Tag Archives: Edward Norton

What lessons will Hollywood learn from ‘Deadpool’?

ANYONE REMEMBER two really unremarkable Hulk movies in the last 15 years or so?

Ang Lee had an interesting idea to do the Hulk as more of a character study back in 2003, but for some reason decided to intersperse that with actual comic book devices, turning the film into an insufferably serious mess that was periodically interrupted by out-of-place comic book structure. Then Ed Norton got in on the act, wresting control from director Louis Leterrier to turn the latest Hulk film into an example of superhero films at their worst: A few great moments, but generally long, bloated and, again, too self-serious.

So what did Hollywood learn from these two Hulk movies? That you can’t sell a Hulk movie.

Bullshit.

THE PROOF? DEADPOOL. For years, Ryan Reynolds and others fought to get a Deadpool standlone that stayed true to the brash, foul, quippy character that Deadpool is. To do that, an R rating was required. To which Hollywood, in all its wisdom, said, “No, no, no. Won’t ever work. Has to be PG or PG-13 for the kiddies.”

And what happened? Reynolds and his backers stuck to their guns, managed to find financing and kicked Hollywood critical and box office ass.

Deadpool didn’t make money because it appealed to key demographics. Deadpool didn’t make money because it had a big star in it. Deadpool didn’t get good ratings because it had something for everyone. Why did it work?

Deadpool made money because the filmmakers didn’t water down Deadpool, which Hollywood wanted, but no comic fan or moviegoer did. Period.

What was Hollywood’s response to this? To talk about adding 20-plus minutes to Batman Vs. Superman, minutes that would change the rating from PG-13 to R.

Sigh.

Hollywood, adding 20 minutes to give a movie a harder rating doesn’t make the movie better. It generally just makes a movie longer. And in the case of Batman Vs. Superman, it makes a pretty mediocre already-too-long movie longer, which really doesn’t help.

Unfortunately, we can now expect a bunch of R-rated superhero films in the future. Because this is how Hollywood thinks. Excuse me, “thinks.” It worked once, now let’s do the same thing over and over again. Which is why we already have five Spider-Man movies, three unfortunate attempts at The Punisher and three Fantastic Four flicks that we’d rather forget about.

LESSON NUMBER TWO HOLLYWOOD should have learned was one about advertising. The public service announcement above is perfect for the character. Deadpool is preoccupied by sex and bodily functions in general, and while you get the tongue-in-cheek character yacking goofily about boobies, you also get a serious message about breast cancer. There’s another one for testicular cancer, as well, done in a similar vein.

Let me be clear: I don’t want to see Jason Bourne giving me advice on diabetes care, or Kylo Ren discussing the finer points of detecting radon in our homes. This works for the character, much like the unique emojis created for Deadpool leading up to the film or Ryan Reynolds “interview” with Mario Lopez where Deadpool attacks Lopez mid-interview. The marketers took the character and ran with it, in interesting, inventive, hilarious ways. They understood the character Deadpool and played to his strengths, rather than just slap trailers up all over TV and the Internet with maybe the requisite “win a trip to the premiere” contest or endorsements.

For those who were already fans of Deadpool, it kept them salivating in anticipation for the film. For those who couldn’t tell Deadpool from a swimming pool, those folks had any number of opportunities to familiarize themselves with the merc with a mouth and decide for themselves whether the film was worthy of they’re hard-earned dollars.

Bravo, Deadpool folks. Now it’s Hollywood’s turn to learn from this film. Unfortunately, the odds are not ever in our favor that this will happen.

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‘Avengers’ films stand alone

You'd think, at some point, the military would figure out that shooting bullets at the Hulk really doesn't help. At All.

You’d think, at some point, the world’s soldiers and military leaders would figure out that shooting bullets at the Hulk really doesn’t help. At all.

I won’t go in to the long and the short of Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s worth watching and better than the first. As I look at the films from the Marvel-verse – not counting the Sony flicks – the two Avengers films stand out from the pack. I think it comes down to two things:

JOSS WHEDON: ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTE. The mind behind a whole lotta great shows has made that work on the big screen. Whedon understands ensemble drama better than most in Hollywood right now. Avengers worked because it was about people with god-like powers figuring out how to relate on a human level. Ultron works because while there are relationships in place and certain concessions have been made (e.g. Captain America is now the acknowledged leader of The Avengers), the happy chatter and synchronized ass-kicking mask the fact that there’s still a general lack of trust among our heroes, which almost breaks apart the group from within. Whedon makes it look effortless. If it was, everyone would be doing it. And they’re not. I find it a little bit sad that Whedon won’t be behind the camera for the third/fourth Avengers flicks, but I look forward to seeing what else he does with his time (including a rumored project with Warren Ellis).

THE HULK. It’s sad that Ang Lee had to make such a horrible Hulk movie, and that Edward Norton just didn’t quite work in the Hulk re-boot, because Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is dying for a stand-alone. Ruffalo is a far better Banner than Eric Bana ever was, and he reveals a dark sense of humor lacking from Norton’s portrayal. The way Ruffalo has become sort of an ever-willing confidante and co-worker of Tony Stark has added dimension to the role, and having he and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow start to fall in love with each other was a minor stroke of brilliance, adding yet another ripple in the Hulk’s hard-luck story. Ruffalo’s less-than-jolly green giant also looms over both Avengers flicks, the violent chaos that none of the heroes can stop should it be unleashed, uncontrolled. The “other guy” is always there, in the back of everyone’s minds, a force that no one wants to think about, yet alone deal with. A lot of credit goes to Whedon here, of course, for writing the role, but Ruffalo makes it work in a way that Bana, Norton and even my childhood favorite, Bill Bixby, could not.

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