10 Lessons Learned From This Summer's Comic Book Movies

<i>By <a href=http://twitter.com/TroyBrownfield>Troy Brownfield, Newsarama Columnist</a></i> <p>This wound up being one of Hollywood's super summers, with a number of super-hero films in release. While next year promises to be big again with the likes of Batman and Avengers , 2011 saw the releases of <b>Thor</b>, <b>X-Men: First Class</b>, <b>Green Lantern</b> and <b>Captain America: The First Avenger</b> all within a matter of weeks. <p>As you might guess, there's a lot of information to glean from such a solstice, so we did our best to put down Ten Things We Learned from This Summer's Comic Movies. Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to check out the list. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

HISTORY IS MORE FUN WITH SUPERHEROES

Bored by the second World War? Befuddled by the Cuban Missile Crisis? Baffled by Bulfinch? Let super-hero movies take care of that! <p>We got to see giant Nazi superweapons that never existed, mutants taking part in escalating East-West tensions, and a breakdown of how the characters of ancient myth are really just aliens that like trees as a design motif. <p>Unfortunately, considering that many of our elected officials can't keep actual history straight, we probably need to keep them away from these movies. Otherwise, you might hear John McCain reminiscing about his time with the Howling Commandos, or one of the younger Kennedys talking about JFK's role in mutant rights.

THE RED SKULL HATES BROOKLYN

Of all the moments of Red Skull rage that we saw, none were more potent than this exchange between the Skull and Cap: "Vat makez you zo speshall?" "Nothin'. I'm just a kid from Brooklyn." <p>MAN! Was Red Skull pissed at that or what? We bet it had nothing to do with the fact that Red Skull saw himself as special and was angry at the humble nature of Steve Rogers. We believe that he literally hates Brooklyn. Not for modern reasons like "Lucas Siegel lives there." <p>Heck, Jackie Robinson hadn't even hit the majors yet (which we're also sure that the Red Skull would hate). We believe that Red Skull's hatred of Brooklyn is really just a symptom of his New York hatred; seriously, Cap disables everything on the bomber, and it's STILL going to hit New York?

CONTINUITY ROCKS

How much fun is it to see all of the Easter Eggs that connect the Marvel movies? Did you catch the original Human Torch during the World's Fair Scene in Cap? How about the bits that connect the mythology of Thor to the Red Skull's plans (something that even ties into <i>Fear Itself</i>, when you think about it)? <b>Green Lantern</b> demonstrated lots of potential story seeds by acknowledging everything from Parallax to the Sinestro Corps outfits. <p>We think that these bits make the viewing experience a much more well-rounded, almost interactive, process.

SOME PEOPLE DON'T CARE ABOUT CONTINUITY

I'm not talking about fans. I'm talking about moviemakers. <p>Sure, lots of people liked <b>First Class</b>. That doesn't mean that the whole of the continuity isn't a giant headache. Alex in the '60s? Does that mean Scott was born in the '40s? How old is Beast? Good Lord, how old is EMMA?! And so on. <p>Again, it may have been a good time, but we're betting there are a few X-fans that got nosebleeds trying to do the mental gymnastics required to reconcile the movie with <i>any</i> timeline they recognized.

THE BEST BATTLES ARE PERSONAL

Thor vs. Loki! Brother vs. brother! Or how about Cap vs. Skull! Allies vs. Axis! America vs. Nazi! <p>Then there's Green Lantern, with GL vs. Giant Amorphous Blob! OK, Parallax was a big threat. But overall, it had no personality. The stakes that Hal had were personal (he was trying to save the planet), but the attachment wasn't there. <p>Sure, some of that was provided by Hector Hammond, but the crux point of the plot was <i>not</i> the defeat of Hammond. It was the defeat of Parallax in space. <p>While the GL fight sure as heck looked cool, we felt every punch when Cap took it to the Skull. Because it wasn't just Axis and Allies; that sh*t was personal.

SOME GIRLFRIENDS AREN'T FOOLED BY MASKS

The Not Lois Award goes to Carol Ferris who, dismissing 70+ years of GF confusion, looked right past the GL mask to identify Hal. <p>It was a good laugh and a bright moment for actress Blake Lively. <p>Bonus Selection goes to Jane Foster. Not that she ever failed to recognize Thor, but for her reaction to seeing him not as the bum she ran over, but as the Thunder God in full costume. We have a feeling that their mutual attraction might have moved a little faster had she met him in uniform. Just ask Cap.

TIM ROBBINS INVITES COMPARISONS TO <I>HOWARD THE DUCK</I>

We like Tim Robbins. He's done some great movies. <i>The Shawhsank Redemption</i> is unassailably great. <p>But when we see him in a comic book film, we remember that he was in <i>Howard the Duck</i>. Granted, there were no similarities between GL and Howard . . . no scientists progressively changing in appearance due to contact with a diffuse alien enemy . . . no battles in labs with equipment shooting off energy . . . no aliens that had birdlike qualities . . . no hot girls from teen movies . . . no nerdy scientist pals . . . nothing like that. <p>It just might be a good idea to keep certain actors separate from certain projects.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS MATTER

All of the comic films this summer benefited greatly from the inclusion of fan-favorite sidekicks and supporting players. <p>From Kilowog, Tomar Re and Tom Kalmaku to Sif and the Warriors Three to Buck and the Howling Commandos to Moira and the Hellfire Club, you had a good sense that the main characters existed in deep, rich universes that could be explored for many stories and levels of interaction. Bonus points to Thor for allowing the Warriors Three and Sif to have funny moments that didn't dull their seriousness as warriors. <p>Oh, and supporting character award of the summer? Friggin' Hawkeye showing up in <b>Thor</b>.

KEEP THINGS MOVING!

Though each film was afflicted with some talky parts, the whole of them knew to keep things moving. <p>After a thorough (but engaging) build, Cap <i>never</i> slowed down. This is key when you're trying to reach audiences that literally span from four to 84. Troy's kids vote by staying awake, and I'm pleased to say that at six and four, they not only stayed awake in this summer's films . . . they weren't bored! At all! <p>That's a fairly epic achievement on the part of the filmmakers.

TWO HOURS OF AWESOME MOVIE CAN BE OUT-AWESOMED BY TWO MINUTES OF TRAILER

Yes, we dug <b>Captain America: The First Avenger</b>. It was solid, square-jawed, old-school fun. It was funny, action-packed, and quite touching in certain moments. It was actually pretty awesome. <p>Then, after the credits, you got the teaser trailer to <b>Avengers</b>. Frankly, how often do people leave the theater not talking about the great movie they saw five minutes ago, but the ad for the movie they won't see for a year?

10 Lessons Learned From This Summer's Comic Book Movies

Date: 15 August 2011 Time: 09:09 PM ET