Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I Know It’s The Same, And I Don’t Care

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?


  1. I wouldn't think you were uncultured but maybe more along the lines of basic. It is a popular movie that is everyone's favorite for awhile until the next big popular movie comes out. I also might just classify you in the same category as my 12 year old brother who loves Avengers and all things Marvel.

  2. In all honesty, I would think you were a well-educated, lovable geek (said with absolute admiration of "geeks") who enjoys action movies with several complicated back stories. Uncultured? No.

    As for my "guilty pleasure" movies: 13 Hours, Eat, Pray, Love, TopGun, the entire Borne series, and Everest. I have no idea what critics have actually said about these movies but I watch them a lot.

  3. To be honest, when I first encountered Marvel movies (my first one was Thor), I was slightly disappointed in the lack of depth with the plot and characters. I related to Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Loki due to the complexity of the character and the likeness between Loki and Shakespearean villains, and because of this he is still my favorite character because he is so complex and dynamic. I sat and watched and realized the reason I didn't like them was because I was comparing them too much to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, which had a completely different feel. So, I got off my high horse and decided to watch the movies again with a different attitude. Were they cheesy and kind of lame? Yes. But like you, I don't care. Sometimes I need to see fictional characters blow things up and smash things. And that's what's so great about the different films as well as the individuals with unique experiences and interests watching these films: It's an individual experience. Each person has the choice to see what movie they want for whatever reason they want. But this choice doesn't mean movie-goers are uncultured. We can't be on and think critically 100% of the time. Sometimes we need a cheesy fluff piece to turn our brains off, but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate higher culture artifacts. Now, if you only ever watched Marvel movies and nothing else ever, I would argue that you would be uncultured, but that could be said about anyone who only focuses on one brand, genre, or series. Even though there's great themes in the Lord of the Rings, if all a person ever did was read LoTR and/or watch LoTR, then they would only be exposed to one culture, which would make them uncultured. But since the average movie viewer has seen many different films, read many different texts (novels, comics, etc.), and has contact with others in the world, I think it would be nearly impossible and incorrect to say that someone is uncultured because they like Marvel.

  4. Uncultured is a strong word but I would not assume that you were not well-versed on the Marvel Universe. You are more open to enjoying the story and character development even it if follows a pattern. As mentioned above in the post, these films are more of an event than a movie: That is why I love comic book films. It brings people of all backgrounds and interests together for an explosive and fun ride.

    I love film, but horror is a genre that remains selected on Netflix and chosen when going out to a movie. Most of my favorite films aren't Oscar worthy yet they received decent reviews over the years (The Cabin in the Woods, Insidious, The Fly, Cabin Fever, etc.). These are so enjoyable with the trope of a group or person in danger, awaiting their doom. The new characters and surroundings keep pulling me back while the plot remains the same.

    Isn't that what a film is supposed to do?