Have you ever wanted to look deep into the dark recesses of a comic book movie director’s mind – nay – heart? You don’t have to look much further than the interview StarPulse.com recently held with director Brett Ratner. The Q&A session was mostly a junket to build hype for Ratner’s upcoming film The Shooter Series, but also touched on Beverly Hills Cop 4 and his thoughts on comic book fans, and it’s that last part I want to focus on.
There are sites out there (that we are most certainly friends with and fans of) that regularly rip Ratner and his films a new one. So I’m going to preface this article by saying that if you search Screen Rant you’ll find that while we may not be his biggest fans, we haven’t jumped on the “‘Brett Ratner sucks’ bandwagon” in our coverage of him or his films.
The interview is standard fare for the first part – with Ratner praising himself and all he has done. But soon enough the focus turns toward his work on X-Men 3: The Last Stand and all the flak he took from comic book fanboys for helming what many consider to be the worst installment of the trilogy. It is at this point Ratner’s true feelings towards his highly critical audience come out and the confession isn’t pretty. In fact, it should make every person that ever had a critical comment to make towards any of his movies stand up and thrust forth the proverbial finger and say “Spin on this Captain Franchise Killer!”
I’ll start with the question StarPulse.com asks Ratner, give a bit of his answer and then I’ll respond to his remarks. You can head over to StarPulse.com for the entire lengthy interview.
StarPulse.com : “You mentioned X-Men. Is the comic book fan the hardest demographic to please? If you look at the numbers: Bryan Singer‘s X-Men made $157 Million, X-Men United made $214 million and your X-Men: The Last Stand made $234 million. Yet that group wasn’t particularly happy.”
Ratner: “Absolutely. Bryan Singer gave me the best advice when I was doing “X-Men 3,” Bryan is a really good friend of mine. Bryan said, “Whatever you do, do not read the Internet.” I’m like, “Why?” He’s like, “First of all, they hated on me the whole time I was making ‘X-Men’ and ‘X-Men 2.’ They said, ‘Gambit should have been the star of the movie'” They’re such rabid fans, they’re so passionate about their comic book characters that they think that their favorite character should be the star of the movie. Someone might be passionate about Iceman being the star. So, you can’t win. Everyone’s going to have their own so just stay away from their opinion and do what you feel’s best.”
Me: First off, I’m glad that Ratner clarifies that he and Bryan Singer are good friends, nothing like a good name drop and “nudge-wink-nudge” to validate the comments you are about to say. Yes we did “hate” on Singer the entire time he was making the first X-Men film but not so much with the second one. Singer needed to prove he could pull off a multiple character comic movie film that didn’t look and feel like Batman & Robin. If Singer had failed (which he didn’t), then all of the other comic book movies that came after might never would have materialized. Before X-Men, the only examples “rabid” fanboys had to look to in the comic book movie world were a handful of bad Batman movies (Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman excluded), a very bad Punisher movie and a made-for-TV Spider-Man flick – so excuse us for being overly concerned about X-Men’s transition from page to screen.
Ratner: I kind of made rules for myself. I said to the writers — Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg — I only want to put scenes in this movie that exist from actual comic books. That way I protect myself. Even though I protect myself they’re still saying, “Why the f*ck did [he] kill Professor X?” He died in five different comic books! People are crazy. “Brett Ratner killed Professor X! How dare he do that!” He died in five different comic books and came back!”
Me: First Ratner calls us rabid and passionate fans, implying that we know way more about the comic characters than he does, and then insults us for allegedly not knowing that Professor X has died on more than one occasion? Superman and Robin also died but I don’t see the other directors killing off their major characters. By the way, nice language to use during an interview.
Am I supposed to be impressed that Ratner made rules for himself and then chose to only follow the one where a character dies? He also killed off Cyclops in a manner that is not consistent with the comic stories. I don’t ever remember reading in the comics that Jean rises as the Phoenix, finds Scott by a lake and obliterates his molecules. One could argue that Cyclops did die in Uncanny X-Men #377 while sacrificing himself to save a friend from the villain Apocalypse (special thanks to Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw for pointing that out), and that Ratner simply took creative liberties with said death, but I don’t buy it. I think the “Great Sultan of the Lens” took the cheap way out by tossing Cyclops – a pivotal corner of the X-Universe – on the sideline.
I’m not done with his so called “rules”: Ratner says he we wanted to stay true to the source material from the comic, but then he throws in some throw-away characters and really messes up others. Fanboys gave him mad props for trying to include as many characters as he could – the inclusion of Angel, Beast and Colossus were among our favorites visually, but then he did nothing with them. They were just there to look at and chew up scenery. Some of the worst were Juggernaut, Leech, Siryn and Callisto; he put no thought into translating them from page to screen and for that I call “bull crap” on his “rules”.
StarPulse.com: Then people weren’t happy with Bryan Singer when he went on to Superman Returns.
Ratner: You can’t make these people happy. I’m kind of the Anti-Christ to these comic book geeks. Every single person that wrote sh*t went to see that movie multiple times because a movie doesn’t gross $200 something million unless people go to see it more than once. Every single person who said, “I’m never seeing that movie,” they were the first ones there.
Me: Brett isn’t the anti-christ; I prefer to think of him as the “Slayer of Children’s Dreams.” I love how he speaks with ultimate authority on the subject of who went to see his film. I sometimes truly wonder if he understands how the movie sequel process works. Brett had the privilege of making a movie with a built in audience. The first two X-Men films were so good that, of course, everyone who saw those films were going to see the third regardless of what occurred during production. The only thing that would have truly kept fans from watching it would have been the announcement of Uwe Boll as director; Ratner needs to come down off his high horse.
And no, I was not the first one in line (I was fourth because of a parking issue), but I was the first to leave the theater. Also, according to Lessmovieinfo.net, the average ticket price in 2000, when X-Men was released, was $5.39; compare that to the $6.55 average price in 2006 when X-Men 3 released and Ratner starts off $1.16 per ticket better than previous two films. Sure that’s not an overwhelming amount, but after a few million tickets that starts to add up. It’s just one reason why X-Men 3 made more than the previous two films.
Here’s the main reason why I think X-Men 3 made more money than the previous two films: I call it the “Waffle House Effect.”
I know what you’re thinking, “What does ‘Waffle House’ have to do with X-Men 3? Was there a tie-in promotion I was unaware of?”
Imagine this: you’re driving through a small town when you become hungry for a steak. The problem is, there is only one place to eat in town and it’s Waffle House. Now granted, Waffle House has got the market on hash browns and waffles but they aren’t known for their Ruth’s Chris-style steaks. But hey, it’s the only place in town to eat so if you are truly hungry for steak, then that’s where you have to go.
While you are there you find out this particular Waffle House did $234 million in steaks last summer and the manager is going on interviews bragging about how his Waffle House is the best thing ever, and how critics and fans of well made steaks can kiss his butt.
Anyone with a brain can figure out that this Waffle House isn’t making big much money because of how good their steaks are but rather they are the only option in town.
The same thing applies to X-Men 3. The movie didn’t make big money because it was above reproach and Ratner made the Citizen Kane of comic book films – it did well at the theater because it was the only comic book movie to open in the summer of 2006. The movie was the only place to get a steak, even one as chewed up, overcooked and leathery as X3 was; if fanboys wanted to watch Wolverine slash and hack, then X-Men 3 was the only place to go.
StarPulse.com: What is it then? Are you polarizing?
Ratner: You know what it is. That’s their whole life, they have nothing more to do than to worry. What are they concerned about? It’s out of the filmmaker’s hands. A film is a collaborative effort. How’s a person sitting at home going to worry about how a movie is going to turn out to be? I just know one thing: Mine out grossed the other two by far. Mine was the one that made the most narrative sense. And I’m not knocking Bryan’s movie but he just does a certain thing; Bryan uses his brain and I use my eye and my instincts more. It’s a whole different approach to making a movie. I’m not saying my movie wasn’t smart; I just wasn’t intellectualizing it. I was just looking at it as pure entertainment value which is what it was.
Me: So at first Ratner calls Bryan Singer his good friend and then throws his movies under the bus? I’m sorry, he did preface his comments with “And I’m not knocking Bryan’s movie”, so I guess it’s OK. I would really like to comment on his “Bryan uses his brain” remark but that would be like beating a piñata with a semi-truck.
Brett was not the first choice to direct X-Men 3 – heck he wasn’t even the second choice! Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughan was on-board briefly, however when Singer and Vaughn both pulled out during production, Fox had to do something quick to fill the director’s chair. IMHO, what Fox did tapping Ratner for the job is the equivalent of taking the ugly girl home from the bar at the end of the night because the cute ones left with your friends.
Now, I’m the first to give Ratner props for at least getting the movie done under some poor circumstances: low budget, bad script, short production time, studio meddling and high fan expectations. He stepped in and finished what no one else seemed to want to do, but that doesn’t excuse him for his next statement:
Ratner: When I was a kid and used to watch that cartoon it was just fun. It wasn’t a deeper meaning for me when I watched the cartoon as a kid. I didn’t read the comic books but it doesn’t matter, the cartoon is the same f*cking thing. The most ridiculous statement I’ve read is — and of course I looked at the Internet after the movie came out — that I buried the franchise. If I buried the franchise how the f*ck did they make a “Wolverine”? I mean, that’s ridiculous. And they’re making three other f*cking “X-Men” movies. Mine kept the franchise alive!
Me: Once again, fantastic language by Mr. Classy but, in that one statement Ratner proves why he should never have been chosen (third) to helm this project. The X-Men cartoons were never intended to replace the comics; they were only supposed to extend their media reach. The stories and characters in the cartoon were all vastly different then the comics and this could be a major reason why Ratner’s X-Men universe didn’t work; he didn’t truly understand how the stories and characters were supposed come across. What Brett (by his own words) was make a movie based on a TV show that’s based on a comic book. There is a lot that gets lost in translation when movies are done that way.
As far as a response to his “buried the franchise” remark, he really DID bury the franchise. The way he left the characters and burnt bridges tied off story lines almost guarantees fans will never see an X-Men 4. Sure we have the new Wolverine franchise to follow and there have been rumors of a Magneto and Gambit spin-offs but Ranter didn’t do anything in X-Men 3 to help facilitate any of that.
I guess what cheeses me off the most is his flippant attitude towards his audience. Compare that to Jon Favreau, who reached out to fans and looked for the feedback and input (within reason) for Iron Man. There are very few directors in Hollywood that can pack people in theaters just BECAUSE they are directing it; I would put Scorsese, Spielberg, and Coppola at the top of that list right now. Brett Ratner’s name, however, would not show up on that list. These directors have established themselves in the world of cinema to such a degree that their name alone will draw in moviegoers regardless of what acting talent is in the film.
Ratner, on the other hand, must still rely on big name actors and pre-established content to draw in audiences. Do you think anyone would have watched Rush Hour 1, 2, or 3 if Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker weren’t starring? Would After the Sunset (which I actually liked) have had the box office success if Pierce Bronson and Woody Harrelson weren’t’ attached?
There is no way to know the answer for sure but I challenge Ratner to try and make a big blockbuster film that equals the success of X-Men 3 WITHOUT having a built-in fan base from previous films, or riding the coat tails of big name actors. District 9 did it this summer with no recognizable faces or names behind the camera.
Brett Ratner, the gauntlet has been thrown down; will you pick it up?
What do you think about Brett Ratner’s comments and feelings toward the comic book fan boy community?