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Why can't I get hard for Marvel movies?
I grew up reading comic books. And yet...
I grew up reading comic books. I had a subscription to Wizard magazine. I went to comic book conventions back when they were actually about comic books. I even drew my own in middle school and had the gall to sell them to friends for $1 apiece. So, why can’t I procure a boner for Marvel movies?
The last time I felt something for a superhero movie was Guardians of the Galaxy. The film was ridiculously entertaining, sure! But what moved me was that James Gunn made a James Gunn movie. I had followed his work since the Dawn of the Dead remake, and he somehow got through the marvel corporate machine!
I’m the type of jerk who will cry over something like that.
I never felt that way about a live-action superhero movie again. Mainly because everything started to feel the same after a while. The movies felt like two-hour commercials for the next film in the franchise.
I even turned off Thor Ragnarok thirty minutes in.
I know. What kind of monster am I? And I love Taika Waititi! I saw What We do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople in theaters! BEFORE HE WAS COOL!
Fuck! Maybe I can’t be saved? Perhaps the MCU pool is too deep to jump into at this point. I couldn’t even get it up to see Sam Raimi’s Dr. Strange. Even though I still watch Sam’s Spiderman movies (and Burton’s Batman Returns).
Looking at this list of MCU movies, I realized I've only seen:
Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians 1 &2, and...I think I saw most of Black Panther over someone’s shoulder on a plane.
For me, the disconnect happened with The Avengers. I came out of that film supremely underwhelmed. And yet...the whole world loved it. Somehow critics were seduced too. And if you weren’t on board, a sense of resignation set it. “Well, if this is what movies are, I guess I’ll just have to load up some butter on that popcorn and get er done.”
The MCU continued to roll on, and I could feel the air getting sucked out of the pop culture room. Studios abandoned mid-budgeted original films in favor of uber-expensive corporate franchise filmmaking. And the movie business grew increasingly reliant on international box office to recoup these expensive endeavors. The whole China thing, outlined with scary intensity in Erich Schwartzel’s book Red Carpet, is a stunning example of Hollywood’s willingness to sell itself out.
Shit! I’m getting off-topic! Okay. Let's REALLY think about this…
Why can't I get hard for superhero movies anymore?
A.) They're unsurprising and formulaic?
Hmm…This can’t be it! Your boy loves unsurprising and formulaic! Top Gun Maverick didn’t reinvent the wheel, but I’ll be damned if some of it didn’t make me teary-eyed/fucking PUMPED.
B.) I'm pretentious and refuse to like what is popular.
Okay, sure I can get on my high horse about stuff. But there’s no way I’m pretentious. I own several Ernest movies on physical media.
C.) I view Superhero movies as an existential threat to the movie business, the industry I had wanted to enter since the fifth grade.
Shit. Is this it? Can I not get a boner because I view these movies as threats? Superhero movies have changed the landscape of Hollywood. That’s for sure! (Ben Fritz’s book The Big Picture describes the change in depressing detail.) But maybe I’m an asshole to perceive them as threats!
Maybe these aren’t threats but opportunities! Maybe most filmmakers prefer making a giant marvel movie to a tiny original!
I decided to run a poll on Twitter to find out.
Wait. Maybe I’m not an asshole! 88.1% of people would prefer to make an original movie with a budget of one hundred million times less? (I can’t do the math, did I do the math right here?)
Could it be no one aspires to make a superhero movie? If so, maybe my inability to get wood is felt by many people!
*This is the last time I will use this dick metaphor. Please know it was my way of generating a clickbaity title, and I really hope it worked.*
Let me be clear. I credit ANY filmmaker for making ANY movie. Period. I root for every movie to succeed. No matter what. It’s so fucking hard to get anything made and to make anything good. And I would never begrudge ANYONE for making a superhero movie. We’re all making the best of the situation. (I made Critters Attack!)
Not only do I have empathy for filmmakers making these huge tentpole movies, but I also have empathy for the execs! I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve had around town where execs shrug, resigned, about the state of the industry. In early 2020, I had a phone call with a development executive who I’ve known for close to eight years. “Before you pitch me anything,” they said, “just know we're only developing IP we already own.”
Whenever Scorsese or Tarantino speaks out about superhero movies, it’s always met with backlash. But why? Especially if they’re speaking on behalf of 88.1% of filmmakers. As witnessed by my 100% accurate Twitter poll.
(These guys can speak out because they’re in positions of power. In many ways, you could say my Substack is now as powerful as Tarantino & Scorsese COMBINED!)
What’s so comical about the Tarantino/Scorsese backlash is that they’re not asking for a Marvel boycott. They’re not even saying they hate the movies. Tarantino says he loves comic books! All they’re asking is for the industry to make other movies too. They’re just asking for our pop culture to be a little more diverse.
Hell, even Bob Dylan wants it. And he’s not even a filmmaker! (Maybe he is, but I refuse to look it up.) He made mention of America’s decline in his recent book, The Philosophy of Modern Song:
“People keep talking about making America great again. Maybe they should start with the movies.”
It always saddens me when Marvel fans mount online campaigns against Scorsese and Tarantino for these comments. The idea people would fight in favor of corporations, in favor of fewer choices in cinemas, is depressing. It’s times like this when I feel hopeless.
There is hope, as always, with horror films. 2022 was a big year for original horror, and I believe that will continue. And hey. Maybe my view of superhero movies will change too. I have a toddler right now, and when he’s of age, I may be forced to watch these films through his eyes. Maybe then I will find joy in it.
Until then, I remain flaccid. *
*I am so sorry about ending with that.
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