Monday, August 16, 2010

Banes of My Existence: Kevin Smith

I suppose it was inevitable that something would set me off to rant about Kevin Smith here. It's probably a surprise it's taken this long; after all, I've been ranting about him for years. It's fair to say that I hate his work, in that I've hated every movie of his I've ever seen or comic book that I've ever read. I've often wondered if I'd hate him personally if our paths were ever to cross. He seems like a nice enough fellow. We'd certainly have plenty to talk about. I also wonder if it's possible to be friends with someone if you despise their work; I guess it's like dating a girl even though you think she's a twit. And I did once chase after a girl that thought there should be a Constitutional amendment passed requiring every American to see Pearl Harbor. She, though, was a helluva lot hotter then Kevin Smith.

I'm going to go on a quick tangent (or continue the tangent) here and tell a story about my friend Travis. He was talking to some girl once at a party, and she was telling him about her boyfriend, and how they have such a great connection, like all the same things, ect. And she said something like "he likes ice cream and puppies, just like me!" And Travis, bless him, told her how stupid that was, because every body likes ice cream and puppies. And she got mad at him and, I think, tossed his hat in the pool. But what impressed me was that Travis did something that men in our twenties never do, which is call out a girl we're hoping to pick up on something inane she said. I have the utmost respect for him for that.

I want to make one thing clear here: I'm not one of those Johnny-come-lately Kevin Smith haters. I've always hated his work. No, I did not think Clerks was funny, or keenly observant, and I was, in fact, working at a convenience store at the time. Mallrats I did not see, but I did see Chasing Amy, oh so many times. I was working at the Ritz Five in Philly, the art house chain, and Chasing Amy must have played there for about seven years. By the end of its' run I couldn't even bring myself to walk into the theater while it was playing. I've gone around and around with people on this, but what I always come back to in criticizing the film is that it is so ineptly made. Let me give you an example: there's a scene at the end of the movie where Jason Lee is talking to a fan at a comic book convention. The scene basically cuts between shots of the two of them, with the fan's monologue running uninterrupted between shots. Except that the background audio is different between each shot. This might not seem like a big deal; but, for a guy making his third film, it's inexcusable.

And then there's Dogma, the last Kevin Smith film I've ever seen. Against my better judgment, I allowed my brother to talk me into watching it, with promises that it was a very smart deconstruction of organized religion. No, it is not. It's a shambles of a film, confirming that Smith still, after now four feature films, does not understand the first thing about storytelling, and has no ability as a director to illicit a compelling performance from an actor. So after that I swore that I'd never give the guy another chance, and that was it. And, really, it hasn't been that hard to avoid him. Sure, the Jay and Silent Bob movie *shudder* was a hit, but Jersey Girl pretty much exposed his limitations, and he's never really recovered. Certainly, the bloom is off the Kevin Smith: filmmaker rose.

And then... there's comics. I guess that, if Kevin Smith is a terrible filmmaker, he's at least only a very bad comic book writer. His dialogue doesn't read quite so stilted as it sounds coming out of an actor's mouth. And he certainly knows comics, unlike some of the other Hollywood bigshots that slum it up for Marvel, DC or Image now and then. I certainly feel, as a comics fan, that we're expected to be thrilled when even the most minor of celebrities does comics, because even the most minor of celebrities is bigger then anyone in comics. So Seth Green's comic is about frat boys with super powers? Who cares, it's by Seth Green! From Austin Powers!

You get the idea. Smith, at least, really did seem to be committed to being a part of the comics industry-- at first. He did successfully relaunch both Daredevil and Green Arrow, though, so I suppose that's something, even if the former did result in the death of a longtime supporting character at the hands of a minor villain, and the plot of the latter revolved around a grandfather raping his grandson. Yes, you read that right.

But his own inability to complete projects soon destroyed his reputation. There was his Spider Man/ Black Cat mini- series that had a literal wait of years between issues. Then there was the Daredevil mini- series that only saw one issue released before Smith just stopped writing it (that one issue, by the way, is among the worst comics I've ever read). And that, really, was it, until DC Comics decided a few years ago to cash in on whatever remaining cred Smith's name has by letting the guy write some Batman. And the first series, Cacophony, was relatively well received.
Well enough, at least, for Smith to do a sequel, The Widening Gyre, originally intended for six issues, but now apparently to be twelve.

And this, finally, is what brings me here today. Because, frankly, Smith had fallen so far off my radar that I was only vaguely aware this thing was even coming out. But this review here really does a nice job bringing me up to speed. And, please, go read it for yourself, because I really don't want to spoil any of the awesome, awesome twists described there. You should have the same thrill of discovery I did when you learn that Kevin Smith had Batman tell a story about... no, no, see for yourself.

But I would really like to share with you a quote from this interview with Smith, that I think explains a lot: " I’m not telling you anything new…I’m far more creative now, you know. I’ve been writing this Batman: The Widening Gyre miniseries, and I’m stoned all the time when I’m writing it. And, I swear, I’ll write it, and then, it’s not so much blackout, but forget, so much so that the next morning, I go to read what I wrote, and it’s, like, I’m that fuckin’ little cobbler and elves came and fuckin' wrote it in the night, because I’m, like, "This is better than anything I’ve ever written before." I mean, like, I’ve done comics, but this is way better."

That really wraps it up nicely, doesn't it?


  1. hate hate much hate...

    life is too short to waste it hating Kevin Smith...

    ...besides, we ALL know the real reason you hate Dogma was the casting of Alanis Morrisette as god. Come one now...its along time can let it go...

  2. Jeez, that was quick. I barely finished typing the damn thing.

    Sorry, but at this point dislike of Smith>dislike of Morrisette. Though something about her is coming, don't you worry.