain on its characters. I liked Ultimate Spider-Man right up to the moment they dragged the rest of the Ultimate world into it; when SHIELD showed up, I dropped the book like it was hot.

  4. Pol Rua

    Yeah, sure, Iron Fist has a problem with the whole ‘Magic Whitey’ archetype.
    But here’s the deal…

    If you’re a creative person who’s working on an Iron Fist TV series, it’s Your Job to find a way around that. That’s LITERALLY part of your job. Use your imagination and your creativity to resolve problems so that they work as part of a compelling narrative.

    Throwing up your hands and just giving up because things are ‘Too Hard’?
    If it’s ‘Too Hard’, then either you’re not creative enough, or you’re just being a lazy thinker.
    There are people working in coal mines or factories. But your job of telling an exciting story about a magical kung fu superhero is “too hard”? Seriously?

  5. Jeff Nettleton

    Haven’t seen Iron Fist; but, having read some of the marketing stuff, it seemed clear they were going to miss what made the character interesting, to me. On the one hand, the character was created to ride the coattails of the Kung Fu tv series, which at least presented a mixed-race hero (even if the make-up didn’t quite succeed). Leaving that aside, the character worked best, for me, when it was a mixture of kung fu movie and pulp adventure, as in the Matt Fraction Immortal Iron Fist. At least following the pulp version, you can sort of justify the white guy; and, you can throw in some interesting Asian and other ethnic characters.

    I agree that the properties that have succeeded have spent their time on getting the big stuff right. i think you can expand that beyond just comic books to include things like Indiana Jones. Lucas & Spielberg captured the thrills of the movie serials that inspired the film and the pulp heroes who inspired the serials, that inspired the film. They gave it a modern sheen, especially in the relationship; but, they were true to the classic adventure beats. Literary adaptations also fall into this; if you get the character and the themes right, you usually get forgiven for taking liberties with plot. I always felt the Jack Ryan movies (the Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin ones) were superior to the books because they threw out the excessive padding and stripped them down to the essential plot and worked on expanding the character. Clancy wasn’t a character guy and he knew squat about the real military; but, he read a lot of Janes Defense. You don’t have time for that in movies; just establish the technology, show that the people involved are professionals in how they use it, and focus on the characters as they move through the plot.

    Getting back to reverence, one of the reasons that Christopher Reeve worked so well is that he had a reverence for the essence of Superman and put himself into the character. he carried himself with the same quiet confidence that you would expect of Superman. he is the last person to wear the suit who didn’t look self-conscious.

    1. “Getting back to reverence, one of the reasons that Christopher Reeve worked so well is that he had a reverence for the essence of Superman and put himself into the character. he carried himself with the same quiet confidence that you would expect of Superman. he is the last person to wear the suit who didn’t look self-conscious.”

      Absolutely. Whenever somebody makes the same old tired argument about a faithful superhero costume looking silly on film, I always point to Reeve. All you need is an actor who will wear the costume with conviction, and a script that doesn’t make jokes about it.

      Would you make a western that constantly made jokes about how silly cowboy hats look? Of course not. So why make a superhero film that makes fun of superhero costumes? If you present it as credible within that world and resist the urge to mock it, audiences will buy it.

      1. Le Messor

        The problem there is, there are people actually making superhero movies for people who hate superheroes, and not seeing the flaw.

        The same thing’s been happening to the fantasy genre lately, from what I’ve been seeing.

      1. Jeff Nettleton

        You can add West & Ward; they, more than anyone, had a right to be self-conscious, given the nature of the show; but, they went all in and it helped sell the jokes and still create exciting adventure, for those too young to get the jokes.

  6. frasersherman

    I actually don’t see “white guy” as an essential part of Danny Rand’s story at all. They could still have the same story with an Asian American lead (I should note I’ve only seen the pilot)–yes, it would be stereotypical, but at least it would be stereotypical with more representation.
    Based on Ep1, I don’t think they’re reverent at all. I expected some wild martial arts action, the Iron Fist, etc. Instead it’s just a rather dull soap (I’m on board for the run, but I’m inclined to believe all the people who say it doesn’t improve) with lots of uninspired corporate intrigue.

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