Tag Archives: Hulk

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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The bizarre cinematic jumble that is ‘Full Metal Yakuza’

The experience of watching Takashi Miike’s Full Metal Yakuza was a bit surreal. For the bulk of the 1997 film, I was reminded of a couple of 1980s geek classics – The Incredible Hulk television show and Robocop – mixed with the swordplay and spewing blood of Kill Bill.

The Incredible Hulk was the most direct connection. A man transformed by science into something other, forced to live apart. The musical theme for our hero Nagane from Full Metal Yakuza is oddly similar to that of Bruce Banner linked at the top of the post. And for a film made in 1997, the special effects were pure Reagan-era. Those effects added humor and cheesiness that helped undercut some of the violence.

While Hagane is a Japanese gang member, yakuza, much like Robocop, he is seeking justice. He and his mentor are set up and slaughtered, only to be recombined – with some robotic parts – to form our titular man of metal. Hagane wants to know who sold them out, and it is willing to cut his way through every gangster in Japan if necessary to find the answer. Unlike Robocop, however, there’s really not a deeper message that holds the action together.

It's refreshing to run into a mad scientist who knows he's absolutely nuts.

It’s refreshing to run into a mad scientist who knows he’s absolutely nuts.

Neither of those similarities to ’80s screen gems is enough to make Full Metal Yakuza a great movie, but for the bulk of the flick, it’s fun to watch. Until right at the end, when all of the fun ends.

A former lover of Hagane’s mentor comes across him and discovers that he is this mix of spare parts. It drives her mad, to the point where she makes a foolish assassination attempt on the head yakuza. She is captured and held prisoner to lure Hagane to a trap set by the yakuza.

If it stopped with that, it would be fine. But the young woman is held in the middle of an open warehouse, wearing some “sexy” outfit, chained to a mattress, legs spread wide. Then she is viciously gang raped – again in an attempt to goad Hagane – and bites off her own tongue amid the madness.

The humor was gone. The cheesiness, poof, disappeared. It was a much darker, much more exploitative moment than at any point in the movie. It was also completely unnecessary to show on-screen. I wrote a while back that while I Spit on Your Grave did a good job in its portrayal of a rape without making it feel lascivious or exploitative, I was still uncomfortable with the idea of people profiting of a rape flick. Here, there were no shades of gray. It was awful, and really beneath a filmmaker of Miike’s caliber. Disappointing.

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