It simply is not the case that newer = better, and civilization would save a lot of time if the youth got that through their heads — but old forms of naivete are undeniably easier for us to spot than our own forms of naivete, so while (some) contemporary sci-fi and comics-derived media are almost respectable, I can’t blame people for laughing at the old stuff.
Take this latest installment in Michael Malice’s collection of goofy old comics panels, for example (including that hilariously schizophrenic-sounding one about the perils of space travel and Asian politics, not to mention the poignant line “I really did want to be with you, but I left you because I’d suddenly remembered I had an appointment to interview a famous king of the hobos”).
(Another stupid comics trivia note, regarding a member of the old-school team of urban sidekicks known as the Newsboy Legion: according to Wikipedia, “[the character named] Big Words’ favorite expression of surprise is ‘I’ll be superamalgamated!’ This phrase was originally used by the similarly polysyllabic William Harper Littlejohn in Doc Savage.”)
And who among us can deny that this week’s hip, new Terminator Salvation is likely to be a slightly more satisfying tale of man-vs.-machine than the 1980s Emilio Estevez, uh, vehicle Maximum Overdrive, about possessed trucks trapping people in a gas station? (Nonetheless, it did give us this cool AC/DC song, “Who Made Who.”)
Not everyone falls for the latest version of things, though — take Kyle Smith’s full-length review of the new Star Trek (which I overlooked a week ago), with the barrage of angry responses from Trekkies he generated. I don’t agree with Kyle’s negative assessment, but I can certainly attest that he’s not just being negative to garner attention (as at least one shocked Trekkie asserts). Almost the first thing he said when we got out of the theatre was that he hates Trek in all its forms and that this movie seemed to be nothing more than a Trek veneer on lots of borrowed, banal moments from other action films, just as he says in the review.
I wouldn’t seriously argue that any non-fan should feel obliged to take great pleasure in Star Trek — or for that matter Wolverine — but I remain hopeful that the aforementioned Terminator movie will end up being the summer thing that reaches out to and thrills even the uninitiated. We’ll see.
Incidentally, Roberto Orci co-wrote the screenplays of Watchmen, Star Trek, AND the upcoming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. He must have more money than, well, Ozymandias. And in weirder multi-movie-writing news, it appears that the sequel to the brutal and ridiculous (and comics-based) action movie Wanted will be written by the writer of the Heffalump Movie featuring Winnie the Pooh (perhaps initiates to the assassins guild will have to do “stoutness exercises” this time). I’ve literally said on several occasions that I wonder sometimes if I would be a better person if I’d cared more about heartwarming characters like Winnie the Pooh in my childhood and less about vicious, gun-toting comic book characters. Oddly, it turns out they all now appear to flow from the same pen.