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After this, which exciting new Tut University course are you looking forwards to the most?

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Author Topic: Why Marvel is Destroying America: Taught by Professor Tutweiller  (Read 2668 times)

Tut

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All right, Neville wants me to talk a little more about this thread's general premise, so although I think that's a little premature given that this course ain't even half-over yet, I'm gonna go over that a bit in this installment. So far I've taken a look at this franchise's fundamental misunderstanding of humor, its mediocre performances, its overstuffed stories, and its lack of themes or morals. Now it's time to move on to the visual aspects of these movies in a lesson I'm going to call...

Lesson #5: It's So Dense; Every Image Has So Much Going On

You should be impressed that I made it this far in my class before making a Mr. Plinkett reference, but given the general structure of these essays (and the comparisons I'm going to make in this installment), it could not be put off any longer. For those of you who don't watch RedLetterMedia regularly, this lesson's titular quote is attributed to Rick McCallum, one of the producers for the Star Wars prequels. That quote has become a meme of sorts due to Mike Stoklasa's reviews of the prequels, and it really exemplifies how little the people who made those movies understand what constitutes good visuals. You don't need "So Much Going On" in every single frame of the movie. You don't need to assault the audience with endless barrages of computer-generated crap like this. Prequel deriders know that if you render an entire movie in a fucking computer, the product is going to come out looking sterile and ugly. Hell, the url for that image says "Bad Star Wars prequel CGI." People hate those stupid-ass prequels because of things like the image above. They just look fake.

So why is it that when confronted by Marvel movies, those same people will say "Well, they're just action movies. They're only supposed to be fun, nothing more." Excuse me? I may be a soulless asshole, but where's the fun in this?



Oh dear God! Stop! Please stop! Mercy!

Now, if humor is the most subjective thing there is to criticize in movies, action is a close second. I know we're not going to reach some kind of consensus on what constitutes good and bad action. But I also knew we weren't going to reach a consensus when I wrote the first lesson in this thread, regarding the humor of juxtaposition. So the point of my argument here isn't necessarily that this action scene from Lee Daniels' Marvel's Disney's The Avengers: Rise of the Return of the Dark of the Moon is objectively bad. My point is that, just like Marvel's use of humor, it's objectively lazy.

I find that the more things a movie has to throw at you to hold your attention, the less it actually succeeds in doing so. That might not be true in every case, but it's a good baseline to start from. You don't need an explosion or a robot in every corner of the frame for every second of the movie's climax. Sometimes you need things to calm down for a minute. You can use these quiet moments to build tension, to establish how the characters are feeling in this moment of peril-- any number of things. Constructing action is an art. It takes skill, just like any other kind of filmmaking. And contrary to popular belief, there are good and bad ways to do it. Not all action is just "fun."

The human eye can only keep track of so many things. That's why intelligent filmmakers will use subtle cues to direct your attention toward the part of the frame they want you to look at. And when I say "intelligent filmmakers," I don't mean Stanley Kubrick or David Fincher-- it would be unfair to compare a Marvel movie to their filmmaking. No, I'm just talking about people who can pull off successful action sequences. Sam Raimi. James Cameron. John Woo. Hell, even Zack Snyder manages the occasional well-thought-out camera angle from time to time. Do you see how low we've sunk here? I'm being forced to compliment Zack Snyder in order to make my point. Sweet Jesus, it's like we're in the bizarro world here.

Sticking CGI garbage in every corner of the screen, like in that godforsaken scene above, is a way of purposely preventing the viewer from focusing on any particular thing that's happening in the movie. This is my problem with any of those "montage" sequences in Marvel's fights, and it's definitely not just Age of Ultron that does this. Civil War, TASM 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and Thor are all perfect examples of Marvel falling back onto cluttered, incomprehensible visuals at one point or another in order to distract from their movie's soulless, blackened core.



When you take this kind of lazy action and compare to to even the worst fight scenes by those directors I mentioned earlier (excluding The Hack), it just doesn't hold up. You can throw however many video-game visuals and computer-generated crap in my face you want, but I'm not gonna enjoy it. I'd compare it to constructing a painting. Great painters know how to divide up their paintings to direct the viewer's attention to certain things, using their understanding of geometry and how the human eye works as guides. They don't turn every available inch of the canvas into utter chaos. That's how you end up with a painting that looks like a big fat meaningless blob.

Sound familiar? (Epilepsy trigger warning)



That's it! I'm gonna throw up! Stop the ride, I wanna get off!

Why is this hurting American filmmaking, and to a broader extent, American culture? Well, this is the problem with CGI. One of the reasons I love Star Trek: TOS is because it represents art from adversity. Given minimal budgets and almost no opportunity for astounding special effects, Star Trek managed to create a wonderful space adventure packed with fleshed-out characters, intelligent writing, humor that actually involves setup and payoff, and worthy morals/themes. The restrictions were built into the show fundamentally, and given what they had to work with, it's fair to say that everyone involved contributed to an absolute masterpiece.

Fast-forward now to the Age of Marvel. I'm sorry, but when you can create anything you want on a computer and slap it onscreen, it hurts your art. It all comes back to restraint, something Marvel has not bothered to demonstrate they're capable of since they made Iron Man in 2008. The overall trend is downwards, people. These movies are getting increasingly chaotic, jumbled, and colorful. From a fanboy's perspective, that's a good thing. From the perspective of even a mildly critical moviegoer... it most certainly is not.

And on a deeper level, these films appeal directly to the audience's Id. The desire to see nonstop explosions and robot-punching stems from a childlike need for instant gratification. If you watch a movie and want to see a lot of things go boom, you only want the plot to be fleshed-out enough in order to move the film from one action scene to the next. Movies like Age of Ultron are made to appeal to people's basest instincts. Herd 'em into the theater, stuff 'em with popcorn, show 'em pretty things, herd 'em out, and mop up afterwards. I've said it before and I'll say it again: No one should like these movies but not the Transformers films. There's a "two sides, same coin" saying that comes to mind.

I know that this constant fueling of the most primitive parts of people's minds hurts their attention spans. That's not up for discussion. My thesis here is that when people's attention spans decrease, movies get worse.

If you think I'm wrong, consider this: The fact that people enjoy these movies so much only encourages the filmmakers to strip down the plot and story further. I don't think there's a single scene in Age of Ultron that isn't either an action sequence or obvious plot-pushing. So if you want to research this a little, rewatch the Raimi Spider-Man films. There are a few charming scenes in those movies between Peter and his landlord's daughter that serve to give neither exposition nor explosions. They're just quiet little moments between real humans that make the movie's world feel real. They make us care about our main character because they show him engaging in normal human activities-- not just talking technobabble and punching aliens. In short, those little details from the best superhero movies bring an emotional investment into the movie that no amount of computers and boom-booms can possibly replicate.

Now tell me if there's anything like that in Age of Dulltron.

Class dismissed.
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Honestly, I don't see how this complaints applies to Civil War.

That movie had some awesome, non-team of humans versus CGI armies action sequences.

And it wasn't a ton of crap thrown on the screen, it was actual hand to hand combat, humans fighting humans. The same can be said for The Winter Soldier.

Tut

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Honestly, I don't see how this complaints applies to Civil War.

That movie had some awesome, non-team of humans versus CGI armies action sequences.

And it wasn't a ton of crap thrown on the screen, it was actual hand to hand combat, humans fighting humans. The same can be said for The Winter Soldier.

Do you mean shrinking man fighting witch fighting Russian sleeper cell agent fighting African stereotype fighting human/arachnid hybrid fighting billionaire fighting two token black dudes fighting brainwashed Nazi assassin fighting Dr. Manhattan rip-off fighting Jeremy Renner?

The One Who Lurks

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Now tell me if there's anything like that in Age of Dulltron.

The party scene comes to mind.

Tut

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Now tell me if there's anything like that in Age of Dulltron.

The party scene comes to mind.

You mean the party scene I compared to Keeping Up With the Kardashians in lesson #2? Let me walk you through the thought process behind that scene:

"We need a love story. Let's have Scarlett Johansson fall in love with Bruce Banner for no reason. We need a cool location for when Ultron starts blowing things up. Let's stick that scene in the penthouse. We need a Stan Lee cameo. Let's stick him in there too. Most importantly, we need a few easy-to-write jokes to cram in the movie in order to trick the audience into thinking it has a soul. I've got it! Let's merge all of these things together into one scene so we don't have to waste people's time with too much boring character stuff before we can get to the robot-punching! Brilliant!"

Edit: Actually, it's moot anyway. The question was about whether we got to see our main characters engage in relatable human activities at any point. Cocktail parties with your superhero and supermodel friends don't count. I was expecting someone to bring up Hawkeye's story in the movie, which would have fit the bill here if it wasn't such an obvious response to people's complaints about how little he had to do in the previous films. Kinda funny, honestly.

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Age of Ultron gets worse the more I think about it. Really dreading giving it a rewatch.

Guardians of the Galaxy is forever awesome, though. Can't convert me on that one.
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Tut

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Also, Neville, sorry if I was a dick on the last page. I guess Cutler got me all riled up after his utter destruction of John.

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Also, Neville, sorry if I was a dick on the last page. I guess Cutler got me all riled up after his utter destruction of John.

I feel bad for calling John a retard.  I still stand by what I say, but I feel like I should've been more civil with my response
goodbye!

Robert Neville

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Also, Neville, sorry if I was a dick on the last page. I guess Cutler got me all riled up after his utter destruction of John.

That's fine. And I brought up Air Force One simply because it happened to be on recently and I thought it made for a good example of what the rule, rather than exception, was for the blockbusters at the time. I knew that since I haven't seen it in full, I couldn't give it a rating, and so I didn't, and unlike Paasche.


However, I'll run the risk of repeating myself later on in order to respond to this comment of yours. I'm not comparing these movies to the sci-fi crap of the 50s because those were not "blockbusters" in the modern definition. I'm comparing them to the golden age of blockbuster filmmaking-- The Terminator, Jaws, Robocop, etc. Do you really think those movies could be released today and still be as successful as they were originally? Granted, that's an oversimplification that doesn't factor in any number of variables, but I still don't think that in the modern film climate, we will see another movie like Robocop get made-- and if it were made, Marvel audiences would think it was boring and stupid.

What I'm getting at here is that Marvel has destroyed two key things that contribute to quality films being made-- audience's attention spans and restraint. If you're okay with that, I probably won't be able to convince you of my thesis. But I don't think anyone on here is going to be okay with that. I think it's an objective detriment to filmmaking.

Well, here's something important, though. None of the three bolded examplesactually had anything like what we would call a modern blockbuster budget, even if we double, or perhaps triple, them to account for the inflation. Moreover, out of the three, only Jaws had what we would now call blockbuster-level returns. (As an example, here are the grosses of first Star Wars. More to the point, perhaps, here's a mediocre Bond film easily outgrossing both Robocop and Terminator with the domestic box office.) What this shows, I think, is that a lot of what you call "golden age of blockbuster filmaking" wasn't actually that successful at the time, either. It was cultural memory that let some of these films be remembered for longer (and in Terminator's case, a far less restrained, and far more commercially successful, sequel to truly cement its place in cinematic history) while the Bond films of the time, say,are rarely watched and now only thought of as a passing chunk of cinematic history. I think the same will happen to MCU in 20 years' time, while people will actually be looking back and think that Edge of Tomorrow was the true example of what 2014 filmaking was about. It might be a little optimistic, but I would say the preliminary historical data leans in that direction.
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Tut

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Well, here's something important, though. None of the three bolded examplesactually had anything like what we would call a modern blockbuster budget, even if we double, or perhaps triple, them to account for the inflation. Moreover, out of the three, only Jaws had what we would now call blockbuster-level returns. (As an example, here are the grosses of first Star Wars. More to the point, perhaps, here's a mediocre Bond film easily outgrossing both Robocop and Terminator with the domestic box office.) What this shows, I think, is that a lot of what you call "golden age of blockbuster filmaking" wasn't actually that successful at the time, either. It was cultural memory that let some of these films be remembered for longer (and in Terminator's case, a far less restrained, and far more commercially successful, sequel to truly cement its place in cinematic history) while the Bond films of the time, say,are rarely watched and now only thought of as a passing chunk of cinematic history. I think the same will happen to MCU in 20 years' time, while people will actually be looking back and think that Edge of Tomorrow was the true example of what 2014 filmaking was about. It might be a little optimistic, but I would say the preliminary historical data leans in that direction.

All true. I will say this, though-- my negative feelings about the state of blockbuster filmmaking have been amplified greatly by the output this year. It depends on how you define "blockbuster," but I think that by most estimations I've seen 13 "blockbuster" films this year. Of those, only one reached the positive end of the spectrum for me, and that was Finding Dory (I don't know if we should really call a kid's animated movie a blockbuster given the wildly different demographic it's appealing to as opposed to, say, 13 Hours). I definitely felt that we were on a downward trend in previous years, but never has it seemed so bad as it does in 2016. You can call it an outlier, maybe. I just call it the logical continuation of the direction I think action/adventure movies are going in.

The thing is, bad blockbusters have always existed, but I've never gotten the sense that they actually pushed quality blockbusters out of the mainstream. Sure, maybe Octopussy was stupid, but great movies like Scarface were still able to make money in the climate of the era. Hell, the very next year saw the release of Ghostbusters. But when I see the list of "movies to look forward to" over the next three years, and literally everything is either a sequel, prequel, remake, or reboot, yeah, I get a little depressed. You can make comparisons to the 80s and 90s all you want, but the truth is that the emergence of franchises like Transformers and the MCU is simply unprecedented. Never before have we seen such a dearth of originality in blockbuster filmmaking. And I know a lot of people agree with me.

Edge of Tomorrow does make me a little optimistic. Maybe we're just in a slump right now. But again, this class isn't called "Marvel WILL destroy America." It's "Marvel is destroyING America." It's just an analysis of the path we're going down. Things could change. My dire predictions may not all turn out to be accurate. But I still stand by my pessimistic worldview.

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2014 was a pretty great year for summer blockbusters, tbh.  Aside from the obvious outliers like TASM 2, Trans4mers, and TMNT, we got great stuff like Neighbors, Godzilla, Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which I heard good things about but haven't seen), Dawn of the Planet of the Rise of the War of the Planet of the Apes, and Guardians of the Galaxy.  This is also in addition to all of the smaller films like Boyhood.
Goodbye!

Tut

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2014 was a pretty great year for summer blockbusters, tbh.  Aside from the obvious outliers like TASM 2, Trans4mers, and TMNT, we got great stuff like Neighbors, Godzilla, Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which I heard good things about but haven't seen), Dawn of the Planet of the Rise of the War of the Planet of the Apes, and Guardians of the Galaxy.  This is also in addition to all of the smaller films like Boyhood.

I tend to not count things like 22 Jump Street and Neighbors when talking "blockbusters." They may have made a lot of money, but they have almost no cultural impact in the long run. Even if Neighbors was some kind of cinematic masterpiece (I haven't seen it, but I doubt that it was), it did nothing to stem the tide of the Marvel phenomenon.

Aside from that, I notice that all of these movies aside from Neighbors-- even quality films like Edge of Tomorrow and Godzilla-- are based on previously established properties. Let's be fair and remove EOT from that list though, because I don't think it follows the novel it's based on that closely, and the novel wasn't a cultural watershed anyway. Those two factors combined tell me that the filmmakers took a bit of a risk with the movie, and it paid off (at least from a critical perspective).

Let's look at the others though. An animated sequel and a stupid comedy sequel. Two Marvel properties. And two reboots/sequels to properties that had already been established decades ago. This is what I'm talking about when I say "a dearth of originality," and I'll cover it a little more in my next installment. Basically though, because Marvel can deliver crazy stories about Nazis and aliens and excuse it by saying "It's just based on the comics," it's becoming increasingly difficult for filmmakers to establish action films that can compete with Marvel in terms of appealing to the sheeple while still maintaining narrative sense. Rather than try to fight the unstoppable juggernaut of comic book movies, they instead decide to reboot and remake past properties so they can get right to the action without having to explain the premise to the audience.

Godzilla '14 avoided this for the most part. I like that movie a lot because it shows restraint. So what did people say about it? "The fuck, we only saw Godzilla for 20 minutes? That's stupid!" Uh, it's called constructing a movie, you idiots. So yeah, you can see why I'd be pessimistic.

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I'm still mad that Tomorrowland got panned and flopped.  It was an original movie that I thought was very good, but no one saw it.
Goodbye!

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Also, Neville, sorry if I was a dick on the last page. I guess Cutler got me all riled up after his utter destruction of John.
I knew that since I haven't seen it in full, I couldn't give it a rating, and so I didn't, and unlike Paasche.
Oh fuck you. Well, not really you specifically but everyone who keeps falsifying that story. All I said was that it was worse than one of my five favorite movies ever. I didn't give a rating, everyone just keeps saying that to make the whole thing sound worse.

Tut

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Also, Neville, sorry if I was a dick on the last page. I guess Cutler got me all riled up after his utter destruction of John.
I knew that since I haven't seen it in full, I couldn't give it a rating, and so I didn't, and unlike Paasche.
Oh fuck you. Well, not really you specifically but everyone who keeps falsifying that story. All I said was that it was worse than one of my five favorite movies ever. I didn't give a rating, everyone just keeps saying that to make the whole thing sound worse.

Hey Paasche, can I still give Suicide Squad a score even if I haven't seen all ten cuts of it?
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Kale Pasta

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Also, Neville, sorry if I was a dick on the last page. I guess Cutler got me all riled up after his utter destruction of John.
I knew that since I haven't seen it in full, I couldn't give it a rating, and so I didn't, and unlike Paasche.
Oh fuck you. Well, not really you specifically but everyone who keeps falsifying that story. All I said was that it was worse than one of my five favorite movies ever. I didn't give a rating, everyone just keeps saying that to make the whole thing sound worse.

Hey Paasche, can I still give Suicide Squad a score even if I haven't seen all ten cuts of it?
Yes?

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I'm still mad that Tomorrowland got panned and flopped.  It was an original movie that I thought was very good, but no one saw it.
Part of the reason it bombed was because of its mediocrity. The word of mouth hurt it in this case.

While I didn't love the movie, I will say it didn't deserve to bomb as badly as it did.

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Although the effects of the Marvel formula in the industry of cinema are rather evident, we gotta take in consideration that such enterprise is constantly evolving in its stakes. Gone were the days of practical effects when CGI came aboard with hits such as Jurassic Park and T2 showing off the gimmick, and the industry, realizing that they stumbled upon a goldmine like they always do, started pumping out anything remotely close to a coherent movie. The mid 90's were plagued by shitty disaster films that their only purpose was to show off the effects and accomplish nothing else. Same could be said about the blockbusters all the way to the mid 2000's, with clear exceptions such as MIB or Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy (the Renaissance of superhero movies). The point I'm trying to make is that the trends are constantly changing to see what sticks or not. Look at the reboots from this year, for example. Ben-Hur flopped on opening day and Ghostbusters is probably not going to hit a breakout point in its box office. The logical point to go now is what the next hit will be. Look around, Age of Ultron didn't managed to outdo its predecessor in box office gains, and in the future people will mostly likely get sick of Marvel and move on, probably the best examples of this is in another medium, video games, with the CoD series. Three of its games managed to be the highest grossing openings in day one in history, also consecutively, but guess what? People got sick of the franchise because it played it very safely and every installment since has even less opening gross than the last one.

Also, Diego, if this is a supposed thesis of yours, theory, essay or whatever the fuck is this; it needs more proof about the impact of these movies have in the general public, or in this case, audience. A sampling would be a great start and maybe getting into the micro-economy stuff is also worth considering.
(^That last bit may be a bit unnecessary, but I don't care. I'm off to bed, have an economy test for tomorrow morning)
(P.S. Kisses in all the pinky parts for Cutler for reminding of how great the original Spider-Man trilogy was. Definitely gotta give it a rewatch in the future)

Tut

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Although the effects of the Marvel formula in the industry of cinema are rather evident, we gotta take in consideration that such enterprise is constantly evolving in its stakes. Gone were the days of practical effects when CGI came aboard with hits such as Jurassic Park and T2 showing off the gimmick, and the industry, realizing that they stumbled upon a goldmine like they always do, started pumping out anything remotely close to a coherent movie. The mid 90's were plagued by shitty disaster films that their only purpose was to show off the effects and accomplish nothing else. Same could be said about the blockbusters all the way to the mid 2000's, with clear exceptions such as MIB or Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy (the Renaissance of superhero movies). The point I'm trying to make is that the trends are constantly changing to see what sticks or not. Look at the reboots from this year, for example. Ben-Hur flopped on opening day and Ghostbusters is probably not going to hit a breakout point in its box office. The logical point to go now is what the next hit will be. Look around, Age of Ultron didn't managed to outdo its predecessor in box office gains, and in the future people will mostly likely get sick of Marvel and move on, probably the best examples of this is in another medium, video games, with the CoD series. Three of its games managed to be the highest grossing openings in day one in history, also consecutively, but guess what? People got sick of the franchise because it played it very safely and every installment since has even less opening gross than the last one.

Also, Diego, if this is a supposed thesis of yours, theory, essay or whatever the fuck is this; it needs more proof about the impact of these movies have in the general public, or in this case, audience. A sampling would be a great start and maybe getting into the micro-economy stuff is also worth considering.

Like I said, I'm not saying my predictions for the future of movies will come true. I'm just saying that this is the trend we're on right now. I know things change. I'm hoping they will. But from what I know about the history of filmmaking, it's never been this bad before.

(P.S. Kisses in all the pinky parts for Cutler for reminding of how great the original Spider-Man trilogy was. Definitely gotta give it a rewatch in the future)

Wat.
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(P.S. Kisses in all the pinky parts for Cutler for reminding of how great the original Spider-Man trilogy was. Definitely gotta give it a rewatch in the future)

Wat.
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