Why do we nitpick superhero movies so damn much?

It’s San Diego Comic Con week here in the post-apocalyptic future, too! Comic Con has changed a bit now that civilization has collapsed, in that there are no movies, TV shows, or even comics to promote. Weirdly, you still can’t get into Hall H without waiting in line for eight hours.


Nitpick Picnic

Joseph C.:

Has there ever been a superhero or comic-based movie that has been directed and executed to the point that we do not pick at every detail? Marvel movies have not been blasted as hard as WB's produced crap, but what movie can we deem as a great movie that won mostly everyone over? I am sure there have been some that are passable and decent. The talk of G. Del Toro teaming up to make a Dark Universe movie could be the best to come out because of how detailed he can be. Kevin Smith also was offered Green Lantern but said, "someone else could make it better." Maybe it's just me, but why can't a director hire geeks as a panel to help with plots and things; or are their egos just too BIG?!! After so many flops and bashings of these kinds of movies, wouldn't they start to consult with people?

You have two separate questions here, so let me answer them separately:

1) Has there ever been a superhero or comic-based movie that has been directed and executed to the point that we do not pick at every detail?” There have, and they’re generally known as “Marvel’s movies.” It’s not because Marvel movies are nitpick proof — honestly, I don’t know that Avengers has any less plot holes than Man of Steel — but that Marvel Studios’ movies have tended to be more entertaining through a mix of exciting characters, fun dialogue, and cool action scenes. Films that lack one or more of these elements — Green Lantern, X-Men 3, Amazing Spider-Man — give the audience time to think about the shit that doesn’t make sense. Look, I don’t nitpick when I’m being entertained — I didn’t do it in Avengers, I didn’t do it during The Dark Knight either. Admittedly, you can have plotholes so egregious that they can wreck the entire movie no matter its other qualities, but for the most part, you can get away with a lot if the audience is having a good time. Look, all three of the Iron Man movies have insane plotholes, and no one cares because Robert Downey Jr. is so damn awesome and fun as Tony Stark.

2) After so many flops and bashings of these kinds of movies, wouldn't they start to consult with people?”

Because nerds are a small but extremely vocal audience, and because nerds don’t necessarily have any idea how to make movies. Clearly, a great many people in Hollywood don’t either, but as a professional nerd you should never put me in charge of a movie. I’d be terrible. Most nerds would be terrible. On the other hand, what studios often fail to realize is that just because nerds like something isn’t a reason to toss it away. There are some fundamental reasons nerds have fallen in love with these characters, and often mass audiences will like characters for the same reasons. Nerds may throw a hissyfit over whether Peter Parker designs his own webshooters or has organic ones, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Peter Parker is a regular kid with regular problems who rises to the occasion because he knows that with great power comes great responsibility.


Why do we nitpick superhero movies so damn much?

Pakled It In

Ken P.:

I've considered myself a big fan of the Doctor as well as anything Star Trek however, I'm willing to admit that both franchises have a higher percentage of crap than greatness. What I mean is, if you choose a random episode, chances are you'll end up watching something involving a Pakled or an Abzorbaloff or whatever. I still enjoy these, but I wouldn't necessarily call them good. So, if my belief is that Star Trek and Dr. Who is more bad quality than good, do I need to turn in my nerd card?

I would say the fact that you still consider yourself a big fan after admitting you enjoy less than half of each franchise is one of the biggest reasons why you can happily and truthfully call yourself a nerd.


Why do we nitpick superhero movies so damn much?

Eat Pray Run

Matt W.:

Watching Zombieland I noticed a huge flaw that pops up in all the recent "infected" zombie stories (as opposed to "rising from the dead" zombies)… If Zombies are infected by other zombie bites, and the zombie's sole purpose after it's infected is to consume all human flesh until they're just bones, how are there always so many zombies? Are they all just people who got bit and then managed to escape? That doesn't make sense to me.

I don’t know if this is a recent flaw as much as it is a flaw in pretty much every zombie movie ever, but I see your point. First off, zombies don’t want to clean their plate, so to speak; they want to eat living flesh, and that includes flesh that dies while they eat it, and at some point, the meal goes bad — the “food” gets cold, the blood coagulates, and its no longer flesh. Certainly, there have to be plenty of people who were devoured by so many zombies that their body would be literally incapable of moving, even if they became zombified, but then there should be plenty of dead people who were gnawed on for a bit and then abandoned for fresher meat. So the real question should be, “Why aren’t there more zombies that look like they’ve already been half-eaten?” And the simple answer to that is “Special Effects budgets.”

But you shouldn’t discount all the people who got scratched and/or bit and then escaped. I’m not saying it’s hard to get caught in a zombie swarm, but it’s super easy to get scratched or bitten, even by a single zombie, while on the run. And then you don’t tell your friends so they don’t kill you, then you die and turn into a zombie, and then you chase your friends and try to eat them and you manage to scratch or bite one of them while they try to escape, and the cycle begins again. It’s the circle of unlife!


Why do we nitpick superhero movies so damn much?

It’s Just a TV Show, You Should Really Just Relax

Joan B.:

Dear Postman,

I've been watching MST3K lately and wondering: what made the show turn its back on class struggle?

Let's take a look at Joel's theme (ignoring the KTMA episodes). It first establishes Joel as the working-class everyman ("not too different from you or me") under the power of a large and impersonal corporation. It depicts a dystopian world wherein the inept rich, favored by corrupt social systems, can isolate and torture their underlings at whim. Their tools of oppression are the spiritually empty media mass-produced by the culture industry, echoing well-known Marxist criticism by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Joel even wears "a red jumpsuit" - what clearer symbol of the noble Communist worker could be found?

Now, the first couple seasons of Mike's run may seem to carry similar lyrics, yet there are several crucial differences. All mention of Gizmonic Institute is removed, turning Dr. Forrester into an isolated mad scientist trope, instead of a representative of a broader system of capitalist exploitation. Furthermore, "regular joe" Mike is a white-collar temp, not a blue-collar janitor.

So, what's with the change? Did the writers become more comfortable with capitalism as MST3K became a financial success? Did they embrace the essential hollowness of the Postmodernism the show embodied, and reflect it through the framing narrative? Or is it just Mike's fault?

First of all, let me say I immensely respect your incredible overthinking of MST3K. Second of all, you’re kind of high. The reason the show dropped the Gizmonic Institute name is because Joel Hodgson was using it in his stand-up act long before MST began, and when he left he wanted it back, which the show happily acquiesced to, renaming Dr. Forrester and Frank’s location as Deep 13 (a lower level in the no-longer mentioned Gizmonic Institute). That’s all.

As for Mike being a “white-collar temp,” he — by which I mean the character and the real Mike Nelson who played him — was a waiter at TGI Friday’s before joining the show full-time. The character was a temp hired to help clean Deep 13 — hence the blue jumpsuit he was forced to wear — so I don’t know that you can truly say he was any more white-collar than Joel. But you’re totally right about the red jumpsuit symbolist Marxist oppression of the proletariat.

Also let me say this, because I want to share my MST3K Joel/Mike theory with everyone on the internet: Joel’s episodes were more consistent, while Mike’s episodes could be enh or completely hysterical. Joel had much more a parental relationship with the ‘Bots, while Mike was more a pal to them — both funny, just different (although this allowed Mike to make dirtier jokes, which I consider a bonus).


Why do we nitpick superhero movies so damn much?

A Range of Powers

Kieran W.:

Dear Postman,

Someone asked me a question today that I thought way too much about, and I would like to see how you answer it.

Say you are Zordon and have to select the Power Rangers, but can pick from film, literature, books, whatever. You must select a Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Pink, and they must all be able to function as a team, as well as be awesome and kick some serious ass.

Additionally, you must pick up to 6 vehicles to make a Megazord out of.

Who do you pick and why?

No existing teams though, makes it too easy.

I’m hardly the biggest Power Rangers fan, since I was too old for the show when it first aired, although I did take my little brother to see the first Power Ranger movie, at which point I was old enough to stare at Amy Jo Johnson’s butt for 90 minutes (I was 18, cut me some slack). Anyways, after a bit of research, here’s my team:

Red: Jason Lee Scott, MMPR and Zeo

Blue: Sky Tate, SPD

Pink Ranger: Karone, Galaxy

Yellow: Ashley Hammond, Turbo and In Space

Black: Adam Park, MMPR, Zeo and Turbo

Green: Tommy Oliver, obviously.

As for the Zord, I 1) don’t think you can mix and match Zords like that because they’d look like a mess, and 2) I seriously don’t know enough about individual Zords to pick. That said, my favorite overall Megazord is the Samurai Megazord, mostly because I like its old-school anime giant robot look, and I like the way it upgrades. The Galaxy Megazord is nice too, though.


Why do we nitpick superhero movies so damn much?

Sweat Lodgers

Drillpress:

So, your Superman rant got me thinking...

If Supes is like all powerful and super augmented n' stuff, would his body odor be too strong for human deodorants? I mean, something as innocuous as his hair can't be cut with a man-made razor, wouldn't it make sense that his pit stink be too powerful for an over-the-counter stick of Right Guard?

Also, when he ejaculates, wouldn't the force of his jizz punch through concrete? I know he keeps most of his power in check so he doesn't do too much damage to people, but at that moment of unbridled release, is even Superman capable of controlling the flow?

Hugs and Kryptonite!

First part: No. Your sweat doesn’t stink, it’s the billions of bacteria that feeds off your sweat that stinks. Unless Kal-El carried Kryptonian bacteria with him to Earth that were equally powered up by our yellow sun, his armpits would smell no worse than ours — and if he’s brought Kryptonian bacteria to Earth, we have much bigger problems.

Second part: Your ejaculation question is the subject of the (in)famous “Man of Steel, Women of Kleenex” essay by Larry Niven, which you can read here. For my part, I look at it this way: Superman walks around like a normal human being, he doesn’t shoot beams out of his eyes, his breath is normal, he isn’t super-fast, but he can do all of those things when he wants to. I don’t see why Superman wouldn’t ejaculate at a normal human rate… unless he really concentrated on it, at which case it would be yet another superpowered weapon in his arsenal (albeit a kind of gross one).

But as for the concrete question: According to Men’s Health, the average speed of human male ejaculation is around 350 psi. A waterjet at 20,000 psi can cut through stone. If you take my theory that Superman could raise his penis pressure at his will, I’d say that’s well within Superman’s capabilities. You know, if he was trapped in such a way that the only thing he could do was masturbate. Do you think this is why Lex Luthor hates him? Did Superman jerk off on valuable Lexcorp equipment? Hmm.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!