The announcement of a Superman/Batman movie yesterday morning and confirmed at Comic-Con is exactly the reason why cinema is hemorrhaging viewers, quality and general interest to television: no one honestly cares.
No, please do tell me how excited you are for the follow-up to “Man of Steel,” how long you’ve waited to see this mash-up finally happen, how Zack Snyder is by far the greatest choice to helm this sure to be new franchise and how whomever they eventually pick to play both Superman (will it still be Henry Cavill?) or Batman (will it be Christian Bale? Probably not. Maybe Joseph Gordon Levitt? Who knows?!) will somehow eventually be wrong.
I know you’re foaming at the mouth. I know you’re stoked. It’s great that you have something you’re passionate about. It’ll probably be good. It could even be great!
But the fact is, this movie is a hype and dollar machine. As has been true of nearly every Hollywood tent pole comic book franchise, the hype and speculation is greater than the movie is actually interesting, and it will evaporate as soon as the next one is announced, which will be post-credits.
I haven’t counted to be sure, but I have probably seen fewer major Hollywood releases this summer than in any year since I started seriously writing as a movie critic. Chalk that up to me being an adult and not a college student with all the free time, but at the end of the day, I simply no longer care.
I do not care about “Man of Steel.” I do not care about “Pacific Rim.” I do not care about “The Lone Ranger” or “White House Down” or “The Hangover Part 3” or “Fast & Furious 6,” and I will not care about “The Wolverine,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Kick-Ass 2” or “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” even if I end up seeing them.
Why? These have talented directors and stars attached. They could be above average. They could be fun enough to be worth my 10 bucks or yours.
But like a chocolate bar you quickly scarf down, they are immediately thrown away and forgotten such that you’ll grab for another. They have no sustaining value or reason to exist other than because they fill a void and enough people will buy them.
The ones that do have something more, like “The Dark Knight” or “Spiderman 2” and possibly one of these others I’ve mentioned, will live forever, but they will be persistently rebooted and spun-off until that initial appeal has lost all its credibility.
I have read more than enough articles this summer discussing how “Man of Steel,” “Iron Man 3,” “World War Z” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” invoke 9/11 imagery. I have read articles that decry the state of women in the movies. These movies are not out of the cultural discussion, but none of them are interested in discussing the ideas presented in the movies, only the face they put out to the world.
Like “The Avengers” before all these, a movie that did match its level of hype with sheer dollars, they are movies that are more interesting to discuss than they are to watch. The hype matters more than the criticism or the movie itself.
The movies are surviving right now because the movies still feel like an event. To announce a Superman/Batman movie is still more of a monumental event than it is to say a TV series on the same subject will be produced around it.
But the product itself for television matters more to the masses than the same for the movies. No one knew The Red Wedding on “Game of Thrones” was coming, and look at the fervor that created in the aftermath. All it will take for the tide to shift to TV is for the opening night premiere of a show or individual episode of just one show to have more hype and importance than an equivalent blockbuster, and people will stop caring.
No one will see “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” or this as of yet Superman/Batman monstrosity, or an individual origin story on the next as of yet untapped product, be it The Flash, Wonder Woman or the Justice League. The product itself doesn’t matter, and it especially won’t matter if the hype moves elsewhere.
I still love the movies more than TV because the movies that mattered to me this summer, like “Before Midnight,” “The Bling Ring,” “Fruitvale Station,” “This is the End” and more, will be ones I’ll be talking about long after the credits roll, and I’m not alone.
But the movies that are generating the buzz and excitement are not the cinema I know or love. And regardless of how big this Superman and Batman movie gets, it won’t be the cinema you love either if things don’t change now.