And so, with a Mighty Bang!, the Superhero Season is upon us. Avengers Assemble – so called because you're deemed so stupid that you might think it's abut John Steed, who most of you under 30 have never heard of – cracks open the UK box office with £15 million, and the US will follow suit in a few days. And I couldn't care less.
In fact, the intellectual snob in me is downright depressed. It's not that I prefer The Exotic Salmon Fishing Hotel or Marigolds in the Yemen, but there's something about the eagerness with which everyone – film critics great and small, idiots and intelligent people alike – all throw their hands to the skies with a Hallelujah of enthusiasm, deifying Joss Whedon as they sing, that makes me want to scream from the nearest window, like a biggers and less charismatic Peter Finch – "NOOOOOO!!!"
Guys, this is a superhero movie. It's a film in which people wear fancy dress costumes, where they pretend to fly, where the main characters are NEVER killed, and where despite having an overwhelming advantage, the bad guy loses. It's fascist in ideology, because it suggests that human beings can't fight their own battles; it's dangerous in that it lets us believe that other people will sort out our problems, and it's sexist because there's only one major female character and she has to wear sexy clothes.
Following Avengers, we will get yet another Spiderman, followed by the third in a trilogy of Batmans, which in turn were preceded by 4 of an earlier series. There is no end to the factory belt churning out this dross. Because it is dramatic dross, however well it's fitted out with cool CGI, witty one liners, and what is called 'darkness' in the case of the Batman series. These are not grown up movies, and they're not for grownups. They're for people who believe in Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and The Easter Bunny.
What has happened over the last 25 years or more (maybe since Superman in 1978) is that people who loved comic book movies as kids have gone on loving them, and – reinforced by the misconception that Star Wars is a timeless work of art – have convinced themselves that still loving that genre doesn't disqualify them from being the intellectual giants they think they are. But it does. Just because everyone thinks something doesn't make it true. Just because AA is better than Green Lantern doesn't make it a work of art.
And yes I know that it's just a bit of fun, and I take things way too seriously. But what's wrong with taking films seriously? There are good films and bad films, and there is also good and bad within specific genres. Thus Cabin in the Woods (Whedon's other recent movie) is OK as far as horror films go – and horror films are by definition idiotic. Ditto sci fi films. And ditto in spades Superhero/comicbook movie. As I have mentioned before there are – broadly speaking – two types of films: What if? and What is. The difference between fantasy and reality. As a rule (and there are exceptions – see Groundhog Day) films based in reality have more to say about life and the human condition than fantasy. Yes, In MY Opinion.
I blame it on computers. In a world in which nerds rule on account of the fact that they understand what happens inside a computer better than old fashioned people like me, geek ideology rules, and core to geek ideology are comic books. Why that should be is a whole other topic. For another time.
By Phil Raby
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