Saturday, May 5, 2012
Superhero circle jerk
And so officially begins the summer movie season.
And it seems like everybody is excited about the ceremonial first movie of summer but me.
It feels like two years now that all I've heard about is Avengers this, and Avengers that. And from the first moment I heard anything about it, I thought it sounded like a bad idea.
Here's my problem with it, in an admittedly broad nutshell. It gets together two groups of people who tend to be insufferable in their own ways:
1) People who go on and on about comic books.
2) People who go on and on about Joss Whedon.
Some of you reading this undoubtedly fall into one of those two categories, and no, I probably don't actually find you insufferable, per se. It's the prototypical "you" that I find insufferable.
I have lately felt the urge to post about there being a difference between being a movie fan and being a fan of superhero movies. There are certain forums in which I discuss film where people call themselves film enthusiasts, but their "love of movies" seems to begin and end with movies adapted from comic books. They'll throw in movies that might as well have been adapted from comic books for good measure. But they don't seem to be interested in talking about anything beyond that. Fortunately, Hollywood has given them plenty to talk about within that sphere in the past decade.
Then there are those people who are still trying to tell you how awesome Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, even though it has been off the air for nearly a decade. I'm sure it was awesome, but I didn't find it so. I watched one episode, and thought I was hooked; I watched the next episode, and immediately lost interest. What's worse, they will also proclaim their undying love for Firefly, which I did not watch at all. But I did see the awful film version of the show called Serenity, which was, simply, awful. There's a certain cutesiness that suffuses Whedon's work, that I can't quite get over.
But I certainly like, even love, some comic book movies (Batman Begins and Watchmen are two examples) and I certainly like, even love, some stuff by Joss Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods and Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog are two examples).
So maybe the better way to encapsulate my disinterest in The Avengers is this:
Do I really want to watch a movie about a bunch of superheroes, sitting around jerking each other off?
Of course I'm not being literal, though one of these superheroes is Scarlett Johansson, so that would be pretty titillating. But I can imagine them all sitting around in a room, looking kind of funny because superheroes shouldn't sit around in a room, having fake arguments that are really just designed to demonstrate how awesome they all are in their own different ways with their own different powers. It's ego stroking disguised as the kind of bickering men and women do in romantic comedies before they realize they're in love.
But really -- and I expect to keep defining this and modifying it as I write the piece -- the main reason I'm not so sure about The Avengers is that I think over-stuffing a movie with superheroes is very "Joel Schumacher Batman." I think superhero movies tend to work better if they focus on only a single hero or a finite number of heroes, not the 12 or 13 in this movie. Movies like the X-Men movies are the exception, because that was always part of the concept of that series -- a multiplicity of heroes. I'd rather see for a second time the movie subtitled The First Avenger -- which would be last year's surprisingly awesome Captain America -- than see Captain America the character have to elbow out of the way a bunch of other dudes (or dudettes) trying to hog the spotlight.
But maybe the REAL reason I'm not looking forward to The Avengers (you sick of this yet?) is that it seems to rely all too heavily on the mythology -- and I do mean "mythology" quite literally -- that originated in last year's disappointing Thor. The main villain in The Avengers is Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who is the fallen brother of Chris Hemsworth's Thor. The problem with both of these guys is that they are gods who live on another planet. I don't like that idea at all, but I definitely don't like it mixing with a bunch of other heroes whose back stories are grounded in reality (even if one of them, the aforementioned Captain America, effectively time traveled to be in present day). Throwing all these different realities together into one melting pot just seems fraught with peril. You are effectively telling me that Iron Man could get on that "space bridge" (even though I think it was destroyed at the end of Thor) and travel to Asgard -- another planet, in outer space, inhabited by gods.
But I hear The Avengers is good. Right? That's what "they say."
Then again, I wonder if I should really trust "they," if "they" is increasingly comprised of people who love Firefly and Thor.