Hoo boy, here we go again!
It’s certainly been a controversial year for comic book movies, with casting controversies and fan-wars aplenty. And now, barely healed wounds look set to reopen in the wake of some seriously divisive comments made by Mel Gibson.
William Wallace Himself Weighs In
Mel Gibson recently sat down with Deadline, to discuss his upcoming World War 2 movie Hacksaw Ridge - which coincidentally stars the former Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield. Suffice it to say, the maligned movie star really didn’t mince words when the subject of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice came up:
Well, in many ways we shouldn’t expect anything less from him. After all, Mel Gibson is no stranger to trouble. In fact, the reason why we've heard very little from him of late is because of his brash actions, including his brush with alcoholism and his, ahem, interesting comments about homosexuals and Jews in times gone by.
However, it is worth mentioning that Gibson is a competent director, so he may know a thing or two about what makes a good movie – he helmed Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, all of which went on to garner critical acclaim and commercial success.
But with THAT Rotten Tomatoes score for Batman v Superman, and the growing concern for the future of the DC Extended Universe, as well as superhero movies as a whole, does he have a point?
Is Batman V Superman A 'Piece of Sh*t'?
Before you fly faster than a speeding bullet to rage in the comment section, I’ll state outright that I don't agree with Mel Gibson. After seeing the Ultimate Edition recently, its safe to say that its often a visually stunning film, and in some parts it's undeniably cool:
But I can also see why some people hate on it. There are muddled moments (“MARTHA!”) and other structural issues, which as a director, Mel Gibson may be picking up on. Movies, like all other pieces of art, are subjective. Batman v Superman is neither completely irredeemable nor totally perfect — no movie can please everyone!
Obviously Gibson is entitled to voice his opinion, even though many fans will disagree with him. The jury will always be out on whether, overall, Batman v Superman is a bad or good movie, and history will always remember this as one of the most divisive comic book movies ever made.
But for those waiting to decry that this is evidence of the industry-wide conspiracy against DC’s Extended Universe, read on! Because he didn’t just stop at ragging on Batman V Superman... in fact, when he was asked about superheroes in general, his disdain progressed even further:
“I’m not interested in the stuff. Do you know what the difference between real superheroes and comic book superheroes is? Real superheroes didn’t wear spandex....”
OK Mel, imma stop you right there.
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“A hero can be anyone...”
I think we now can see why Mel didn't take the role of Odin in Thor. It’s clear that he has a few issues with the genre, so let’s break his comments down a little bit.
Gibson is completely right to draw comparisons between comic books and real life. We all know that Superman and Batman aren’t real, and that they could never exist in the real world. There are certainly many brave men and women who we should be thankful for in the past and present who aren’t as colorful, but are just as courageous as the characters on the pages of our favorite books. Yet, while it’s always hard to tell just how a person really feels in a printed interview (Gibson may have been joking a little bit), I can’t help but feel that he’s being disingenuous here.
Comic book heroes may wear more capes and spandex than real life heroes, but who’s to say that they can’t be, or feel, real to their readers? This kind of assertion may come across as hyperbolic, or “butthurt,” but speaking on a website where millions of people discuss comics, movies and superheroes daily, I don’t think I’m alone in this view. So many people have been inspired by art, fiction and movies, and they have helped, and saved, so many lives.
These heart warming memories of Harry Potter are evidence of this, and there’s always this brilliant video of Andrew Garfield talking about how much Spider-Man means to him:
Superheroes v Smaller Movies
Again, it's okay for Gibson to have these views and express them in any way he chooses, but his dislike of superheroes seems to be coming from a familiar place: a dislike of the big budget blockbuster.
“Spandex must cost a lot... I’m really baffled by it. I think there’s a lot of waste, but maybe if I did one of those things with the green screens, I’d find out different... It seems to me that you could do it for less. If you’re spending outrageous amounts of money, $180 million or more, I don’t know how you make it back after the tax man gets you and after you give half to the exhibitors.”
Okay, so there might be something to his hate after all.
The entertainment business is a tough one, especially when you’re trying to get funding. It must be quite frustrating for Gibson (and other filmmakers) to watch as “lesser” movies big budgets when others when you are scraping by. And let’s face it, even as die-hard fans, we can’t help but wince at the eye-watering amounts of money that are bandied about on blockbuster movies.
As many analysts are now pointing out, bigger spends are not necessarily bringing in bigger returns, or necessarily better movies.
So... What Gives?
The sniffiness of Mel Gibson’s comments may strike a bit of a chord with some fan; his assertion that stories about realistic heroes are somehow more respectable than more fictional ones is nothing new. It’s the kind of argument that we’ve heard before, from directors like Alejandro G. Iñárritu which perpetuates an elitist attitude against superhero movies.
However you may feel about Mel Gibson, or Batman v Superman, I can’t help but feel that comments like this are alienating, and only cause further arguments. A great many superhero movie budgets may be far, far too big, but they don’t necessarily block other movies from being made, or smack of a lack of originality in Hollywood and beyond. Indeed, many of the big hits of 2016 haven’t been superhero movies (The Nice Guys and Don’t Breathe anyone?), and dismissing the genre outright just disregards how good many superhero movies are.
I look forward to seeing Mel Gibson’s new movie, and what he does with the rest of his career, but I can’t help but reproachfully read his interview. To me, and lots of people, the fancifulness of something doesn’t determine its worth. After all, in the words of Albus Dumbledore:
“Of course it is happening inside your head... but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
What do you think? Do you agree with "Mad" Mel or are you as mad as Batman is in the above GIF? Head to the comments, and let me know!