Heading Down The Path To Disaster — Otherwise Known As “Batman And Robin”

No, no, no, no, NO.

That’s my reaction to the latest information coming out about the Spider-Man 4 movie from Movieline, which claims that John Malkovich and Anne Hathaway are being considered for parts in the upcoming sequel.

It’s not that I have a problem with Malkovich — who has played the role of villain numerous times before to great success — or even with using the Vulture as a bad guy adversary; after all, the Vulture was the second super-powered super-villain that Spider-Man faced in the comics (following the Chameleon), so there’s definitely an old-school feel to him that I like (in comparison to the ridiculous requests by some comic book fans for the appearance of Venom-rip-off Carnage in a future sequel, which would pretty much guarantee that the film would suck right there).

But I’m wondering why Sam Raimi and the studio won’t use the obvious bad guy they’ve been sowing the seeds of for three films already in Dr. Curt Connors, aka The Lizard.  Like the Vulture, the Lizard is a classic Spidey foe — and unlike the old bird, the Lizard would make an imposing, even frightening, opponent for our hero on the big screen.  When you factor in the pathos and heart-wrenching back-story behind the villain that the first three movies have been heavy on emphasizing (the Lizard is a result of Connors’ attempts to regenerate his lost limb — his arm — using reptilian DNA — that backfires turning him into a savage, mindless, giant lizard) and the incredible transformation sequences you could have with the character, as well as the fact that you already have a tremendously underrated actor in Dylan Baker already cast in the role, then using the Lizard is a no-brainer, it would seem.

But the problem here is that, unlike the blockbuster Iron Man movies, the successful Incredible Hulk re-imagining, and the upcoming Thor film, the Spider-Man franchise isn’t under the complete control of Marvel Studios like the aforementioned projects, but rather Sony’s control.  While the early results from the independently produced films from Marvel have shown that giving artistic license does not mean that the characters or the vision of them is compromised, those films that have had the meddling of other studios to contend with (the two Fantastic Four films, the Daredevil and Elektra films, the X-Men franchise) have — with the noted exception of the first two X-Men movies and the first two Spider-Man movies — notably suffered in quality as a result.   The mess that was Spider-Man 3, the poor story-telling  and mischaracterization of the FF films (the portrayal of Dr. Doom was the worst travesty of any superhero film ever) are good examples of how movie studios often just don’t get what makes a comic book film work.

Not pictured: A serious foe for Superman

Not that there aren’t exceptions — The Dark Knight, the first and second Spider-Man films, and the first two X-Men films being primary examples (Before anyone says it, the first two Superman films and the first two Batman films by Tim Burton — while outstanding for their time — both have a number of  “what the fuck?” moments — Lex Luthor employing buffoons like Otis?  Bruce Wayne taking his mask off in front of Max Schreck? — that always left a bad taste in my mouth).  But more often than not, when the studios start interfering, that means trouble.  More villains! Crazier outfits!  Bigger stars!  More special effects and less character development!  The kids will love it! That seems to be the mantra from those studios — and that’s how we get shit sandwiches like Batman and Robin, Spider-Man 3, Superman 3 (with Richard Pryor!) or Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (the latter wasn’t so much a debacle due to studio interference so much as it was a mistake to let the late Christopher Reeve use the film as a vehicle to advance his political thinking in exchange for returning to the role that made him famous, but the movie is so bad, it had to be mentioned with the other stinkers).

Anne Hathaway in this = Good decision.  Anne Hatahway as the Vultress = bad decision

Anne Hathaway as this = good decision. Anne Hathaway as something called "The Vulturess" = idiotic decision

What’s even more disconcerting — and a sign of studio interference by people who aren’t comic book knowledgeable — is the casting of Anne Hathaway as a villainess.  It’s not that I think the Hathaway casting is flawed — far from it.  She’s definitely hot, and she can play the sexy bad girl role nicely (rent Havoc sometime and see for yourself).  But this story has her playing, not the Black Cat (a sexy cat burglar anti-hero/villain from the classic comics) but — get this — the Vulturess.  Ugh.  Please God, make it stop before it starts.

And there would be a perfect example of a non-comic fan from the studio making a bone-headed decision (supposedly being done so as not to look as if they’re ripping on the character of Catwoman, but which is exactly what the Black Cat was influenced from originally).  A decision to create this character of  “The Vulturess” — with Hathaway as Malkovich’s feminine sidekick, I guess — is cut from the same flawed cloth that gave us a punning Governor Arnold as Mr. Freeze, an adult Robin, the Bat credit-card, an illiterate, moronic Bane, Bat-nipples, and a thousand other mistakes from Batman and Robin, which exists as not only the worst superhero film ever, but one of the worst films of my lifetime period as well.  It’s the same decision-making that gave us Superman’s kid and the Last Son of Krypton as a creepy, stalker, Halle Berry as a non-Selina Kyle Catwoman, Cousin Lenny and Otis, Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face as a complete caricature of himself, the Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool, with his mouth sown shut and surrounded by a cast of 1000 mutants, the Sandman killing Uncle Ben and a shoehorned in Venom — and all of the other comic-book movie misfires of the last twenty-five years.

There's no truth to the rumor that Chase raised the interest rate on this card to 29.75%

That’s the fate I fear lies ahead for Spider-Man 4 if the rumors are true.  As people who know me can attest, I love Spider-Man more than any comic book character, and I thought the first two Spider-Man films were tremendous adaptations that were true to the characters yet entertaining to a wider audience unfamiliar with the Marvel world.  But if this is what lies ahead for the franchise, I wish everyone involved would walk away instead — before we’re putting this sequel in the same breath as Joel Schumacher’s neon debacle fifteen years from now.

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One Response to “Heading Down The Path To Disaster — Otherwise Known As “Batman And Robin””

  1. […] got mixed feelings about this news.  I’d already detailed some of the earlier squabbling between Sony and Raimi and my concerns that the franchise was headed for cinematical disaster.  While I blamed Sony […]

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