The tired genre of superhero flicks
Will Hollywood ever cool it on carbon-copy masked vigilantes and “extended universes”?
By Alec Warkentin, Staff Writer
Is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight really better than Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, or Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining?
Is the $13.3-billion total gross of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — introduced in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and Louis Letterier’s The Incredible Hulk — a justified reason to continue churning out multiple Avengers movies and a third edition of Guardians of the Galaxy?
Or is society simply being snowed by Hollywood executives who’ve finally clued in that the key to the “big bucks” in a business apparently being destroyed by internet piracy and illegal streaming lies in nostalgia-pandering to those in the self-processed “nerd culture” of today.
Like dealers to an army of hero-worshipping addicts who see themselves in the outcasted and misunderstood masked vigilantes of the superhero genre, Hollywood has audience-goers hooked on whatever swill they’re putting out.
It’s easy to place the emphasis on the reason for success of these films being that they’re simply “fun” and a “way to drop out from the real world for a little bit.” But, look at any bill at your local theatre and take a shot for every sequel or remake glaring brightly back at you. You’ll be under the table before you’re done counting the twos, threes and fours.
As a form of escapism, superhero movies are on a pedestal all their own. They’re specifically formulated to let the viewer “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” but is this the best way to go about kowtowing the viewer while the allegedly struggling movie studio sneak their hands in your pocket?
The Sixties had LSD. Now, it’s the “extended universe.”
What’s even worse are the crossovers. The ones created solely to give the dedicated watcher the brain-tickling satisfaction of “getting the reference.” Letting them feel like a big-shot to those who may not be “in-the-know” in the theatre, guffawing their way through cinematic in-jokes to other movies they wilfully spent their $15 on.
Maybe this is overtly critical, nit-picky and unfounded, but isn’t there an ethical commitment to not con or scam the moviegoer into the same without a payoff? It’s now a society of sequels and milking the teat of successful predecessors.
It can be compared to the recent trend of musicians releasing albums with bloated and unnecessarily extended track-lists to capitalize on increased Spotify and Apple Music streams. Quantity over quality, as it were.
And that’s exactly what’s happening with Avengers 13: Thor’s Bad Hair Day and Spiderman 9: Still Webbin’, where one doesn’t necessarily have to care about the story — they only need the seizure-inducing jump-cuts and colourful lens flare to get them through another week of the often-difficult real world.
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn recently announced that the third volume of the franchise would set up the next 10 or 20 years of Marvel films. That idea is both terrifying and exhausting and the person to really feel bad for is Chris Pratt.
Suffering from the “Harrison Ford effect”— meaning that by starring in popular movies one must commit to their rehashes and sequels when they should be relaxing in retirement — Pratt will most likely still be living as Star Lord, his character in the film, well into his 60’s, probably dancing to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” while geriatric man-children chortle from behind their VR goggles.
Cue the post-credit sequence.