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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


As noted in my last essay I thought of writing a long piece on the notion of "critical standards" that Matt Zoller Seitz raised but did not demonstrate that he understood. But since I've now read Tom Spurgeon's reactions to the Seitz piece, I'm just going to open fire on some of the fish he was kind enough to offer.

"The strongest part of Seitz's essay comes out of the simple fact that he pays superhero films the respect of holding them to a high standard."-- I might agree with the possibility of someone, somewhere managing to do so. Since Seitz doesn't even begin to articulate standards, beyond his praise for the "rainbow spectrum" of zombie movies, I don't see Seitz's bare assertion of standards as anything but empty rhetoric.

"Then Again, Many Superhero Films Also Fail To Meet Most Low Standards"

Nonsense. The fact that most superhero films in recent years have made excellent-to-respectable money demonstrates that they did, in fact, meet the low standards of the audiences, who often do want nothing more of such films than what Seitz calls "their capacity to kill two hours and change." It would certainly be correct for Tom to say that the films have not met what he considers to be *his* lowest possible standards, by which (for instance) he judges that "all the superhero movie fight scenes combined make a poor cousin to the hallway brawl in Oldboy or even the casino fight in Kung Fu Hustle."

Sidebar: KUNG FU HUSTLE? Really? Yukk.

"Very few emerging film genres have made this kind of money while offering so very little in terms of quality construction, let alone art."

Two words: disaster films. Beside either the earliest or more recent moneymakers in this genre, HELLBOY comes off like a freaking Hegelian tract.

"To return to our original example, Fantastic Four isn't an all-time great comic book because it's about *family* or *exploring* -- give me a break! -- it's a great comic book because Stan Lee is a funny and inventive writer and Jack Kirby had one of the great visual imaginations of the last 100 years and exercised it constantly."

While I don't disagree with the argument that the FF films are incredibly mediocre, the core of the FANTASTIC FOUR comic's success cannot be seen apart from its representation of the dynamics faux superhero family. The exciting stuff was there, but it wasn't the main attraction, as it might've been for (say) CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN, which title managed to keep going for almost ten years even w/o Kirby's visual imagination.

"One of the reasons a lot of people grow tired of superheroes as comics readers is because it's a relatively narrow genre that's harder than many to connect to some sort of human experience."

"Human experience" is a loaded phrase. If it means what Tom sardonically referred to as *exploring,* then no, superheroes will probably never be as adept at audience-identification as are, say, the films about the "stone cold killers partnered with daffy blonds" that Tom also mentions. But "human experience" also takes in a wider range of thoughts and emotions than one gets from sitting around BS-ing about relationships (which is one of the attitudes that kills the two FANTASTIC FOUR films for me). Maybe in a future essay I'll enlarge on the reasons why I think why superhero films, like their cousins in the pure-fantasy and pure-SF genres, can tap and have often tapped that range--

And why said superdude films have often done much better in that range than Seitz' beloved zombie films.

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