Friday, August 14, 2015

All the Jackals and the Undead

"All the jackals and the undead just can't wait to wipe the last of us out
First there were others like us, then there were none."

I didn't intend to blog about this again, so apologies, but this has been on my mind for the whole week.

The Fantastic Four is crashing globally in cinemas, the latest in a long series of battles it has had to fight since day one. Why? Lots of reasons: director hassles, studio hassles, reboot hassles, fan anxiety - that last one for me is the clincher. Logically The Fantastic Four property should not have a large and influential fan base - its last movie was in 2007, and Marvel cancelled its comic line last year, pointedly killing off likenesses of Fox's forthcoming movie in strip form (real classy, guys). And yet I think fan activity, and in particular fan vitriol has played a large part in the negative pre-publicity of this movie. And it seems I'm not alone, here's award-winning writer Peter David's view.

Look, films are hugely difficult things to make, and lots of films - sometimes incredible films  are borne of terrible shoots. Marvel' Studios' movies have not been immune, with directors leaving films during or pre-production (Thor 2, Ant Man), and even some of its most celebrated creators seemingly swearing off the whole game (stand up, Joss Whedon.) But it makes big, successful movies, and it has a very large and very vocal army of fans who apparently resent any studio who has 'their' heroes. Two years ago it was Sony's Amazing Spider-Man, this year it's The Fantastic Four. This fan resentment, fan entitlement is expressed online on websites like Comicbookmovie, where fan made 'editorials' are the by-word for the site's existence. The bad mouthing turns into a partisan headline, and this bleeds through to modern news media which, under-resourced and fighting for relevance in an ocean of free competition, jumps at clickbait articles for its own hits - and with that imprimatur fan opinion becomes reported as fact.

Of course I'm over-simplifying, and of course FF's troubles are many. But bad press sticks, and I still think this film has been unfairly maligned by... 'enthusiasts' with questionable loyalties. And poor judgement. You kids want a Fantastic Four movie series, and you think the way to do this is to sabotage the box office of the current movie - and that the average movie-goer will notice the difference when it switches studios and turn out in droves? You're crazy. And you deserve your stereotype.

Fandom makes me uncomfortable most of the time. I've made the best friends I have ever had through fandom, and yet I take to social fandom like I take to dancing - under duress, with great awkwardness, and best left after a few drinks. It's not a club to which I readily subscribe; I just get a bit lost amongst it, Organised fandom can be a toxic thing, but it can be a wonderful and supportive thing as well - and some fan communities can be lovely, bonkers collectives of mutual enthusiasm.

And when a group shares the love with its fans, neat things can happen - like this, the official video for The Darkness' title track off their latest album. Ostensibly a song based on the character of Crow from Hawk the Slayer, more than a few reviewers have taken its defiant tone as the voice of a dying music form: pure, fun rock and roll. Fittingly then, a fan army provides the backing chorus in the track, and some appear in the video - a shambles of awkward, excited enthusiasts, bouncing, dancing, singing and just enjoying themselves. And that one particular fan - what a mover! Well played, sir. Well played.

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