Superheroes you say?

July 29, 2008 at 12:43 am 1 comment

I find that I can’t be the only person in the world that gets marginally bummed when he hears responses like:
“Oh yeah, The Maltese Falcon, sounds familiar…”

There’s been a general malaise toward the classic films of the world.  This feeling, that we should be quarentening these great works to Turner Classic Movies for the over 70 crowds in nursing homes.   It’s as though because there aren’t massive explosions, girls getting naked, and cool gadgets, that these movies are some how lacking, and substandard.  As though because these movies rely on words more than actions, that dialogue somehow makes a film worse.

Lets be perfectly clear, I am not against modern cinema.  I recognize some amazing work has come out in the past 20 years, but it seems doubtless to me that we’ve lost something in our culture.  I find this nowhere more evident than in the recent wave of superhero movies that have been plaguing movie theaters across the country.  These movies are generally loaded with condescending plots, predictable characters, more explosions and special effects than you can shake a stick at.  Just to cap off the formula, add a few scantily clad damsels in questionable states of distress, and general lack of moral ambiguity.  Why this formula?  Simply put, it sells seats.  Worse, when a movie does manage to be something that deviates from this formula, it is undercut by a wave of people that have some fear of change.

Now, before anyone gets to this, let me head it off.  The academy award for film, means nothing when reflected against culture.  That just means that a group of individuals feel a movie is significantly good, and you’re going to get free press.  Yes, you get a shiny trophy, but do you think that’s what most of the actors and directors are doing it for?   If you want proof, you can look at what pictures have made best picture over the past 20 years.  It’s an interesting list to say the least.  Only 2 of those films are of note for grossing absurd amounts of money.   The Dark Knight could become the third if it happens to win best picture.  The Dark Knight happens to win best picture this year, it will be a dubious affirmation of the superhero lust pattern that shows no signs of stopping.

There’s Nothing Wrong With A Hero

Now, I will admit there have been some damn good superhero movies.  I’m not going to mention The Dark Knight , which has arguably been generating ridiculous amounts of buzz and hype, primarily because I haven’t seen it.   [I will also conceed that ridiculous amount of hype is actually perhaps too weak in describing it as I’ve seen an article comparing it to George W. Bush’s presidency.]  Yet, there are other good superhero movies out there.  The Spiderman and X-men Series come to mind. Yet we’ve also been plagued with the wonderful Hulk (of variable quality), Catwoman, Daredevil, Fantastic 4, and the list goes on.  There’s a point where being nostaligic for superheros is getting to be painful.

Yet, there are other heroes [not the TV show].  One’s that don’t wear capes, tights, or occasionally turn colors.  These aren’t to be mistaken with Rambo, Rocky, or the recently recreated Indiana Jones (which to be fair, was better than expected), but rather, the long forgotten, one movie heroes. Whatever happened to the Juror 8s from 12 Angry Men , Sam Spade characters from The Maltese Falcon?  Have we replaced all of Hollywood’s leading men with variants of James Bond?  We’ve deviated from the comedy of the Odd Couple to shoving pineapples up Hitler’s ass.

If you didn’t know better, you might almost think the movie had replaced the people.

I Guess You’ll Do

Today, we have Tom Cruise, Matthew Broderick, Alan Rickman, Jason Schwartzman, Richard Gere, George Clooney, Shia LaBeouf, and god knows how many other in’s and outs of the who’s who in Hollywood.  The roles they play are comedians, crooks, and leading men.   Sometimes they play reluctant or unexpected heroes, but their saving the day is something that comes at too low a cost.  The struggle of the hero is now predictable, explosive, and filled with more baddies than even John Woo thought of throwing at even the most Hard Boiled.  Hollywood seems to be of the belief that a story is enhanced by using the dialogue for comedy to break up the action, comedy to advance the plot, and twists to hopefully make people think that the friend wasn’t a friend at all.  To make matters worse, if the characters aren’t secretly going to stab someone in the back, they’re rigidly morally aligned with a creed.

Hasn’t this already been done?

Worse yet, people don’t behave like this in the real world.  What has been gained by cheapening the actions of the characters?  The motions that are now made with no deliberate intent.  Characters, no long cross rooms for items or events.  Camera’s seem to take the place of people interacting with their environment.    Sometimes this benefits us as movie goers.  Making the film feel more personable, and the production seem more expensive, but generally does little to advance the plot.

Prince or Pauper?

Not all of these productions are massively bloated, star ridden, explosive filled, Hamilton stealing vices designed only to attract the public.   In this case, cinema has become more about money than art.   Thankfully, independent cinema has been trying to fill the artistic gap lost in film making.  The success has been arguable, and the films sporadically good or bad.  Yet, there is potential.  In the past few years the world has been bless (or cursed) by the release of Juno and Little Miss Sunshine.  Even if you were to hate the two mentioned films, it’s worth noting that Pulp Fiction,  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, American History X, and American Beauty have all been  independent releases.  Yet, none of them are as ridiculously ridiculously oversimplified as half of today’s superhero movies.

So next time you’re trying to think of what to watch.   Don’t just reach for the remote to turn on the newest Hollywood smash and grab superhero movie, look a little deeper and try a classic movie.  See where cinema has come from, where it could go, and find out if what you’ve been watching is everything you’ve thought it was cracked up to be.


Entry filed under: Action, Classic, Fantasy, Independent, Movies, Sci-Fi. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Kurenai The End

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Daniel's Critical Corner  |  July 29, 2008 at 4:57 am

    I feel your pain. LOL ! Yea, where I work we actually have
    a Humphrey Bogart statue… He is wearing a trenchcoat
    and holding a piece. Everyone comes in and says “Look,
    it’s Dick Tracy”. ! I love superhero movies, but I also love
    the classics. It’s all about Bogie and Bacall, but we seem
    to be in a world where “The flavor of the month” is all that
    matters. A lot of people today don’t know who Bogart is ,
    and as for Bacall, well, she is still alive and doing movies
    and people don’t realize her history. Sad but true. Sigh…

    Great page btw !!! 🙂


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