A Defense of Superhero Film’s Takeover of the Movie Theater
In today’s world, there’s a feeling that superhero blockbusters have taken over the multiplex, and that this is a detriment to the artistic and cinematic world. But how often do you hear a genuine defense of these kind of films that goes beyond “It’s just popcorn fun!”? There’s a maxim that’s been expressed quite often on the Internet, and it goes “Superhero’s are our modern myths.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. Like, 110 percent. However, I feel like there’s something more here that is much less talked about than even that idea of superhero’s as modern mythology.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about this idea of art, including film of course, as a form of therapy. I like the idea that watching something is going to help me understand my own problems, or at least, let me empathize with a character who is going through the same things that I am. I guess this is the reason why I have a tough time with shows like The Office and comedies in general. This is probably why I prefer Louie over Seinfeld, and why I’ll most likely never get into It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The goal of a comedy is to make people laugh, and that’s fine. But when I sit down and I want to watch something- and concurrently, when I want to write something-I’m oftentimes looking for something a lot more meaningful. I want some kind of catharsis, or meaning, or anything like that, much like Reddmond- the guy who runs the site this is being posted on- went through when he watched La La Land. And while this sounds very silly, I completely get that from a lot of superhero movies.
I think there’s something very powerful with seeing someone do the right thing in their world, and overcoming their own personal demons, and that’s literally like, a good 90 percent of superhero stories right there. Superman. Doing the right thing. Batman. Overcoming personal demons (or giving in completely, as some Batman stories spin it, where Batman accepts how fucked up he is, and decides to work with it. That’s a story of self acceptance., a very powerful theme in and of itself.) Spiderman. A beautiful combination of those two big themes.
To perhaps be more specific, lets take a look at my favorite superhero film that isn’t about a man who dresses as a bat. Captain America: Civil War. On my Letterboxed account (that I just got this year thanks to a recommendation from someone I know), it’s listed as “My Favorite Film”, next to the 3 Christopher Nolan Batflicks. I don’t know how embarrassing that is, but anyway. Cap: Civil War. It came out the same year the same year as the most divisive American election in modern history. Now, why is that important, or mean anything? Well, because Civil War is literally all about what it really means to do the right thing, and how human beings go about trying to do the right thing, and how oftentimes, “the right thing” can mean two COMPLETELY different things to different people. Isn’t that perfect for American politics today? When so many people in America disagree with each other, yet at the same time, think they are 100 percent in the right?
And it doesn’t stop there. If you’ve ever been in a really nasty, bitter fight with a friend, I can guarantee you’ll be able to empathize with the story of Civil War, which see’s Captain America and Iron Man, and all (well most. Thor and The Hulk aren’t in the film. They’re briefly mentioned though.) of the Avengers at each others throat, fighting tooth and nail for what they think is right. Isn’t that just fucking cool!!?!? Or I don’t know, maybe it isn’t cool, if you find guys wearing suits of power armor beating the crap out of each other is too corny or childish.
I do sometimes get in a mindset of “Wow, the shit I love most really is kind of corny and childish. Like really? There’s THAT much meaning in watching two action figures in human form trying to talk politics to each other, and then beating the crap out of each other.” But wait, fuck that. Because when Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers and all of the Avengers talk politics, to me, its right up there with the best of any political drama. And when the action scenes come, and the Avengers fight, it looks and feels just as good as any of the action films made, like, ever. And when Tony and Steve fight at the end of the film, it feels just as cathartic and powerful as anything Shakespeare ever wrote. (and that, right there, might be the dumbest line in this article. Is this even an article?)
Anyway, yeah, I love my superhero stuff. Watching and obsessing over these kinds of films I feel like gives a form of therapy to many people. I just have had yet to see superhero films seen through this light on the Internet, and as such, here is this article…thing. Now, the argument over whether or not it really is a good thing that superhero films HAVE become so dominant in cinematic culture, now that, is an argument for another day. For now, I just think it would be cool to think of superhero films in this light.