Friday, October 5, 2012
Opinion Time: Are Damaged Goods Heroes Over?
I'm a 100 pages from finishing Jane, so I'll have my review up soon. But here's some food for thought for this Friday.
I have just read an article on the Guardian's web site where the writer was talking about the upcoming Man of Steel and how a recent comment by the film's writer David S. Goyer hints that Superman will not be a dark, brooding character, despite the involvement of Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2012/oct/05/superman-man-of-steel-time. One of the major points brought up was that this year's biggest superhero film wasn't Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises but Joss Whedon's light and comedic The Avengers and how the landscape for the superhero has once again changed. It raises the question-are audiences done with brooding heroes and ready to embrace heroes who don't refuse the adventure? If the box office success of The Avengers and the poor US box office take of the recent Dredd are any indications than possibly yes.
And I'm sure you know where this is heading in reference to this blog. One of the biggest debates concerning John Carter was Andrew Stanton's stated decision to take Edgar Rice Burroughs' character (who Stanton dismissed in an interview as a "vanilla" do-gooder) and make him more "relatable" to audiences by turning him into a "damaged goods" hero. A hero who is reluctant to help. Or as he says in the film "It's not my problem." Now it is debatable how much of that had any impact on the box office but-if you look at how much has been written about it-the gloomy tone of the first trailer with Peter Gabriel's moody cover of "My Body is a Cage" and the shots of a depressed looking Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins definitely didn't inspire the buzz the film needed to succeed.
The issue for me with John Carter was how Stanton went too far with his "damaged goods" approach. The character's constant reluctance to help, his stated selfish goal only to return to his cave of gold-all of that began to wear on me as a viewer. Probably the biggest moment where this misfired was after the "Warhoon slaughter as Grief Counseling" sequence where-despite telling Dejah he was late before but won't be again-what does he do? He refuses to help her. Yep, he's all sorry that she has to marry that jerk Sab Than but he has his cave and his own dead wife and kid to mope over and her-and Barsoom's-problems are not his. This flew in the face of Burroughs' original character, a man who risked his own life to save Dejah over and over again, from the Tharks, the Warhoons, from marrying Sab Than...that was the character that has lasted for a 100 years and no one had a problem with him before. Except Andrew Stanton it seems.
The writer of the above mentioned piece makes an interesting statement that while he appreciates the approach that Nolan took with Batman, that Superman is different. Yes give him depth but don't remove the joy of being a man who can fly, a man who can save the world. Stanton missed that with John Carter and if The Avengers proved anything it's that people want their heroes and a good time at the movies. So here's the question: Do you think John Carter would have done better with a more pro-active and less reluctant damaged hero? Take a moment and ask yourself who would you want to be, Burroughs or Stanton's Carter and you'll have your answer.