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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar FridayNext says:

    It reference to the first footnote.

    That’s not particularly new. Once upon a time they cast an unknown Christopher Reeve and surrounded him with big names like Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, and Glenn Ford. Even a few more famous women like Margot Kidder and Valerie Perrine. (Sure no one knows who Valerie Perrine is now, but she was a star then and an Oscar nominee for her work in Lenny.)Report

  2. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I think the bigger problem for many of these is that they can’t keep getting away with re-boots. That explains the Superman problem at least. Already discussing re-doing Transporter? Ludicrous. Somehow they made it work with Spider-Man but I think hat’s mainly because everything Marvel touches right now turns to gold. I predict the Justice League movie is going to be one of the worst failures iin movie history.

    It would also help if the movies were actually well-written.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      Somehow they made it work with Spider-Man but I think that’s mainly because everything Marvel touches right now turns to gold.

      The Spider-Man films are made by Sony, not Marvel (Marvel sold the film rights before superhero movies became popular).Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Indeed and the Spider Man film was made at least partially to prevent Disney/Marvel from claiming the property was fallow and taking it back.

        I do agree that Justice League is being set up to be a titanic debacle. Green Lantern was an absolute reeking bust.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I still want to see that terrible Fantastic Four movie made in order to keep film rights. Kim has promised us a review, I think.

        I agree with @katherinemw about Gwen vs MJ, though other than that I liked the original version better.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      I find the continued continuation of the rebooting of the Spider Man franchise truly bizarre and mildly disconcerting (whether the new films are great or terrible or in between).Report

      • Avatar Fnord says:

        Part of the weirdness of the ongoing saga of the Spider Man franchise is owed to the arcane details of the agreement between Sony and Marvel and to what Sony has to do to prevent ownership of the franchise from reverting to Marvel.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I like the rebooted Spider-Man film better than the originals. Partly because Gwen’s an actual, courageous character and not a unreachable object to aspire to/helpless victim to rescue as MJ was. Partly because the originals were incredibly, incredibly cheesy. Partly because we actually get to see Peter as an intelligent guy who’s interested in science, rather than just being told that. And partly because they include regular people (Gwen, her dad, the crane operators) as heroes rather than restricting the “responsibility” theme to people with superpowers.

        So I’m glad they rebooted the films. Sometimes a movie can be good even if the studio just makes it to keep the rights, because the director and writers and actors are invested in it. (I think X-Men: First Class was a similar case, where Fox didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.)Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I think you might be reading Bale’s Batman fame back onto his pre-Batman status to a small degree. He was big, but not like he is now. Low A-list, which seema about right to me for what they were going for. Keaton wasn’t very big when he was cast, but he wasn’t that much smaller than Bale in 2005 or whenever – and they had Jack. Bale largely had to carry Batman Begins per the stopry (though Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are hardly chopped liver as support).

    Beyond that, I’d say that “you don’t need X to sell Y” misses the economic imperative. There’s no threshold you’re aiming for; you’re looking to maximize. If you think a certain star will increase returns over all others, that’s the on you choose from a business perspective. After, if the movie flops, having economized on the lead is not going to get you out of hot water with the studio head. You spend all the money they’ll give you if you think it makes the investment safr and/or gives it more upside.

    And then, let’s not dismiss the idea that someone in the process might actually be trying to make an enjoyable movie. I thought the recent Batman films were significantly over-praised (and over-interpreted), but I still found them highly enjoyable. This was significantly due to generally quite good acting. Granted, you can get good acting from cheaper actors, but in this kind of movie, seeing big stars, at least for me, does increase the enjoyment factor somewhat. Heath Ledger’s performance would have been great if he was unknown, but it definitely added interest that he was Heath Ledger. As high-profile actors go, I actually thought the recognizability quotient of Bale’s impact on the films was relatively moderate, as was his artistic impact, which IMO was maybe just a little more/better than that of any competent lead of his profile who might have been cast. As I say, his was to me an appropriately high-profile casting, not an overshot, but neither, appropriately, an undershot.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Actually, I don’t put Bale in either category. To the extent that I do, it’s in the “unremarkable” name. For Batman Begins I mention all of the A-list talent surrounding him with the intended implication (perhaps not sufficiently delivered) that he’s not exactly A-list. I also put him well below Affleck.

      On the other… to me it’s a question of whether or not an A-list actor is worth the added expense. Whether they add sufficient value. For Batman, I’m actually pretty skeptical. Setting aside Affleck-specific criticisms, I don’t think anyone is going to go see the movie because Affleck isn’t. So I don’t see him adding much value. On the other hand, when he was Daredevil, I think he could have because Daredevil lacks recognizability and Affleck added significant recognition. (Not enough, in part because it was a bad movie, but that still comes across to me as more of a chance worth taking even if it didn’t pan out.)

      So I guess in that way, I often view A-list actors as being a matter of publicity and drawing people to theaters. Is that something a specific movie needs to bring in people, or are people going to flock to it anyway? Do you need A-list actors to get people to talk about it? Do you need recognizable names? That’s more likely to be a “no” for Superman and more likely to be “yes” for Daredevil or Green Lantern.

      I do have a bias here which is that I believe there to be an overabundance of great actors out there. I think on an acting level, you rarely need an A-lister for their acting prowess. You need an A-lister for the attention they receive, the buzz they generate, and occasionally the persona they are associated with (like Charlie Sheen parts that can only be played by Charlie Sheen, or to go with a comic book movie example Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Arguably, Robert Downey Jr was irreplaceable for this reason).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I actually forgot that you said “(or even Bale)” rather than just saying “You don’t need Affleck or Bale…,” so this is my mistake.

        In any case, regardless, there’s my take on Bale & casting superheroes.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I think on an acting level, you rarely need an A-lister for their acting prowess. You need an A-lister for the attention they receive, the buzz they generate, and occasionally the persona they are associated with (like Charlie Sheen parts that can only be played by Charlie Sheen, or to go with a comic book movie example Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Arguably, Robert Downey Jr was irreplaceable for this reason)

        Agree and disagree. You need a tippy-top A-lister if you’re going to choose one of them who isn’t a good actor and resultingly make a bad film. A bad actor who is a guaranteed draw is still a guaranteed draw. Also, a fine actor who is a no-name won’t do much for you in a superhero flick, though you can overcome that with production & marketing (Henry Cavill Superman) – or not (Eric Bana HULK). But part of what gets people into the A-lis is being good actors who appeal to people at least significantly with their good acting, rather than their schtick (Bale or Downey rather than Schwartzenegger). So in a sense, you don’t strictly *need* A-list for the acting because there are some whose draw isn’t based on good acting, but in a lot of cases, you go A-list because of the draw, but that is largely a function of people liking their acting. So often you do go A-list for the acting.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I’m not saying this is the right interpretation, but in my head I think of the latest Batman movies as Christopher Nolan’s Batman rather than Christian Bale’s Batman. And I’d be more likely to see another Nolan film with people I have never heard of than a film with an unknown writer/director but with Christian Bale acting.

      In fact, maybe I’m just bad with faces, but I don’t think I could pick Christian Bale out of a lineup.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I agree. But then, I really really liked Paprika.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        No, definitely. It was Nolan’s film; Bale was just the guy they cast.

        But he was fairly big at the time. And Nolan wasn’t huge the way he is today. The fact that you have such a vivid impression of Nolan and almost none of Bale suggests you may respond and pay attention to directors in general more than the average moviegoer. American Psycho is a pretty memorable performance from Bale; I’d say it’d have taken slightly less than an average moviegoer’s tendency to remember actors’ faces & names for Bale to have been a stranger to someone when he was cast as Batman, to say nothing of today.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        oh, i’m just horrid with names and faces.
        I can pick out DeVito (the troll), Schwarzenegger (ubiquitous)… and, that’s probably about it. Oh and Robin Williams — he’s distinctive.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        I think what’s been driving the studios’ thinking is not the search for the next great actor, but the next great director. Look at where the big tentpole movies have been coming from.

        Sam Raimi – The Gift to Spiderman
        Christopher Nolan – Memento and Insomnia to Batman Begins
        Joss Whedon – Dollhouse to The Avengers
        Peter Jackson – The Frighteners to Lord of the Rings
        Jon Favreau – Elf to Iron Man

        There are plenty more examples. Ang Lee was doing films like The Ice Storm and Eat Drink Man Woman then hit it big with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, then Hollywood signed him up for The Hulk. Bryan Singer made The Usual Suspects then Hollywood put him on X-Men. Some work their way up to the big projects, or jump from a surprise hit to a big project. But a lot of them have been art house directors before they got their hands on $150 million projects.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Three things to complete that thought:

        First, we’re coming off an era of self-made filmmakers, the Wes Andersons and Quentin Tarantinos. The new era is studio-picked next big things. Maybe a little more like the Spielberg / Coppola years, but with more studio interference.

        Second, if you look at a film like Inception, you’ll see the impact. The guaranteed big-money name in the movie was Nolan, not DiCaprio.

        Third, this all kind of makes sense. A film is a huge-dollar project with a budget, subcontractors, and a tight deadline. You want to get the best in order to reduce risk. That the studios draw from the farm team is a bit surprising, though.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @pinky I think that is exactly right. I also think it’s the new obstacle to my preference of setting out to make a franchise of 10 movies. Used to be hard to line up the actors. Now you have to get quality writers, directors, and producers to agree to build on someone else’s work and agree to let someone else build on theirs.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Will – There’s an online comic about movies called Multiplex. I remember once, after a new director was named for a sequel, one of the characters went on a rant saying: No, that’s not how it’s supposed to work! There’s supposed to be a great movie, then the studio is supposed to put pressure on the director, but he outdoes himself and makes an even better movie as the sequel, then the studio brings in a new team and @#$@s the third movie! Sadly, I don’t think many franchises make it to ten before that happens.Report