By Adam Schalke
There used to be a time, not too long ago when going out to see a movie was purely recreational. People would go to the theater, buy a ticket and popcorn, watch the film and when the film ended, so did the obligation to its story. It was all simple fun, there was nothing to it.
Today, however, with the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the emerging DC Expanded Universe, action movies are no longer simple fun, they’re a commitment.
Late last month, we saw the arrival of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” an epic wham-bam action film about the two biggest icons of American pop culture fighting each other in what Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor dubbed “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world.” Rotten Tomatoes would disagree with his statement, with the site giving the film a lackluster rating.
Regardless, the movie churned out a profit, and as such the DC movie universe will keep soldiering forward, with future films featuring The Flash and Aquaman on the horizon that will only add to the byzantine narrative of the connected movies.
Marvel isn’t much better. One cannot go onto Facebook or Twitter anymore without seeing a bonanza of marketing tools to advertise the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War,” which will feature the aforementioned Captain America taking on Iron Man for some reason or another, and will inevitably feature more tie-ins and introductions to characters that will later star in their own movies in Marvel’s ever-expanding universe.
Believe it or not, superhero movies themselves aren’t the problem. Not every director with wet ink on his BFA in film design can regularly churn out films on par “Citizen Kane” or “Gone With The End,” and quite frankly that would be boring. We need something fun to do when it’s too hot outside during the hot Chicago July.
The problem instead is the overzealous, almost religious devotion that the studios demand their audiences pay to their content. It’s not enough to watch the movies, but you gotta follow the T.V. shows and the Netflix series too, and even then you have to do it all over again when the next season comes out. Thanos and The Joker aren’t the real enemies here, it’s fatigue.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” seemed to be one of the few to get it right. Not once during that movie was there any reference to The Hulk or Thor or anyone else. It stood on its own, and it wasn’t afraid to have some fun for Heaven’s sake. That’s probably why it became so popular.
At the end of the day, a good superhero movie isn’t about good and evil, it’s about restraint versus excess.