Monday, March 2, 2015

"Superhero Culture"

In lieu of the 87th Academy Awards show just two weekends ago, a lot of discussion has come about on the Interwebs on the credibility of the super-hero genre and its impact on cinema today. It's not a new topic and is one that cropped up probably in 2013, when we were getting more and more news about what kinds of movies would be coming out and when.

This particularly hit home when it was announced 30-odd super-hero films from Marvel Studios, Warner Bros., 20th Century FOX, and Sony would be released through the year 2020, with no end in sight, either. Personally, I've heard many people saying that eventually this is a fad people will get over, that eventually they will grow sick of hearing about it and the big super-hero genre will die off, never to be seen again and will just be fun to look at on your shelf of movies.

At first I was gung-ho about doing this article, until wise words from James Gunn, director of a small film known as Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as Internet celebrity from the "Nostalgia Critic" web-series Rob Walker almost convinced me not to write this and instead just link you guys to their points, since I agree with pretty much all of them. But, I have my own thoughts on this topic and felt it a proper time to share it with many.

You can say I'm biased toward super-hero flicks, and I totally am. I love comic books and I love most of the movies that they spawn, even if my two favorite heroes don't have movies of their own. I love Marvel's The Avengers, The Dark Knight, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and many more like it.

However, I do hear a lot that this is ruining the film industry and will lead ultimately to its downfall, that more and more movies are going to instill a "cinematic universe" of sorts into their plots for the sake of going with the flow.

At first I was endearing toward the term "cinematic universe," but now it's just a dry phrase that basically could boiled down to the simplest of things: story.

All the Marvel Studios movies and eventual DC Comics related movies are doing one thing: telling a story. While you don't have to watch all the Marvel movies to get what's going on, you'll be curious as to how Loki magically arrives on Earth in "The Avengers." You'll be curious as to why many people stand against Superman in "Batman v. Superman."

It's not like a chapter-book or anything, but these movies do tell a complete story. Like a story, there are going to be things missing or parts people don't like. For example, in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, I wasn't the biggest fan of the Taming of the Shire. It got better toward the end, but was a bit of a drag to get through. Likewise, I seriously dislike the two latest "Iron Man" installments, but I understand their meaning and importance on the characters and creators. It adds to the overall story.

So no, I don't think the whole "universe" thing is going to hurt anyone or anything. In fact, I think that it's going to help the industry, breathing life into old franchises and helping them grow as a complete story. There are many rumors of them bringing back such legendary Gothic characters as Count Dracula and Frankenstein, and more power to those people. If they can pull it off, that's wonderful.

Many see superhero films as nothing more than just popcorn movies, and since there are *gasp* THIRTY OH EM GEE coming out in the next several years, that they will completely shatter cinema as we know it. Hmm.

Out of the hundreds, if not thousands of movies released last year, there were a total of FOUR superhero movies. This year, 2015, there will be a whopping total of THREE. Next year? Confirmed SIX with a possible SEVEN if "Sinister Six" takes off sometime between now and like...tomorrow. Wow. Seven movies.

The downfall of cinema as we know it.

I think the biggest beef people have, it's something that Gunn pointed out, is that these are the movies that get the most attention, that get the most money. Thus, the voters for the Academy Awards (who, mind you, hardly watch the movies on the ballots and just assume it's good putting down their vote, as also shown in an article released the day of the Awards) will turn it down for it's wild antics and big action sequences. Because it's not "art."

Blockbuster movies will always make the most amount of money because, quite simply, they do what movies are meant to do: entertain the audience. I won't say that the most recent "Transformers" film is anything better than complete crap but I will acknowledge that there is an audience that enjoys seeing the movies and has a fun time with it. Sure it's a bad example, but it still does what it sets out to do and entertains the audience. On the contrary, films like the aforementioned "X-Men" movie and Captain America: The Winter Soldier tell compelling stories that both make the audience think about what's at stake as well as give us a good time.

In the example of the former, I imagine that the pitch for the movie went something like this: "Captain Steve Rogers uncovers a secret that will unravel the United States government and cold lead to the deaths of millions of people."

Was there any mention of a super-hero, villain, dude in a costume? No! The reason that Cap 2 is, in my opinion, the best Marvel movie is because it works as not only a super-hero film but also a political action thriller that really doesn't have too much of a happy ending and has high implications on the story element Marvel is using I mentioned earlier. This single film is going to have resounding effects on all other Marvel movies.

I don't think there is a definitive answer as to why people don't like these movies, but rather, three different viewpoints: 1) All these movies are the same. 2) I don't understand the source material and therefore it is bad. 3) It's popular so it's cool to hate it.

1). No. There is not a movie that has been released since Iron Man that is similar. Guardians of the Galaxy and "The Avengers" are two completely different films: The former almost feels like the deconstruction of the super-hero films Marvel has created, while the latter is that perfect goal they were reaching for. The Dark Knight is unlike any superhero movie made, even different than the original 1989 Batman. It doesn't sacrifice what the morals and struggles of Batman are while also creating its own spin on the lore and crafting what could one day be deemed as one of the greatest movies ever made. Sure, Slumdog Millionaire deserved its victory at the 81st Academy Awards, but TDK should've been nominated for what it was, what is is.

2) Don't understand the source material? Doesn't matter, in my opinion. Characters and origins have been changed around so many times that even the source material is getting itself confused (Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are Inhuman, are you kidding me, Marvel?!). Perhaps its a simple mentality of not going to a movie just for the sake of sitting and shutting off your brain but actually trying to invest yourself into the story and see how its going to work, going along this ride with the characters rather than trying to just have a date-night and make a move on someone. Very middle school.

3) That's a stupid mentality. Plain and simple. Hate if it's truly your opinion, not because it's cool and you want to go against the flow. I go against the flow of Marvel Studios not because they're popular but because I'm naturally a DC person, and I do question their moves sometimes if it's not followed up with any explanation. But I don't hate Marvel or their movies (well, some I do), because I have immense respect for the studio and how they've revolutionized the way films are made.

In the end, superhero culture is no bigger than any other big Blockbuster we've seen. It's no bigger than "Star Wars" or "Indiana Jones." The superhero movies that are released are created not for the fans but for general audiences to get wrapped up in and tell a good story. They are not bad for anyone. Filmmakers who strive so hard but are left unnoticed because of these films just had a bad break. Maybe it was bad timing against a much more popular film, maybe the film just isn't as "artsy" as the creators hoped. If a film is good, it will eventually get its due.

I think its simply a matter of people calming down, not paying so much attention to all the stupid news breaks and rumors that the media seems to throw at us every other day, and just go into a movie theatre when Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron is released with an open mind, ready to see a hopefully great story unfold, one that they can truly see as a thought-provoking, innovative story. Superhero movies have a ton of appeal and are created for everyone to enjoy, and are indeed growing everyday but in the right direction. They are bolding going where few movies have gone before. And it's not like this is news. Superhero films have been around for decades, it's just that now they are structured and are getting good enough for true exposure and true discussion rather than constant critiques. Will this eventually die off? Perhaps. But it won't be because of backlash because much like most topics of discussion, it is a loud minority, and the silent majority is still excited for movies to come.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @seanovan13 to stay up to date on when I post. Thanks for reading!

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