The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Child’s Play: Blockbuster Movies, Comics and Superheroes

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At RogerEbert.com, Alexander Hul has an interesting piece on self-indulgent movie directors and the degeneration of blockbusters:

Artists certainly are allowed to make films that only satisfy their own creative pursuits. But blockbusters—more than any other kind of film—are conceived of as a way to entertain and satisfy audiences (so they can make money). Modern spectacles feel like they’re built to entertain and satisfy their filmmakers instead. They’re not considering who their destruction is actually for anymore. They’re just doing it. Or, as Vulture wrote, when it comes to destruction porn, “No one necessarily asks for it; it just kind of happens.” Bless his honesty, but [Damon] Lindelof’s assessment of the climactic destruction he penned for “Star Trek Into Darkness” only reinforces how embedded and unconscious this has all become for the moviemakers: “Did ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ need to have a gigantic starship crashing into San Francisco? I’ll never know. But it sure felt like it did.” All of this makes me recall “Jurassic Park”‘s Ian Malcolm sentiment when he lectures Hammond for blindly realizing his dinosaur fantasies with the technology he has access to. Filmmakers are now so preoccupied with how much they can (and are encouraged to) destroy digitally, they don’t stop to think if they really should. They don’t stop to ask “Who is this really for?”

On a related note, Toronto-based writer Mike Doherty asks comic-store owners have blockbuster movies been good for comics?:

“I hate to say it… but after waiting so long for really good superhero movies—all my life, almost—and now they’re here, I’m almost getting bored of them. There are so many now. And they’re always basically the same story, which is not much story: bad guy versus good guy, good guy wins in the end.”

Almost getting bored of them? I think I’m already well passed that point. And much as it pains me, I’m beginning to think Alan Moore may have a point:

[Superheroes] don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.”

Sigh.

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