Love and hate are two of the strongest emotions we, as humans, can have. And in this age of the internet, when everyone can freely voice their opinions, I hear a lot of hate for many different things. Whether it be story arcs, characters or even entire series, people always appear very quick to hate something.
One of the most prominent outpourings of hatred in my memory was against Ultimate Spider-man as it replaced Spectacular Spider-man. Now Ultimate Spider-man appeared to be damned pretty much as soon as it was announced. I do get the sentiment, I loved Spectacular Spider-man, I think I’d rate it as one of my favourite cartoons. I love the way Spectacular mixes the different origins into one cohesive whole, cherry-picking the best bits of the mythos. The drawing style may be an acquired taste, and a touch simple, but it leaves the animation budget free to create some really great moments as Spidey swings through the city. And seeing all of that taken away after only two seasons to be replaced by something else, I admit I was hurt.
Ultimate Spider-man had to be fantastic to win over the older members of its audience, and it just isn’t. I haven’t watched many of the recent episodes, but I gave the whole first season a try. From what I saw I think its main problem is that it failed to capture the spirit of Peter Parker. It just didn’t feel like Spider-man, what with the backing of S.H.I.E.L.D., a team of teen heroes and fourth wall breaking jokes. That’s not Spider-man’s style of humour. And it all feels too, lucky I suppose is the word I’m looking for. That’s not Spider-man at all. He’s always meant to be down on his luck, struggling against the reality of his situation, but always pushing through as it’s the selfless and responsible thing to do. The show just feels like some executives saw Batman Brave and the Bold, and said, ‘Hey! We can do that.’ ‘Yeah, and Spider-man is Marvel’s flagship character, so let’s make the show about him.’
I don’t like Ultimate Spider-man, but I don’t hate it either. I can see that the people behind it are trying to make a decent show, and I know some kids like it. So I’ve resigned myself to not watching it. It’s not for me, I’ll wait for the next Spider-man cartoon in a couple of years.
In fact I don’t hate that many things. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things that drive me into a boiling rage, but I don’t hate them. I always try to find the good parts, even if that’s just one tiny little bright spot. I also like to think that I’ll give something a passing grade, if it can convince that it tried. Even if it’s technically bad, I will enjoy it if I can see that the people working on the project put some effort in. It’s harder to try and fail, then never to start at all.
A prime example of this is the Percy Jackson movies. Now I’m a big fan of the books, but I don’t hate on the films just because their pale imitations of the source material (though that is a part of it admittedly). I accept that film is a different medium, and changes will have to be made to accommodate that difference. I understand that, and I sometimes appreciate the changes that are made. I actually prefer the ending of the first film, to the ending of the book. It makes more sense, and it’s more dramatic, for Percy to have a fight with that character especially before the main plot has been resolved. And to give the film credit, the beginning isn’t that bad either. It chugs along nicely. I can see why purists would be upset by the changes to Grover and Annabeth, but to be honest Grover practically carries the film, and Annabeth is still a badass (even if she does have the wrong colour hair).
The problem with the first film is the middle, because with this film, the spot of bad is so anger-inducing in me that I can only hate this film. It’s so lazy and boring. There’s a perfectly good plot in the book, but no, that’s not going to work in a film. No, we can’t have logical progress in a story. No, we’re going to use a stupid map to tell our characters exactly where to go. (Wow, that’s never been done before has it!) It’s so pointless and so mind-bogglingly lazy, that to me it just screams ‘we don’t give a damn, just give us your money so we can make a sequel’. It’s not in the spirit of the book; it’s not in the spirit of decent story telling! There is no care, or attention, and it’s just annoying.
Now the second Percy Jackson film, Sea of Monsters, I actually like. I like it a lot more than I should. I recognise it as a bad film, but it actually tries, and I am so grateful for that I give it a free pass. It captures the spirit of the book, there’s more characters there (acting as they should most of the time), there’s more modern day technology tied to the mythological stuff, the plot flows nicely with no lazy plot devices. My only major gripe is what the hell happened to Annabeth in between films? It’s like she dyed her hair blonde and changed from being to the daughter of the Wisdom Goddess, to the daughter who keeps falling on her behind. I don’t understand that.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is its fine if you hate something, I just feel that we don’t always have to jump straight to hate. Hate is a powerful emotion and sometimes it can consume us and block out all the good that is there. I try to find the good in something, or see how other people might appreciate it. Even though I hate the first Percy Jackson film, that hate is tempered by the acknowledgement of its few good aspects. And I believe that’s a much better way to look at this world. And I did give the film a chance, I went in with tempered expectations, it’s unfortunate for the film that it was even worse than those expectations. You have to give something a chance, if you go into something wanting to not like it, you could miss out on something great. Sure a lot of the time the gamble won’t pay off, and you’ll probably not like it. There’s always a slim chance though, that you may find something that surprises you, something that you can love. That’s what I think anyway.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.