R.I.P.D. is the perfect comic book movie. I know it got panned, but trust me when I tell you that a lot of that is circumstantial.
People generally prefer to complain rather than just sit back and enjoy something. If you can believe it, that’s more prevalent now than it was in 2013 when this was released, but it was still true then.
A comic book movie doesn’t have to be panel-for-panel in line with its source material. It should be imbued with the elements that make us love comic books. A good-versus-evil motif, maybe with a little gray around the edges, so as to not be entirely black and white.
This is all the better when we, as an audience, can root for one side and against another. Make it outlandish and as far away from reality as possible, with small relatable elements. Give us some death-defying stunts, amazing acrobatics and cinematics, crazy weapons, out-of-this-world visualizations. Glue it together with a standard beginning-middle-end story structure, sprinkle in some humor and good writing, and you’ve got a hit.
Even if it doesn’t make a dime, you’ve got yourself a very good comic book movie – a popcorn movie, if you will, that will probably find a second life in the home markets, or as I now call them, the streaming circuits!
Now, RIPD goes off of the beaten path by not being a straight MCU or DCEU movie and minus all of the superheroes so many are familiar with, but there are plenty of comics without “superheros” so this should come as less of a shock. But there is something bigger at play here.
We love to complain and lament a lack of creativity in Hollywood. Yet every comic book movie that drifts farther and farther away from Batman and Spider-Man gets killed for either not being a shot-for-shot homage to its printed origins or for doing poorly at the box office. Another example is 2011’s Cowboys and Aliens.
Personally, I don’t think either are bad movies. I think they’re great popcorn movies worth your time. But they are comic properties that aren’t based on the standard superheroes. It worked for Men in Black, right?
The difference there is that when Men In Black was released in 1997 as a buddy cop movie similar to RIPD, the “comic movie landscape” didn’t include the Nolanverse or the MCU as we know it.
And Men in Black is an apt comparison. RIPD is really just MIB with ghosts. But it’s tough to say that Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, and their boss Mary-Louise Parker are in a worse way than Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and their boss Rip Torn.
The point is, R.I.P.D. is great. Forget its score on Rotten Tomatoes. Forget what your local comic book snob told you was wrong with it. Perhaps we hold things to impossible standards, perhaps we just like complaining, but much of that is about hearing our own voices and wanting to remain entrenched in our own echo chambers… For me and my echo chamber, RIPD is great.
Reynolds and Bridges are everything you want from a buddy cop genre duo. Kevin Bacon is an amazing villain whose methods and madness aren’t that outlandish given the circumstances. And the idea that when the “dead” return to earth to do their work they assume “alternate” identities is absolutely superb in concept.
If you haven’t seen this film yet, now is the time. It’s 96 minutes of entertainment. It’s not serious, it’s just plain fun. And in an era, almost a decade on, where very few things are less than 100 minutes, this is a short investment in time for a wonderful mental getaway.
Couldn’t we all use that?