Tom Holland was great, right? We can all agree on that. He was perfect as young Peter Parker, and we can’t wait to see what else he’s going to do for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s a good thing. He is the Peter Parker for our time.
With his amazing turn in Spider-Man: Homecoming, though, have come the inevitable thinkpieces, blogs and professional sites alike trying to rank not only the different Spider-Man movies, but the different Spider-Men themselves. How does Holland stack up against Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield? If you want to get ultra-nerdy, how does he stack up against Nicholas Hammond?
And I get it. I’m a nerd too. There’s something about being a lover of movies or comics or TV that makes you want to rate and debate and rank and “prove” to everybody that your personal favorite version of something was the best, and that debate is one of the driving forces of fandom. I’ve done it myself.
I’m here to tell you today, though, friends… I don’t think it needs to be.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with my attempts to mentally reconcile the world of remakes. They’re not stopping, they’re not going anywhere, and it’s true that a lot of them suck. But it’s also true that not all of them do. The second Maltese Falcon is the one everybody remembers. Hitchcock himself remade his own The Man Who Knew Too Much into a tighter, more engaging adventure. And re”boots”? Well, that’s what gave us The Dark Knight. And the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies. And if there’s only one tentpole movie left this summer I absolutely HAVE to see, it’s War For the Planet of the Apes.
Here’s another analogy I like to use: they didn’t stop producing Hamlet after Shakespeare died, did they? And not just theatrically, but cinematically. There have been dozens — no, hundreds of films produced over the years based on his works, and a lot of them have been really good. Were it not for people reimagining older stories, we wouldn’t have Bela Lugosi as Dracula or Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster, either. And when you ask somebody who their favorite Ebenezer Scrooge is, you can quite literally spend hours debating the merits of Alastair Sim versus George C. Scott versus Michael Caine versus Patrick Stewart versus Albert Finney versus Scrooge McDuck.
I’ve started to put superhero movies in the same category as these works. The same as James Bond. The same as Doctor Who. These are stories and characters, that, every so often, will go through a facelift and become something different. And I’m okay with that. We all should be. The real question — the important question — is therefore NOT “is the new guy better than the last guy,” but rather simply, “is the new guy good?”
This isn’t to say that every character should be recast. I’ve yet to see any evidence that someone other than Robert Englund should be allowed to play Freddy Krueger, for instance. And while I’m open to having new characters join the Ghostbusters (I’m not debating the merits of the 2016 movie, I just mean in general), I don’t ever want to see somebody besides Harold Ramis play Egon Spengler.
But times change and iconic characters can and should be refreshed for new generations.
That said, this means we also have to accept the fact that someday, people other than Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr. will play Wolverine and Iron Man. I know, that’s hard to hear. But it’s true. And when it happens, just remember what I’m saying here, and try to judge the new guy for who they are rather than who they aren’t.
In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!
- Hardcore Henry (2015), B-
- Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2016), A
- The Neon Demon (2015), C
- Doctor Strange (1978), C
- Time of the Apes (1987), D; MST3K Riff, B+
- Thinner (1996), C
- A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman (2015), A
- Doctor Strange (2016), A
- Mascots (2016), B
- Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), B+
- Star Trek Beyond (2016), A
- Spectre (2015), B-
- Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), F
- Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988), B
- Teenage Caveman (1958), D; MST3K Riff, B
- My Fair Lady (1964), A
- Gunslinger (1956), D; MST3K Riff, B
- Fun in Balloon Land (1965), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
- The Dwarvenaut (2016), C+
- The Addams Family (1991), B+
- Addams Family Values (1993), A-
- I Accuse My Parents (1944), D; MST3K Riff, A
- The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), D-; MST3K Riff, B
- Young and Beautiful (2013), C
- Mouse on the Mayflower (1968), C+
- Garfield’s Thanksgiving (1989), B+
- BC: The First Thanksgiving (1979), C
- Intergalactic Thanksgiving (1979) B-
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), A-
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1974), B+
- Planes Trains, and Automobiles (1987), A
- Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse (2001), B
- Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999), B+
- Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004), B-
- Magic Christmas Tree (1964), F; RiffTrax Riff, A
- Gaslight (1944), B+
- Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), F; RiffTrax Live Riff, B+
In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), A
2. Stripped (2014), A
3. Mr. Nobody (2009), A
4. Nightmare Factory (2011), B-
5. Justice League: War (2014), B
6. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload (2013), B
7. I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), D; MST3K Riff, B
8. It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! (1974), B+
9. It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974), B
10. I Accuse My Parents (1944), F; MST3K, B
11. Man of Steel (2013), A
12. Pitch Perfect (2012), B+
13. The Lone Ranger (2013), D
14. Dr. No (1962), B+
15. Odd Thomas (2013), B-
Last month, during the Christmas spending frenzy, I alerted my sister to a prospective birthday present for her husband. My brother-in-law (Happy Birthday, Will!), is a James Bond fan, and during one of their Christmas blowout sales, Amazon was offering a Blu-Ray box set of the entire Bond franchise for a great price. This was almost exactly the same set (including the packaging) that was released last year except this time it included the most recent Bond film, Skyfall. Amusingly, the previous set was also still available, but was not on sale, which meant on that day you would have paid an additional $75 to not have the most recent film in the series. You’ve gotta REALLY hate Skyfall to do that.
This did get me to thinking, though. Bond has appeared in 23 canonical films, plus two other non-official movies (including the original version of Casino Royale which I’ve never seen but which, according to my mother, was bad enough to convince her not to watch another Bond film for over two decades). That’s a pretty long run. But is it the longest run? I’m going to try to answer that question – what is the longest-running (in terms of the number of installments) franchise in movie history?
Now I’m not going to count things like the endless remakes of A Christmas Carol or The Wizard of Oz, none of which have anything to do with each other. No, a true franchise has to have some sort of official nature to it – the same copyright holder, the same producer, the same continuity, or some scrambled combination thereof. So who are the true long runners?
Action movies are the obvious place to start. Die Hard is at five and Rocky made it to six movies, but that’s amateur hour compared to Bond. Not counting old serials or direct-to-DVD animated films, we’ve had six Superman movies (four with Christopher Reeve, one Brandon Routh and one Henry Cavill so far) and eight Batman (one Adam West, two Michael Keaton, one each for Kilmer and Clooney and the Dark Knight Trilogy featuring Christian Bale). However, I think one could convincingly argue that these are different continuities, and therefor different franchises. In fact, Man of Steel is supposed to be the launch point for a DC Cinematic Universe, which will hopefully be a franchise of its own.
Since we’re talking about the cinematic universes, though, let’s look at Marvel. They’ve had seven movies so far (Iron Man, Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World), and with the intention of adding two more a year (including scheduled 2014 releases Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy), they could theoretically pass Bond by 2021 or so, depending on how many more Bond movies are made in the interim. Of the other Marvel franchises, those not part of the MCU, the only one close is the X-Men, with six films so far (X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine) and a seventh (X-Men: Days of Future Past) coming out this year.
Again, none of this is getting close to Bond territory. Let’s move on to the world of science fiction. Star Wars has had seven theatrical releases (people often forget, perhaps deliberately, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie that preceded the cartoon show), plus two made-for-TV Ewok movies and the staggeringly bad Star Wars Holiday Special. I think we can agree not to count those. Depending on how we want to count the two big 20th Century Fox sci-fi franchises, we may have a winner. Four Alien movies, plus two Alien Vs. Predator movies, plus the Prometheus prequel equals seven. We could theoretically add the three Predator movies as well, though, if we want to count them all as the same continuity. That’s ten. But not so fast! Star Trek moves into the second-highest spot compared to Bond with 12 movies – six featuring the original cast, four with the Next Generation crew and two from the most recent reboot. Still, twelve compared to 23? We can do better than that.
How about horror? Horror franchises go a long way, and now that we’ve reached a point of remaking the originals and making sequels to the remakes, it could go even further. Freddy Krueger starred in six solo films, a film in which he battled Jason Voorhees, and a weak-sauce remake. Not good enough. Jason? He had ten solo movies, the versus film and an adequate remake – twelve. Tied with Star Trek. How about Halloween? Without debating the relative merits of any of those movies, and even if we include the Michael Meyer-less Halloween III and the remake and its sequel, we’re still only at ten. Can nobody approach Bond? Nobody?
Wait a minute, though… we’re forgetting somebody. We’re forgetting somebody big. We’re forgetting somebody really big.
We’re forgetting Godzilla.
The King of the Monsters has appeared in three different series of Japanese films, all of which technically have different continuities, but can easily be considered part of the same franchise. The original Godzilla movie was released in 1954, and for the next 21 years the films followed a continuity in which he slowly evolved from an enormous monster to a sort of giant superhero that protected Japan from other enormous monsters. This era, the “Shōwa” period, included fifteen movies all on its own. It’s already taken the number-two spot from Star Trek.
Godzilla returned in 1984 with The Return of Godzilla, which ignored all of the movies after the original and was more sci-fi oriented, digging into the genetic nature of the creature and even giving him an origin. This franchise, known as the Heisei series, lasted for six more films bringing us up to 22, just one short of Bond.
But we’re not done yet. Beginning in 1999 we got a series of six movies, collectively known as the “Millennium Series,” which were mostly-self contained. There was little actual continuity between the films, and even Godzilla’s height tended to vary wildly from movie to movie. Still, the films went on until 2004, ending with 28 movies in the “official” Godzilla franchise.
And this is not counting any of the American Godzilla films, which include the 1956 Godzilla: King of the Monsters (made largely from cutting scenes from the original Japanese film with scenes of Raymond Burr reporting on the attacks), the incredibly bad 1998 Roland Emmerich remake (which was actually mocked in one of the installments of the Millennium series), or the upcoming Godzilla film directed by Gareth Edwards, scheduled for release this May, which I’m actually really excited about.
So depending on how you want to count it, Godzilla has racked up either 28 or 31 movies, and even more if you start counting his enemies and allies who went on to star in spin-off films of their own. So there you have it, my friends. Godzilla is not only king of the monsters, but the king of the movie franchise as well.
Hmm? The official Disney Animated Canon, which is up to 53 films so far, and which tends to add a new movie every year? Including this year’s Big Hero 6, which is also coincidentally based on a Marvel comic, but is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The franchise which gave us the Disney princesses, Winnie-the-Pooh, Wreck-It-Ralph, and the unforgettable drama of Home on the Range? And even though most of them are not, technically, in continuity with one another, they are considered a single collection by fans and cinemaphiles alike?
Geez, could Godzilla really be toppled by a mouse?
Aw, I’ll let you guys fight it out.
The old year has ended, friends, and as usual, I didn’t see as many new films as I would have hoped. But I did see several, and by way of discussion, I’d like to share that list with you. These are the movies from 2012 that I saw, ranked in order of preference. TV movies and Direct-To-DVD features are included. (NOTE: Order of PREFERENCE, not an objective measure of QUALITY. I may recognize, for instance, that Citizen Kane is a BETTER Orson Welles film than, say, The Muppet Movie, but I’d rather watch Kermit the Frog and company every time.
So, from my favorite 2012 film to the least:
1. The Dark Knight Rises
2. The Avengers
3. The Cabin in the Woods
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
6. Les Miserables
7. Django Unchained
9. The Hunger Games
11. Superman Vs. The Elite
12. Justice League: Doom
13. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
14. The Amazing Spider-Man
15. The Expendables 2
16. John Carter
18. Men in Black 3
19. Act of Valor
21. Red Tails
22. The Lorax
23. A Christmas Story 2
24. Finding Mrs. Claus
25. Silent House
26. Total Recall
27. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
28. Project X
29. The Woman in Black
30. Rock of Ages
Clearly, there are several films I wanted to see that I haven’t yet. Notable absences include Lincoln, Wreck-It-Ralph, Argo, and Life of Pi.