Last October “Dr. Strange” hit theatres around the world. For myself, a lifelong Marvel fan, I couldn’t have been any more excited. I have been in the theatre opening weekend for nearly every Marvel release, and I don’t plan on missing any more any time soon.
I remember talking to a friend after we had both seen the movie and one of his complaints has stuck with me. He said it bothered him that the story followed the same arc that almost every other Marvel Studios movie had. A fairly normal person gains a life altering ability, they have to figure out how to use this new found power and more often than not they have to fight someone with either the exact same power or one just like it.
These are not new stories as they’ve been adapted from comics as the source material, and this is how the majority of origin stories for comic book heroes go. I realize this. I admit that every time I go and see one of these movies in the theatre it’s going to be nearly the same plot with different characters, and I don’t care.
The stories might be generic, they might not be as carefully crafted than all the movies that are nominated for an Oscar, but I would rather watch a superhero origin movie than anything.
These movies might not be as aesthetically pleasing as “La La Land,” but that doesn’t really seem to matter to the movie going public. “Avengers” made $1.5 billion worldwide.
John Fiske said “In popular culture, social relevance is far more powerful than textual structure.” Superheroes are very relevant in today’s pop culture landscape, and it seems like just about any story could be put down on paper with a group of heroes and it would be a success in the box office.
When I started writing this post I was reminded about an article I read years ago that I was able to find. In 2012 allen St. John wrote for Forbes a review titled “The Avengers Sucks. And It Doesn’t Matter.” He completely pans the movie. Had absolutely nothing nice to say about it. Reading through it again, it actually started to fire me up because of the absolute love I have for the movie. But then he concludes the piece with this: “Of course, none of this matters. You’ll go see The Avengers for the same reasons I saw it. Which is that everyone is seeing it.”
The fact is, movies in line with “The Avengers” have become more of an event than a movie. I will never forget going to a packed theatre to see it, where every time I turned I saw another person dressed up in a costume.
I don’t feel like I am uncultured because I would rather watch a Marvel Studios movie than all of the films that get nominated for an Oscar or a Golden Globe. I understand what I’m going to see, I know it’s not going to be a masterpiece, but I get to see the characters that defined my childhood on a movie screen for two and a half hours at a time and it thrills me to no end. I have the ability to discriminate between what is a true piece of art and what is a summer blockbuster. “Spotlight” was a phenomenal film, it was the best movie I saw the year it won an Oscar, but it sure wasn’t my favorite because Paul Rudd made his debut as Ant-Man that same year.
This leads me to these questions:
What are your favorite “guilty pleasure” movies? Those that aren't’ necessarily highly regarded by critics but you would watch time and time again.
If I told you “The Avengers” was my favorite movie would you assume I’m uncultured? And if so, for what reasons?