I’ve finally seen a trailer for the Justice League movie, and I am still skeptical at best. It’d be hard to beat the show.
The key to superheroes as a tool in the creative world, is, as my sister and I have narrowed down, to put a person in a normal human situation, magnified by super abilities and super villains and over the top circumstances.
All this makes it clearer to the audience what the stakes are, what the choice is, and what the difference between the good and the evil character is.
So what I think the new film needs is not to progress further into the dark, gritty and melodramatic world that the genre has become, but to regress into more human terms.
I have nothing against climatic events and galaxy sized stakes, but it should never be about that. Making the problem with the world the main focus of any movie risks making it too vague. What the film needs to be about is what problems humans deal with on a human level. With something like the Justice League, there’s a wide range of subjects that could be covered, that’s why it worked so well as a show. Narrowing down each member’s own personal struggles in the span of one film is a difficult and almost impossible task
But my concern is that none of them will be followed through in a satisfying way.
Many super movies (and other movies and also modern literature) end with what I call a question. Ending with a question means the narrative of the film (usually the unspoken one) does not completely side with any perspective presented in it. It may lean one way, but it refuses to admit it. Leaving you, the audience, to try to figure it out by debate.
Sometimes that is okay. But I have never liked it.
I know many people are totally fine with movies ending with a question. They think it’s more respectful and more thought provoking that it does so. They think they will discuss it more and understand better because of it.
There may be times that happens, but I have yet to see that actually be the fruit of Question Films.
What I typically see is that people will take whichever side of the argument they were already on walking into the film (or reading the book) and continue to use the piece in question to defend their point of view. They claim to be getting a better understanding of it, but all they really are doing is getting deeper into their own beliefs. The film did not challenge them by presenting any belief as wrong based on evidence or results, it just fed into the desire they had to remain perfectly secure in what they already thought.
Take Zootopia, I liked that film okay, not because I agree with its supposed portrayal of society, but because I thought the characters still exhibited real world flaws that could apply to a lot more than racism or class bigotry. Judy being guilty of the crime she hated is a thing that happens to all of us at some point, and she handled it the right way.
However, I do not think it is pushing us forward if you take it only as a class and racial (or a have and have nots) commentary because all the people that already believe that just nodded along with the film, it presented no new information or ideas to them. The people who didn’t agree either disliked the film or got a different message from it, like me.
The fact is, Zootopia was too vague to really be an effective eye opener to anyone. There are no cold hard facts in it.
The shift in super hero movies since the Avengers and Captain America franchise started is that they go from being about personal struggles to being about world wide threats. Which is not bad exactly, but in a way it renders the drama both too real for people to want to dwell on, and not real enough. Because we know similar organizations exist or have existed, and that this is just a more dramatized version of it, making it less serious and not more.
People always complain about characters not being relatable. But I think the real reason is not the struggles of the character are less terrible, but that the characters themselves are less moral.
I could relate to any character who is struggling with the right and wrong thing to do, especially if the choice is not really obvious (and I don’t mean that it’s morally ambiguous, but that it is a difficult choice to make for them because of the circumstances,) the reason is that the moral struggle is one we all go through. We are all equal under that struggle and no one is exempt from it.
Films that confuse that struggle are not being honest with us. In real life, we almost always have at least a dim idea of what the right choice is. What would be best for us to do, what we should do, and often what we know we won’t do but wish we would. In real life, we can repent of our mistakes and actually turn away from making them before we destroy our lives.
Like the Black Panther did, frankly, that was probably my favorite moment of Age of Ultron.
In real life, villains are often afraid of heroes because heroes are stronger than them in that one dangerous way: in their heart.
It’s the Dark Side in Star Wars that must be threatened by the Light. Why does the Emperor decide to kill Luke after he refuses to be corrupted? He fears and hates him for being stronger than himself.
So, to wrap all this up, the more dark these films become the more impossible to please the fans will be. Once people start to hunger for drama and gore and unbelievable violence, it will only grow. It’s happened many times. By pandering to this wish, Hollywood is dooming itself.
And it is only by being a little less picky about our special effects, our complex characters, and our high stakes; and a little more concerned with what affect our entertainment is actually having on us, that we will learn to really enjoy it.
That’s my thought anyway. I’d forgive the new Justice League for a lot if Batman would just take a knee at some point and deeply regret his actions in the previous film(s.) (I’d forgive even more if Wonder Woman straight up tells him what he did was reprehensible and doesn’t want to join the league till she’s convinced he’s really changed.)
As unlikely as I find both those things, I hope that there’s someone on the writing team who still knows how to use the genre.
Anyway, there’s still Infinity Wars coming.
Until next time–Natasha.