Monday, December 5, 2011

Origin Schmorigin

I’m a sucker for superhero movies. Not all of them**, but if they’re even remotely entertaining, I’ll give them a chance. Let me clarify: mainstream superhero movies, like Spider-man 2 or The Dark Knight*—I’m not a fan of the hyper-realistic, hyper-violent sub-genre, like Super or Kick-ass. I don’t need trumped up morality tales or movies trying to subvert the genre. I just want a halfway decent popcorn movie, like this year’s Thor or Captain America.

The reason I write all of this is because I just watched The Green Hornet. It was terrible; this is not new information. Every review I read said as much, but I figured that maybe Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen had created something starkly new, which oftentimes means that it is initially rejected by the masses.

Masses 1
Gondry & Rogen 0

The main problem was that the creators never defined what type of movie they wanted it to be. One minute it wanted to be a super cool action movie with video game effects and the next it was a slapstick farce with action scenes that would make the 3 Stooges blush.

And the shame of it is that the movie could have been a compelling statement on violence and vigilantism***.

There’s a scene early on when the Green Hornet and Kato instinctively run from the police, but end up running the police car into another car, resulting in a fiery crash. At that moment, they cheer. But what if they had stopped and thought, “Oh crap. We just hurt a police officer who was just trying to do his job?” Seth Rogen’s character is supposedly a billionaire and yet we hear nothing about his efforts to rectify the consequences of his actions.

Which got me to thinking: I’m done with origin stories. Origin stories are passive. Things happen to the hero instead of the hero making things happen. I don’t care so much about the “why” as much as the “what”.

Which in turn caused me to remember a stunningly original comic book mini-series I collected in my youth: Marvels. The first thing that struck me was Alex Ross’s photorealistic artwork. But after that, it was the story. Instead of following the story from the hero’s perspective, we follow a newspaper photographer, who bears witness to these goliaths as they crash into and intrude on the lives of everyday citizens. Each of their conflicts results in both positive and negative consequences and most of the victims know little to none about “why” Spider-man decided to choose a red and blue color scheme over black****. It was a bold take on a host of classic good vs. evil stories.

I just wish there was a filmmaker in Hollywood brave enough to tell a conventional superhero story in an unconventional manner. Because if there was, they’d be my hero.

*Yes, both are sequels.
**I’m looking at you, Daredevil, Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four. 
***Yes, I get that I just said I didn’t want that from a Superhero movie.
****That was a nerd test. You failed if you got the reference.