The Secret Knowledge

The Secret Knowledge

Yes, my critic brethern. Much the same as "white music" journalists eventually had to suck it up and acknowledge hip-hop as a legit genre, "nerd culture" is now simply part of "culture."

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The "working knowledge" idea is a bit screwy when it comes to comics. My grandmother has a working knowledge of Batman, insofar as she understand the basic beats: Billionaire kid loses his parents to crime, dresses up like a bat to fight crime, including an evil clown and a guy with two faces.

However, she has no idea who Nightwing is, nor can she keep track of a rapidly changing canon that is expanding under multiple authors at this very moment, and is regularly retconned to try and keep things in some semblance of order. A lot of "nerd culture" is like this; you need constant effort across a variety of media to keep abreast of what's going on, rather than seeing a few movies to have a working knowledge of Woody Allen or reading a couple books to get the basics of the Roman Empire.

I hate to be "that guy", Bob, but I have to point out a mistake in your article. Tim Blake Nelson's character Samuel Sterns is actually The Leader in the comics and not The Master. Not trying to be an asshole here, just making sure the facts were straight.

I don't mind being the guy who has to explain certain aspects of a Marvel movie. It feels good to know that my knowledge of comic books is not just another period of misspent youth. However, I'm not gonna be some über snob and act like a pretentious prick about it.

Mr. Q:
I hate to be "that guy", Bob, but I have to point out a mistake in your article. Tim Blake Nelson's character Samuel Sterns is actually The Leader in the comics and not The Master. Not trying to be an asshole here, just making sure the facts were straight.

I was going to point that out, but then I realized that, given the subject matter, he could easily have done that on purpose just to mess with us.

Looks like Bob's, and mine, minds were on Doctor Who - oops! Should be fixed now.

Man, those quote keys must be worn out at this stage.

The thing nowadays is that more than before you can be rendered an expert on any niche part of cinema without having any actual experience of it. Watch a show like "The big picture" or that nostalgia critic stuff and anyone can spout facts and trivia. We can all discuss themes of cinema greats merely by looking up their finset moments on youtube and trawling wikipedia. It's pointless to try and become an expert on the subject because everyone has access to all this info at any time an anyway.

The best reason to learn about a style of cinema is not so the pretty girl with the facial piercings will think you are cute, but because you want to explore a subject for it's own sake. My favorite thing to do is watch a directors works and make notes of things that resonate with me. Later I might pick up a book on them and see how close to the mark I was in my assumptions and find joy in my own foibles.

Cinema discussion is only fun when people are not trying to impress each other or name drop. If a friend of mine has not read Brubaker's run on Captain America, I don't castigate him. I drop over to his house with a stack of books and let him make his own mind up.

Bob I will say this. Having read and watched the background that you have provided for the Marvel universe has made my enjoyment of the moves exponentially better. Seeing how all of the pieces fit together is a meta-dream that am enjoying.

So thank you.

Sylocat:

Mr. Q:
I hate to be "that guy", Bob, but I have to point out a mistake in your article. Tim Blake Nelson's character Samuel Sterns is actually The Leader in the comics and not The Master. Not trying to be an asshole here, just making sure the facts were straight.

I was going to point that out, but then I realized that, given the subject matter, he could easily have done that on purpose just to mess with us.

Not sure if error was made or Bob is messing with us.

Ickabod:
Bob I will say this. Having read and watched the background that you have provided for the Marvel universe has made my enjoyment of the moves exponentially better. Seeing how all of the pieces fit together is a meta-dream that am enjoying.

So thank you.

I've enjoyed it too, but I've known people who haven't followed it, and thus often feel like they paid for a whole movie and only got half of one. Marvel is doing an amazing job at decoupling all their movies to be pretty independent, but I think there's another fear that since the film universe seems to be expanding ad infinitum there is soon going to be a point where they get as self-referential as the comics. It's pretty fair to predict that it is going to be the precise and exact point that the Marvel film continuity implodes on itself, possibly bursting the entire super hero movie bubble.

First, Bob, let me just say I appreciate it when you explain certain aspects of the Marvel (or sometimes DC) universe in regard to the movies. While I would say I'm somewhat knowledgeable in that I know some characters and their roles in some of the bigger story arcs, some are a little under the radar for me and getting a brief summary so I have a general idea really helps.

Second, am I the only one who would prefer more movies to take the approach of "you might want to see this or read this before going to see that for some potential background information?" I'm not saying make it forced, but if I see a movie and don't understand all of it but have an interest in it, I'd like to go look it up and maybe learn about it. I like movies to challenge my intellect and deepen that shallow pool of knowledge I have. Call it a waste of brain-power or not, but I find Marvel's approach of not explaining every detail and leaving audiences to either wait or figure it out later to be way more engaging. A movie that just tells me all the details is boring and has been the standard for most hollywood cinema.

Lastly, and this is why I go to you, bob, for reviews on comic book movies. You get the material and give a mostly non-biased review with no excuse of "oh, it's another super hero movie, and I don't get this reference so fuck it, this movie sucks." Plus you care about the material their making so when you say something is as bad as Green Lantern, I'll fucking know it's a shitty movie.

An issue we are starting to get into now with all these comic movies and TV shows and comic knowledge is for example in Arrow, knowing that that guy turns out to be Deathstroke and that guy turns out to be red arrow etc, do they count as spoilers because people who don't know the comics (or looked them up in wikipedia)won't know that?
(Although it turned out Arrow used a different Deathstroke and Canary but still)

But yeh I like it when you do a big picture to explain the obscure stuff in comic movies and your backstory info/fanboy theory thing in the Shield reviews.

I actually remember having an ecstatic freakout when I saw the Collector and realised Guardians of the Galaxy is a) happening and b) apparently going to kick SO MUCH ASS and then had to explain to my friend (in too much detail according to her) why that moment was awesome and what the infinity gems were and why it was awesome and speculating on the tesseract and (carries on forever)

So I know Bob's situation but given the bulk of my friends and colleagues have at least one obsession I can poke fun at if they ever poke fun at mine, I don't often feel the caged monkey thing. Everyone needs a hobby after all. The dude who can reel off the stats of every member of a football team is no cooler than the guy who can do the same for Spiderman.

To be fair, the people essentially calling the comics movies pretentious for demanding that viewers go off and memorize a lot of comics lore just to enjoy the movie do have a point for some of them.

There is a line between adding literary references to a work to give people with a body of knowledge a bit of bonus content and making a movie's impact or even plot dependent on those references. Even the shared-universe Marvel movies are packaged and sold as independent products (or series, in the case of the II, III, IV stuff going on), so someone with a random person's knowledge of the properties needs to be able to follow things without having to look things up on Wikipedia or whatever.

This is a lot of why Thor II: The secret of the ooze was cut the way it was, and a lot of why it worked. Yes, there were characters popping up to say hi purely for the "hey, remember this guy?" value (but they were mostly from the previous movie, not the comics) and there were bonus-type bits in there for people familiar with the comics and norse mythology (like Sif eyeing her mythological husband's girlfriend a bit sideways) but it was never pushed past the point where their behavior made no sense without the external references.

By the same token, this is a lot of why Agents of Shield DOESN'T work, beyond simple lack of actor charisma/chemistry. They have missions and spy stuff, but divorced from having memorized the comics none of their activities have any real stakes or emotional weight. Without knowing basically every story-line involving Graviton or putting any of his interactions or background into the actual episode, he's just "already-psychotic scientist betrays everybody, gets killed by SHIELD assassins, business as usual" and no one cares. The maguffin that breaks the plane has its value and mystery entirely encompassed in the fact that it's a HYDRA device... and no one cares. Because you have to know that those guys are still around and hiding to find the reminder threatening, as far as the movies are concerned so far, they went down with their Nazi masters.

(Aside: I would also guess that this is why Shakespeare's work has lasted as long as it did-- it kind of ran on its own internal references and even vocabulary the bard was making up as he went along. Sure, you need a foot-note to tell you what "I bite my thumb at thee" means because of language drift, but once you read a one-line notation you know as much about it as the original audience, you're not left completely out because you don't have a detailed knowledge of the copy-errors in the third printing of the Gutenburg bible or whatever the 15th century equivalent of being a comic collector is.)

This reminds me strangely of some arguments i have had about the internet versus books. It turns out that the written word is much more upclass when the media in which it is distributed count as a book.

MovieBob:
This, despite the fact that each of these films (even the sequels) have gone to great pains to still work independently of one another.

I thought you just said that Thor 2 was impossible to follow if you hadn't seen the first one in your recent review.

"White music" is the stuff that rips off black music like the Blues, right? Thought so.

And yeah, critics have always been total snobs, from the little guys who suck, to the major names who truly knew what they were talking about like Ebert. Not the fine journalists here at the Escapist, though. You guys are cool.

summerof2010:

MovieBob:
This, despite the fact that each of these films (even the sequels) have gone to great pains to still work independently of one another.

I thought you just said that Thor 2 was impossible to follow if you hadn't seen the first one in your recent review.

They put in a lot of effort. Doesn't mean it was enough.

ArmorKingBaneGief:
"White music" is the stuff that rips off black music like the Blues, right? Thought so.

And yeah, critics have always been total snobs, from the little guys who suck, to the major names who truly knew what they were talking about like Ebert. Not the fine journalists here at the Escapist, though. You guys are cool.

Ebert was awesome. You should try reading his reviews sometimes. Very humane dude, excellent critic.

 

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