May 7, 2013

Re-Making The Myth: Appreciating The Big Budget Super-Hero Film

Hero - A person who is admired for their noble and courageous qualities, usually at the benefit of others.

Every time a super-hero film comes out, there are always detractors who say "it's just a super-hero film." Sure you may not see these statements as much in the reviews (which have been positively kind to super-hero films as of late), but if the barometer of critical praise and "seriousness" is Academy Awards than it's clear that our heroes are not taken seriously. This is a real shame, because the best super-hero films in addition to being massively entertaining and well crafted, are carrying the flame of the role that the hero places in society, a moral example for people to strive for.

Before you get going on on how people should look up to real heroes, you need to chill out. Right now anyone who is labeled a hero is quickly praised, processed, and/or penalized. In our 24/7 world, the person we praise today, is often forgotten or scorned tomorrow. We rarely have figures in our culture who endure a time-tested examples of being true heroes. Politicians are out because they are prone to the brutally cynic nature of politics these days. Any athlete that is well known enough to a massive hero, probably got there because his corporate sponsorship team put him there. Technology figures like Steve Jobs, who are praised for their innovation are quickly lambasted for their relentless drive. I think everyone can agree that we love to look for chinks in the armor, hell it's almost a national pastime. If only we could have heroes that can't be corrupted (or be free from skeletons in the closet).

That's where the superheroes come in. Long before big movie budgets made comic books come to life, I mean, technically way before comics, we had myths about great heroes who we could look to as ideals to strive for. Our current crop of modern heroes is no different. In his spectacular third outing
Iron Man excels not because of his money, but because of his creativity and determination ideals that we can truly work towards. And let's not forget Batman a hero who's entire recent trilogy was focused on Batman's true "super" power of - being completely selfless. After all he pays the cost dearly (dead parents, dead girlfriend, public thinks he's a killer, broken back, no love life, etc) so we can live free and be happy (reminds me of someone else, but we don't need to get into that!)

Ultimately these super-hero films are resonating with a natural longing for the spectacular hero. More than any other factor (actors, directors, budgets, continuity between films) Marvel excels because they recognize that longing for traditional heroes and stories and they provide that. The upcoming Superman film "Man of Steel" looks like it's on the same wavelength as well. So while people may scoff at super-hero films and say they're just to sell toys, they need to realize that they're scoffing not just a history, but at their own longing for something better.

1 comment:

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