The Shelf Is Full Dept.

Much discussion as of late in the "are there too many comic book movies now?" rubric:

Are Too Many Heroes Coming to the Big Screen at Once? | MovieBob - Intermission | The Escapist

Comics (and thus superheroes), then, aren't a genre but are up until recently a "niche," and it's my read of the situation that the rise to prominence of this particular niche is likely seen as vaguely threatening to established critics of certain vintage. Cultural awareness is THE intellectual currency among art and entertainment writers, particularly those that cover current events within their field. Seismic shifts in what one's awareness needs to include can end an entire generation of livelihoods. Witness the culling of old guard music critics who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of hip hop in the late-80s/early-90s.

Devin Faraci's great takedown of the too-many-comics-movies conceit is linked from the above article, and I actually credit it with knocking a certain amount of the snobbism out of my thinking on this subject.

But the problem I keep coming back to is not that we have too many movies of a certain genre or too many movies of a certain originating medium; it's that we have too many movies built out of the same prefab storytelling beats. Some of those movies can be very well made, but that doesn't ameliorate the underlying problem.

I'm starting to feel like a hoary old crank every time I come back to this, and I don't want to. But the problem is cumulative. If you have a lot of movies made from prefab beats that are really successful, eventually you decide that only such movies could ever make headway with audiences, and so the pool of possible moods, tones, inspirations, conceits, and so on grows that much shallower.

I don't have the slightest doubt that the Marvelverse will grow to encompass just about every other kind of movie genre out there ("it just grew — like Topsy"), just as long as those movies are told in the framework of a high-concept action story. The problem is that there are a ton of stories that don't need to be told in that framework, and so they all get kicked to the curb and pushed into the sewer grate.

It's not that I feel like we have to choose between Captain America and, say, Oldboy — I'd like to have both. But the first exists and is deployed in such a way that it can't help but displace films like the second. The only way you get Hollywood-level, Hollywood-style filmmaking to have the audience and the success level it does is at the expense of just about every other kind of storytelling.

There's far more difference between Paths of Glory and Letter Never Sent (two "war films") than there is between Man of Steel and Iron Man (ha ha). The latter two are only superficially different; they're the same in the sense that they have a certain cachet, one echoed later in the article itself: "Imaginary men (and women) fighting imaginary villains, whose struggles of good and evil are so broad as to be compatible with almost any perspective. It's the perfect solution for selling big movies to the whole world." That cachet, once couched in the context of a big-budget action movie, has a tendency to swell up until everything else is absorbed into it, like bread dough overflowing its pan.

But not every movie has to be a big movie, or should be. And if you're going to be "compatible with almost any perspective", you might as well have no perspective at all. Save that of a beancounter surveying a spreadsheet and seeing tons of zeroes — both in terms of sales figures and in terms of genuine storytelling content.

Tags: Hollywood comics marketing movies

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2014/04/11 16:40.

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