Unpopular Opinions: Quality VS Quantity

Over the years, there seems to be a trend towards “More is better”. hence, due largely to the success of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), the recent wave of comic book/superhero movies such as Batman V Superman: Dawn of Sucking, X-Men: Overstuffed and Ninja Turtles 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, are now trying to cram as many characters as they can into a single movie and on TV shows the trend leans toward expanded worlds with a large number of cast members…

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Hey! Did you spot Waldo?

…So naturally, I have to go against the grain and state this Unpopular Opinion:

I prefer small casts to large ones. Always have, and probably always will.

Yeah, I get that a lot of people think huge casts are great; there’s a ton of different characters and plots to explore, it feels more like an actual world, blah blah blah, but I’m more of a minimalist (and let’s face it: I’m also lazy); having to keep track of so many characters and story lines is a chore to me, and when there’s too many, I just lose interest.

Case in point: I was probably the only person on the internet who wasn’t having a fangasm when Cartoon Network’s Justice League mutated into Justice League Unlimited.

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The original JL format wasn’t perfect (I was never keen on the idea of Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman being on the team without Hawkman, not that she wasn’t a good or capable character, but in my mind she’s part of a duo and I can’t see her alone, and shipping Hawkgirl with someone other than her spouse and turning Hawkman into a Shayera Hol fanboy stalker didn’t sit right with me at all) but it was worlds better than the format change. I never liked the expansion of the League from the Super 7 to the JL Army; I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. For one, it just came off as gimmicky to me, like a ploy to sell more toys, especially since 2/3 of these new characters never actually did anything. Some people were fan-wanking:

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“At the end of the Static Shock episode “A League of Their Own”, the heroes said that Static and Gear would be joining the Justice League one day, so why weren’t they on JLU? Where were they?”

To which I respond, if Gear and Static were actually going to be the focus of stories and you know, do stuff, then I’d be totally fine with them appearing on JLU; they’re both cool characters, but I don’t see the need to put them on the show just to occasionally see them hovering in the background every few episodes.

-FTR, we did get to see Static in the League in “Time, Warped”…

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…and we got a glimpse of Gear in the SS episode “Future Shock”…

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Too much time in front of a monitor, I see…

..So there’s that.

The other reason I didn’t like the JL Army was because it cheapened the whole product; made it look like any Joe Shmoe with a flashy costume and a gimmick could get into the League; not the best image to convey for what’s supposed to be the greatest force for good on the planet. A club’s not exclusive if just anybody can be a member. If the League was going to open their doors for total jobbers like Vibe, Gypsy, Shining Knight and Vigilante, then they might as well have gone the whole 9 yards and stuck Mr. T, Inspector Gadget, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and the Super Globetrotters in there as well. The producers wanted to bring in some other DC characters to mix things up? Fine. Then just bring the occasional Super Guest like they used to do on the old Super Friends show and keep the Big 7 as an elite (and exclusive) group.

When it comes to fiction, I happen to follow the rule of KISS:

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DETROIT ROCK CITY!!

That being Keep It Simple, Stupid. Give a hoot, don’t convolute . Don’t over-complicate things when it’s not necessary. Keep everything streamlined and only focus on the main characters and their stories. This results in a better quality end product, since the creator only has to concentrate on the characters that matter, rather than trying to squeeze in a ton of ancillary characters that you really don’t need and have no real reason to be there.

A good example of the latter is The Amazing World of Gumball.

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Gumball‘s producers seem to want to take a Simpsons type approach to the show, focusing on the entire town/world as a whole and intent on giving every single character a spotlight episode, even the 1-note, 1-joke characters who simply aren’t interesting or capable enough to sustain an entire plot…

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…Whereas my brother Jason feels that the show should focus solely (if not exclusively) on the Watterson family first and foremost, and I have to say, based on what I’ve seen of Gumball, I have to agree with him. (Big surprise, I know.)

It’s like the game Sonic Heroes. Why cram your game full of a bunch of ham ‘n’ eggers that most people aside from super-hardcore fans really don’t care about…

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..When you could just as easily make a kick-ass game that only stars the biggest, most dimensional and most layered characters that people actually want to play as?

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Again, think KISS: Keep It Simple, Sir. Let’s not confuse quantity with quality. More doesn’t automatically equal better, or even as good. Some of the best comedians used restricted tools, and some of the greatest works of all time have done so by keeping things small: The Honeymooners and All in the Family each had only 4 protagonists, Sanford & Son and Two’s Company only had 2. Red Dwarf, one of THE best shows of all time, has never had more 3 or 4 regular cast members (5 counting Holly). The best Looney Tunes shorts have always centered on only 2 or 3 characters at a time, like Bugs and Elmer or Bugs and Sam or Bugs and Marvin or Bugs and Taz or Bugs and Daffy or Bugs, Daffy and Elmer or Daffy and Porky or Daffy and Marvin or Porky and Sylvester. I’ve always preferred smaller casts and fewer main characters. If the characters you have are cool and interesting, you don’t need a ton of characters.

I’d rather have a small set of elites and mega-stars…

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..Than a squad of D-Listers…

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…Any day.

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4 Comments

  1. On a related note, live action comic book super hero movies in the past few years have incorporated this annoying habit of trying to cram in at least 2 villains per film and as many cameos as possible. This needs to stop. The fight scene in Captain America: Civil War worked because Ant Man and Spider-Man actually had something to contribute to the scene. Plus, they didn’t stick around; they just showed up, did their bits of business and then left after they were no longer needed. X-Men: Apocalypse, by contrast brought in a ton of characters, but only a third of them were actually important to the story. Angel/Archangel, Psylocke and Jubilee didn’t need to be there. Those characters could have been edited out of the film and it wouldn’t have changed anything.

    Again, I’m not trying to constantly put Disney/Marvel over 20th Century Fox, but again, the first Avengers movie worked because there was only one primary villain to deal with, Loki. Yeah, he brought in an army later on, but it was mainly just him, as it should have been. Let’s get back to basics, folks. One big bad villain and one major conflict per movie. How about it?

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  2. silverstar

    “X-Men: Apocalypse brought in a ton of characters, but only a third of them were actually important to the story. Angel/Archangel, Psylocke and Jubilee didn’t need to be there. Those characters could have been edited out of the film and it wouldn’t have changed anything.”

    One problem the X-Men franchise has had since its’ inception is that it’s never had a single character or a small clique of characters who could be seen as its’ stars. In the beginning there were only 5 X-Men, and that was OK, but in that form they were a lot like the Fantastic Four, so the authors began expanding and rotating their roster; one the one hand it helped make the Xavier Academy feel more like a school, but on the other hand it just kept on cramming more and more characters in our faces to the point where every X-Men movie or TV show ends up featuring 7,8,9 or so characters all vying for the spotlight, with some characters inevitably getting the shaft in favor of others. Cyclops is usually always used, and sometimes he’s a main character, while other times he’s just there; sometimes Jean is there, other times she’s not; sometimes Rogue is there, other times she’s not; sometimes Gambit is there, other times he’s not, and sometimes he’s an X-Man and sometimes he isn’t; sometimes Shadowcat’s around and sometimes she’s not; sometimes Iceman’s there, other times he’s not and Storm and Beast usually always end up being just window dressing. X-Men has never had any one set of characters who could be it’s equivalent to the Super Hero Squaddies or the DC Trinity, and no, I don’t count Wolverine, since part of his shtick is that he’s a loner who’s constantly storming off to take care of his own business; this happens so frequently you can set your watch to it, like the Ninja Turtles having to rescue April O’Neil.

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  3. I totally agree on JLU. The original Justice League series was way better. The original cast was really dang powerful on its own, and Unlimited felt like an excuse to shoehorn in more heroes when they weren’t really needed.

    Oh, and Static Shock DID appear in JLU. He was in the two-part episode “The Once and Future Thing.”

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  4. silverstar

    “Oh, and Static Shock DID appear in JLU. He was in the two-part episode “The Once and Future Thing.”

    I mentioned that in the article. Static appeared in part 2 of that episode, “Time, Warped”.

    Like

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