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Daily Reads: Faulty Science in "Lucy," Death to Frank Miller's Batman and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire July 25, 2014 at 9:29AM

Plus: unexpected quotes from "Hercules" reviews, and whether or not critics are reluctant to admit when films turn them on.
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Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson's "Lucy"
Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson's "Lucy"

Criticwire's Daily Reads brings today's essential news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. Death to Frank Miller's Batman. "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Batman: Year One" are among the best stories to come out of DC Comics, but they're not the only Batman stories that are worth a damn. Vulture's Abraham Riesman thinks that after three (and, with Zack Snyder, four) directors using Miller as a primary inspiration for a Batman film, it's time to pick a different writer as a source. Here's one of the other titles Riesman suggested:

Grant Morrison's myth-heavy Batman mega-arc: In 2006, DC made a brilliant decision and put one of the comics world's greatest geniuses at the helm of Batman: Scotsman Grant Morrison. Over the following seven years, in stories that crossed the globe and traveled through time, he radically reimagined the Batman mythos. In his stories, you can find a wealth of concepts that a skilled director could harness. What if Batman is a symbol that's much bigger Bruce Wayne: a symbol he could pass down to a successor as well as franchise out to culturally specialized sub-Batmen in cities around the world? What if Batman became a father? What if Batman were driven insane and had to rely on protocols he'd set up for himself in the event that he lost his mind? Any one of these conceits — along with the many others Morrison crafted — could make for a gripping and new tonal approach on the big screen. Read more.


2. Are Critics Reluctant to Admit When They're Turned On? The trailer for "50 Shades of Grey" just dropped, and, to each his/her own, but that wasn't sexy, that was silly. The Telegraph's Robbie Collin didn't much care for it either, noting that he wasn't sure which parts were supposed to be sexy. However, it did give him an opportunity to talk about how, often erring on the side of caution (i.e., not sounding leery), critics sometimes go too far in the other direction.

Too often, though, this tendency towards discretion goes zooming off in the other direction – witness the stampede by some writers last year to declare, with a weary and supercilious air, just how unsexy they found the Cannes Palme D'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color," an intensely and joyfully sexual film. There’s the whiff of a suggestion in comments like those that having been turned on by a film is somehow a sign of weakness – that the director has tricked you into liking their work at groin-level, bypassing the more trustworthy organs of the head and heart. That attitude is jaded and, I think, dishonest, and doesn’t reflect particularly well on any critic who perpetuates it without just cause...

Read more.

3. The Faulty Science of "Lucy." The new Scarlett Johansson/Luc Besson action movie "Lucy" is, depending on who you ask, either the smartest dumb movie of the year or the dumbest smart movie. One thing's for sure: the film's claim that humans only use 10% of their brain's full capacity is totally absurd. Yet it's a widely popular myth: 65% of Americans believe it, which is 5% more than those who believe in evolution (oh dear). Why is this the case? The Atlantic's Sam McDougle investigates and explains why it's wrong.

The 10 percent claim is demonstrably false on a number of levels. First, the entire brain is active all the time. The brain is an organ. Its living neurons, and the cells that support them, are always doing something. (Where’s the “you only use 10 percent of your spleen” myth?) Joe LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at NYU, thinks that people today may be thrown off by the “blobs”—the dispersed markers of high brain activity—seen in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the human brain. These blobs are often what people are talking about when they refer to the brain “lighting up.”

Read more.

4. Unexpected Quotes from "Hercules" Reviews. Truism #1: Brett Ratner is not a very good director. Truism #2: Dwayne Johnson is a good actor and potential action great, but most of his movies without the words "Fast" and "Furious" put together in their titles are not worthy of his talents. So a combination of the two for a "Hercules" movie doesn't seem like a very promising endeavor. But not so fast: critics seem pleasantly surprised by the film, and their reviews showcase their surprise.

"The result is a far classier pic than Paramount’s frenetic trailer — and decision to hide the film from reviewers until the eleventh hour — foretold" — Scott Foundas, Variety

"Brett Ratner's cheerfully ridiculous and entertaining film..." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian. Read more.

Tweets of the Day:

Video of the Day: Wallace Shawn and André Gregory's "My Dinner With André" reunion.

This article is related to: Daily Reads, Batman, Lucy, Luc Besson, Scarlett Johansson, Hercules, Dwayne Johnson, Wallace Shawn


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