I’ve seen a bunch of the Big! Summer! Movies! this year, and there seems to me to be a disturbing trend: huge special effects, train crashes, shoot outs, aliens, superheroics…and dead bodies.
Last year The Avengers showed us a whole team of people who saved the world–but took the time to get as many people as possible out of danger while they did it. This year, in Iron Man 3, Tony Stark often rescued people put in danger (the catching-people-who-fell-from-a-plane sequence is particularly brilliant) while fighting the Bad People. But in this year’s Superman relaunch, along with buildings blowing up, vehicles being tossed about, and buildings being crushed to dust, Pa Kent would rather have people die than have his adopted son reveal who he is. WTF? I admit I often have a “who’s going to pay for all this” feeling while watching superhero movies–is there a department of post-heroics cleanup in the major municipalities of the U.S.? But that’s property damage. This year it doesn’t seem to be limited to that.
My favorite internet meme this year has been this one:
That was my problem with Man of Steel in a nutshell. Superman–the one I grew up with, anyway–would have been torn between catching the bad guy and catching people falling out of a building. Much drama has been made in past Superman movies of the tension between “he’s getting away” and “but the little old lady’s kitten is in danger!” It’s easy to deride Superman as a Boy Scout, the nice boy, Batman’s sunnier side; but he’s always been the hero who cared about the people he was protecting. Nice Kansas boy, raised by upstanding good folk (Pa Kent’s depiction in Man of Steel is slanderous: he’s so determined to protect his kid’s identity that he would prefer an entire bus load of school children drown, rather than have Clark outed). The whole of Man of Steel is one big whirling mass of steel, cement, fight scenes–and dying humans being tossed around like confetti, like set-dressing.
And then last week I went to a screening of The Lone Ranger. Like Superman, he’s a white hat. A good guy. If it was between catching the villain or pulling little Timmy out of the well, Timmy would be out and dry in no time. And as portrayed in the movie, the Ranger himself is wishy-washy and disconnected, a pretty unconvincing good guy*. But of all the train wrecks in The Lone Ranger the biggest is the movie itself. Not least because of the spectacular loss of life all over the screen. It’s as if the director and special effects people thought that you wouldn’t buy the multiple locomotive crashes and mine explosions and other cataclysms unless there were bodies strewn everywhere. There’s a supposed-to-be-comic moment when, after there’s been a head-to-head train collision with a brass band and grandstand sandwiched together and then, the band is reassembled so that the speaker can continue his speech, with the bandaged musicians playing a wobbly version of a Sousa march. Because people not being able to play their instruments properly after they’ve been hit by a train is comic, right?
Am I asking too much of these two movies? I don’t think so. If it were just me, I wouldn’t have been able to find the wealth of comments (or the meme above) about this Summer of Collateral Damage. I do wonder who the film makers think they’re making the movies for. Kids? Adults? I suppose DC wants to make a more “adult” Superman to go with their dark, dark Dark Knight. And Disney made–not a Lone Ranger film, but a “made-by-the-guys-who-made-the-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-movies” film. Coming on the heels of those movies, the filmmakers appear to have decided that the only thing to do was throw More! at the screen. Cause, as one of the editors at the comic book publisher I used to work in used to say, “the kids’ll love it.”
I think I’ll go watch Iron Man again.
* I will pass over the collection of tics and mugging which is Johnny Depp’s Tonto, in deference to movies in which he was splendid, like Chocolat and Don Juan de Marco.