Mark Millar was just recently announced to be 20th Century Fox’s “creative consultant” for their line of Marvel movies. I couldn’t imagine a worse person to choose.
Let’s get this out of the way, okay? I don’t like Mark Millar’s body of work. It tends to be crass, juvenile, demented, adolescent wish-fulfillment where everyone curses like a sailor, people explode into buckets of blood and gore when they die (and boy do a lot of people die in Millar’s stories), and everyone but the main character is a warped misogynist. Kick-Ass 2 is especially guilty of this, where the villain of the story, known, sigh, as The Mother-Fucker, shoots a bunch of children for no real reason and then rapes the protagonist’s girlfriend, all to show how evil and sick he is. Really, Millar? That’s the extent of your imagination? Don’t get me started on Nemesis, where the villain kidnaps the hero’s daughter and son, impregnates the daughter with the son’s sperm, and then rigs the daughter’s uterus to collapse if they attempt an abortion. These are actual words that Mark Millar actually wrote down that were actually published.
Millar’s stories tend to be fast-paced, hyper-kinetic, balls to the wall stories where there’s hardly a moment to catch your breath amidst all the carnage and mayhem. They’re also markedly un-real in their depiction of reality, despite several of his stories taking place in the “real world”.
If it isn’t clear, I’m not a fan of dark, gritty, pessimistic stories. There was a time in my life where I enjoyed comics like Wanted, but I grew tired of all the cynicism. There’s never any victory to be found in Millar’s comic books, where even the slightest glimmer of hope is dashed away with some downbeat addendum that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Maybe that’s why I loved the film adaptation of Kick-Ass so much, where near the end of the movie Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl fly off into the sunset on a mini-gun powered jetpack.
Now that my distaste for these kinds of stories is out in the open, let’s move on to the real problem, which is Mark Millar getting his grubby little paws all over the Fox-Marvel movies. Millar undoubtedly means a new direction for the Fox-Marvel movies, previously known for their overall lightheartedness and upbeat tone. I mean, yes, people died in the X-Men movies, but it wasn’t like the bodies were stacking in a pile a mile high (excluding the Brett Ratner X-Men movie, which, of course, doesn’t count anyway). Matthew Vaughn, who directed both Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, brought a certain gravitas to the X-Men movies. X-Men: First Class was certainly darker than the previous Marvel movies, but it still had a sense of humor that wasn’t warped by the darkness. Hell, the whole movie was about overcoming darkness.
Getting Millar involved means we should expect certain things from future Fox-Marvel movies, namely tragedy prevailing in the end, a sick sense of humor, and a blinding pessimistic tone. Millar went on to describe the next X-Men movie, Days of Future Past (based on the comic arc of the same name), as “X-Men meets The Terminator.” He was certainly describing the Sentinels, the mutant-killing robots that haunt a potential dystopic future, but what if he was also describing its tone? Do we really need an X-Men movie where there isn’t any hope to be found, where the good guys might win, but not without heavy losses and a depressing ending? What ever happened to the optimistic stories of yesteryear?
Frankly, it’s mostly Christopher Nolan’s doing, albeit unintentionally. He directed the fantastic Batman trilogy, which actually included, of all things, themes, motifs, and character arcs (in a comic book movie, no less!). But it also showed what audiences crave in their movies these days, which is the dreaded grim and gritty tone I loathe so much. It worked for his Batman trilogy because of the world he built from the ground up, but the X-Men movies already have an established tone and universe. Imagine if the next Fantastic Four takes a turn for the grim, where the cosmic radiation that gave each of them their superpowers kills the Invisible Woman’s unborn child at the end of the movie.
It’s this kind of thing I’m worried about, because despite what audiences want, it’s not what they need. We live in a time where the populous has become jaded with cynicism and snark, and people like Mark Millar aren’t helping when they simply feed into that. We need heroes that we can look up to and inspire to be like, and villains we can loathe and hope meet their demise at the end. Millar would have it the other way around, where villains are slick and cool as a cucumber, and heroes are really just dorky nobodies. Comics especially have the power to inspire us, and this should translate easily to the big screen. One of the big themes of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films was the power to inspire hope in people, and despite its dark and gritty tone, the trilogy ended on a note of optimism. The last thing I want to see is a new era of pessimism invading our stories and penetrating our psyches.