Cinema attendance surges in times of economic insecurity and moral ambivalence, and with storm-troops of superheroes out to crush absurdly irrelevant bad guys, movie escapism isn’t so much offered as detonated. But I can’t help wondering, if the Avengers are so great, why can’t they stop the powdered baby pill smugglers?
I mean, wouldn’t you enjoy watching a superhero tackle just one goddamned oil spill? Ooh, or how about a flying goody-goody facing his or her own demons? Where’s our $200 million movie about a fight to the death with power-sapping civil litigation, or sneak-attacks from the evil Captain Vicodin?
Aren’t evildoers who grind up and microwave dead babies and make ‘em into pills just about the most repulsive super villains you ever heard of? Where’s the movie where guys like that are plucked from their newborn-grinding factory by some caped buffoon named Launch Code and thrown into a volcano?
When I was a kid my heroes were so real they were pitiful. I loved Bruce Lee and Evel Knievel. Poor Bruce Lee’s brain exploded and Evel Knievel attacked a studio executive with a baseball bat and was never taken seriously again. I don’t remember being in awe of any jingoistic crusader, masked hero, or costumed vigilante who could see through walls.
I also don’t remember a life without cynicism, but that’s another issue. Point is, I’d like to see a bit more of a “morally compromising” superhero that’s, say, 50% Katniss and 50% Keitel from Bad Lieutenant. (And also he could see through walls and dropkick bulldozers into space.)
With all the emo-quirk sentimentality being square pegged into the round holes of today’s movie franchise superheroes, couldn’t we just pit someone named Explosion Man against Somali pirates, human traffickers, or vile Catholic Archbishops who protect pedophile priests? Why must we always get Transmutators from a crystalized space cloud who feel compelled to annihilate America’s most attractive steel and glass structures? There’s so much actual evil and so many true-life A-holes to chose from!
Couldn’t we see an Avenger born of some nondescript tyrant’s chemical gas attack who somehow lives and vows revenge on bio-weapon users and stockpilers? We could call him ChemiKill or Gasso or even Windbag. The first studio to take on such a people’s conqueror would save millions on costly computer animation: action sequences could merely feature actors and background extras choking and gagging and dropping to the sidewalk with bleeding eyes. No planetary fireballs, tsunamis, or earth cracking open in the middle of Manhattan needed!
How ‘bout a mega-budget superhero named S.I.G. who can shape-shift into any special interest group poster boy he wishes to support the cause that needs him most? (Bipolar, NRA, La Cosa Nostra, Cerebral Palsy, the Energy Lobby, Teamsters, Arsonists Anonymous, GLAAD, the Stonecutters — you name it!) At the moment S.I.G. might want to chill with the royally eff’d-over Gulf Coast fishermen or supporters of the Student Loan Forgiveness Act. He could magically strip bare the agendas of those who’d marginalize, dismiss, or obstruct for the “other team.” Audiences would get either a guy wiggling around in a Mackerel costume who spits crude oil pudding or a screechy 21 year-old Occupy lesbian with a voice box made of indestructible composite materials. White men in $1800 suits would cover their ears and run for their lives!
Oh, not escapist enough? Too close to home?
How ‘bout a Stephen Hawking Avenger with an even crazier voice-command module who could bestow brainpower to random citizens – or better yet, mobs of total idiots! Imagine Florida being ignored by campaigning politicians because overnight it got wise!
What, leave red-state blue-state out of it you say? Fine. It sounds like a job for S.I.G. anyway.
The point is, any one of us with our own filmmaker favorites could list five directors more than capable of making a superhero story that’s random, wild, thoughtful, and delightfully ordinary in its proportions. And in the right hands, the outcome would be anything but ordinary. Hell, M. Night Shyamalan pulled it off with his brilliant and deceptive Unbreakable: Wasn’t that cool as hell?
Topping my list of directors would be Wes Anderson, John Singleton, and Robert Zemeckis. At the bottom – ‘er excuse me, that’s a different list altogether. There isn’t a bottom for this one, just a list of those who’d never make the first list. Starting with Joss Whedon.
Just give me an Avenger who does whatever his or her asinine crime-fighter shtick calls for, but off-hours hovers above holier-than-thou Prius drivers looking for the right ones to punch in the face after he stuffs their mouths with cat hair and splinters. (Oh, gonna vote me off the island for that one too? C’mon!)
Surely no one can deny a superhero who banishes TV ad execs to the dark side of the moon for green-lighting commercials with talking infants and animals, right? While doing time there, said executives could be forced to experience how their talking toddlers affect us by having to memorize the unpronounceable last names of third world Olympians and watching footage of Burning Man attendees gushing to the camera.
And while a movie about an Avenger dude dressed as a pencil who goes around inspiring kids to study sounds boring as hell to me, I’d watch it twice if Pencil complained about being gnawed on or rolled from one school to the next erasing fat and re-drawing it onto bullies. In the end, Pencil could fall in love with a cute little orange Crayola – but not before delivering the story’s message: smart + you = sexy.
The Ledger/Nolan Joker is the best interpretation of a comic book villain ever, likewise the Nolan reboot. So I’m just asking: couldn’t we be treated to correspondingly authentic superheroes? Or does absolutely everything that must be “avenged” also have to be so spiritlessly loud, lumbering, lame, and long?