Welcome to The Geek Theses! I hope you’ll join me as I christen this blog with its virginal post. And what better topic to discuss than superhero movies? Comic book movies are a hot topic among geek-kind. Geeks like me can sit around for hours debating the intricacies and merits of every comic book movie that comes out. Is it good? Is it bad? Was it true to the source material? Did they use the right villain? Why the heck did they go with that version of the costume? Did they really just make a movie about perhaps the most powerful hero ever, and the most impressive thing he did was to survive getting shot in the eye with a handgun?
In asking all these very important questions, we geeks are really just trying to accomplish one thing. We want to know which movie is better than the other. At the end of the day, we just want a simple hierarchy of superhero flicks, so we can all know which one is the best, and which ones follow it.
That’s where the Superhero Movie Power Rankings (trademark pending) come into play. The Superhero Movie Power Rankings are a foolproof method for ranking superhero movies on a scale of seizure-inducing greatness to Spider-Man 3. The Superhero Movie Power Rankings have been proven to be over 99.943(repeating)% accurate by science. And you can’t argue with science.
“Holy crap. This is amazing! How does it work?” you say. Well, I’m glad you asked. For one time and one time only, I will let you in on the secret Superhero Movie Power Rankings Formula (patent pending). The secret formula is comprised of five different categories that are each weighted by importance. Each movie is scored on a scale of 1 to 10 (how original, I know), and then each of these scores are combined into one final score. As you can see, there is absolutely no way one can go wrong with such flawless methodology. And that’s the brilliance of it. So without further ado, here is a look behind the curtain.
1. How entertaining is it? (30%)
This is the most important category. Why do we watch movies? To be entertained of course. I’m not interested in parsing words with people who think the primary objective of cinema is to portray art. Movies can do that, but the film business is a moneymaking business, and it’s in the business of entertaining people and taking their cash to do it. When it’s all said and done, we go to the movies hoping to be entertained. You can hire good actors, follow the comics to a “T” page-by-page, and have stunning visuals, but if your movie isn’t entertaining, people aren’t going to like it. Cough…Watchmen…cough. Scoring high in this category is simple: the more entertaining the movie, the higher a score it gets. Rewatchability, the quality of the action scenes, and the edge-of-your-seat factor all play into entertainment.
2. How good is the plot and character development? (20%)
This is also key to a great superhero movie. Does the plot even pass the basic laugh test, or is it something an eight-year-old could punch holes in? Were the characters static the whole movie, or did they change? If they did change, was it a gradual process that made sense, or did they just go from Dr. House-level jerk to selfless hero simply because the plot called for it (see Lantern, Green). The thing is, we geeks aren’t just satisfied with seeing our favorite characters on the screen anymore. We can’t be placated with a pair of tights and any old lame excuse for the hero to beat down some villains. We want an intelligent plot with nuanced characters. If you can’t do that, you might as well go straight-to-DVD because Christopher Nolan and Marvel (mostly) are prepared to make good movies. Scores in this category consider both the plot and character development. Only movies with a stellar plot and nuanced character development can achieve a maximum score. Movies that perform well in one area and not so well in the other will be deducted.
3. How good is the casting and acting? (20%)
No one wants to see a potentially good movie get completely derailed by terrible acting. This is where George Lucas went so wrong in Episodes 1-3. I might crucified for this, but the overall plot for Episodes 1-3 wasn’t horrible (except for the Gungans). What really derailed the whole thing was that Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen are historically terrible actors. Tommy Wiseau had more charisma in The Room. I’m pretty sure Natalie Portman would have had more chemistry with a cardboard cutout of Bruce Campbell. So this is really important. This is probably most evidenced by the fact that the brilliance of the casting and acting of Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man pretty much singlehandedly launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Movies with great casting and acting will score high in this category. To get a perfect 10, the movie must have one or more transcendent performances and the rest of the cast must be memorable. Movies with any wooden or weak performances will be deducted.
4. How true is it to the source material? (15%)
This is a tricky one because to some geeks, it matters more than any other factor. And then to the vast majority of the audience, it doesn’t matter one bit because they have never read a comic in their lives. That’s right. We geeks hate to admit this, but comic book movies aren’t made for just geeks. Of the 16 movies that have grossed over $1 billion in box office revenues (as of June 2013), 25% are comic book movies. Another 50%, for a total of 75%, are in genres or franchises that are historically considered the domain of geeks. Those movies didn’t make hand over fist because geeks loved them. They raked in cash because eveyone loved them. At the same time, we can’t just throw the comics out, right? We can’t just take one of the greatest comic book villains ever and turn him into an absolute joke who has nothing in common with his comic book counterpart can we? I’m looking at you, Fantastic Four. At the same time, some changes are necessary. The best example of this is how Iron Man changed the origin story from its Cold War roots to fit a post-9/11 setting. Yes it deviated from the source material, but it was a brilliant change that actually improved on the source, and virtually everyone agrees on it. So to score high in this category, the movie must either remain remarkably consistent with the comics, or if any changes were made, they must be smart changes that actually make sense.
5. X-factor (15%)
This category is exactly what it appears to be. Movies with some other redeeming quality that does not fit into the major four above will get higher scores here. Did your movie exceed even the wildest expectations, and thus launch the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, and thereby give us countless hours of other quality superhero entertainment? Hello, Iron Man, you get a good score here. Was your movie of such high quality that even the most conceited critics admitted it should receive serious Oscar consideration? Step up, The Dark Knight, we’re calling your number.
Well, that’s basically it. Very soon, I’ll start posting superhero movie reviews with their official Superhero Movie Power Ranking (trademark still pending) score. I hope you enjoy.