Monday, August 30, 2010


So Wrong

Back in May when Iron Man 2 came out, Ross Douthat quotes Matt Zoller Seitz who had this to say:
The comic book film has become a gravy train to nowhere. The genre cranks up directors’ box office averages and keeps offbeat actors fully employed for years at a stretch by dutifully replicating (with precious few exceptions) the least interesting, least exciting elements of its source material; spicing up otherwise rote superhero vs. supervillain storylines with “complications” and “revisions” (scare quotes intentional) that the filmmakers, for reasons of fiduciary duty, cannot properly investigate; and delivering amusing characterizations, dense stories or stunning visuals while typically failing to combine those aspects into a satisfying whole.
I guess some people will never get it, but good guy vs bad guy is the whole point! We live in a gray world - and we invent great epic material to keep clear right and wrong, good and evil. Societies throughout the centuries have had their epic tales. The Oddessy, The Illiad, Gilgamesh, the tales of Norse mythology - the list goes on.

Such tales survive and thrive not because they are archetypal - they are meant to be simple - but they are meant to uphold what is good and right and decent in our society.

In this age, the superhero tale has come to be our epic. There is pretty much universal agreement that the last Superman movie bit the big one. There is a reason. Superman, the archetype of archetypes was just too normal, too conflicted, and not heroic enough.

In the movies, Iron Man is amongst the most fun, but he is one of my least favorites from a character standpoint. He is too human, he is not a standard that I want to obtain. (Wait until the next movie - an alcoholic superhero is just not something you want to see.)

Which is the real point. The "Demon in the bottle" story line for IM is about a hero battling not the bad guy, but himself. Now I know many of us relate to that problem - but true heroism is not about beating your inner demons, its about beating the bad guy in spite of yourself. Yeah, a real hero might be alcoholic, but he would not be all introspective about it. When the fecal matter hit the fan, he would simply stop drinking and meet the challenge. It is the self-sacrificial nature, not the introspective one that makes a hero a hero.

And if you think about it, isn't that the Christian ideal - to simply "stop" whatever it is that possesses you and get about the business of saving the world - in Christ's case literally.

So, movie critics - complain and moan about the simple nature of the superhero genre all you want. You're wrong. Good guys vs. bad guys is precisely what we need in this world.

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