Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Defense of Super Hero...Movies by Anna J Stewart

Every time they announce a new super hero movie, I hear the groans. I read the Tweets. I see the social media explosions.  Another one? Haven't they run out by now? Do we really need another super hero movie?

The logical answer--probably not.  My answer? Oh, yeah.  And I say that from a writer's and a movie fan's perspective.  The idea for this blog came recently when it was (finally!) confirmed that actor Jason Momoa would be playing the (until now) laughable and maligned Aquaman.  First off, I should admit to a major bias when it comes to this actor.  I've been mildly (to say the least) obsessed with him ever since he first appeared on Stargate Atlantis. I even modeled one of my heroes after him (when I was writing paranormals).
Some of you may recognize him from Game of Thrones. Confession time: he was the only reason I started watching the show.  He was a character of few words on Stargate; even fewer on GoT (and let's not discuss his fate on the latter *sob*).  But there's just something about him that hooks my heart.  He also stared in the remake of Conan the Barbarian (which, yes, I saw and I actually liked).  There's an intensity that comes with this man that makes the idea of him playing the aforementioned Aquaman all the more intriguing.  This will not be a cartoon. This will be amazing.

But another super hero movie?  Ugh, right?  Nope. Love them.  Here's why.  Super hero movies ARE the hero's journey.  Let me qualify that. GOOD super hero movies are the hero's journey (I'm still trying to pretend The Green Lantern didn't happen and do not get me started on The Green Hornet).

These movies are classic story telling...from Star Wars and Luke Skywalker (and Han Solo), to Iron Man to Thor...origin stories can be considered formulaic, but they work, because we relate to them. Because we understand them and because, when done properly, they're motivated characters.  Also, let's not kid ourselves. The right actor in the right part is also vital.  Try imagining someone else playing Tony Stark at this point other than Robert Downey, Jr.  Or another actress portraying Black Widow besides Scarlett Johansson. Or can you imagine Ben Afleck as Bat...oh. hmmm. Eesh.  We'll, we'll see on that one.

One of the earliest books I ever read on story telling and myth building was Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces. To this day it's one of the best books I've ever absorbed. Bits and pieces of that have stuck with me and echo in my mind whenever I'm watching one of these films.  The good ones, the ones that stand out from the rest...they're about character over explosions. Motivation over machinery.  It's also why, typically, the first in a franchise is the best.  Because its character exploration.  Sequels (ahem, Iron Man 2) tend to push character to the back burner in favor of special effects and idiotic villains.  Unless you get the right actor, the right director, and most importantly, the right writer to take these characters into different dimensions. The exception? Watch Nolan's BATMAN trilogy.  Now there's a character arc.

Even those I don't anticipate being good can surprise me. I was stunned at how much I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.  I truly felt going in, this was just Marvel's and Disney's way of getting more $$ into their overflowing superhero bank accounts. I was so wrong.  Because Peter Quill (Christ Pratt in a career making performance) is on his own hero's journey. And it is awesome. The baby dancing Groot at the end? Bonus!

So, I say bring them on.  Write them well. Do them justice and remember that even super heroes (even if they come from another planet), are in essence human.  Because on some level we relate to them...even when they're saving the world.

24 comments:

  1. Gosh I feel so out of date. I haven't seen any of the super hero movies. All of my friends when I was a kid consumed comic books. I didn't like comics and only read, read, read books from the library. But your Jason guy looks intense all right. I'm sure he could play any super hero they starred him as. You'll have to let us know more about Aquaman after you see it. Maybe he'll end up with a mermaid.

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    1. I agree, Roz! The last superhero film I saw was in black and white...on TV! LOL

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  2. Hi Roz! I'm going to have to get up to speed on Aquaman now, LOL. Finally, a reason to buy comic books (the one aspect of geekdom I've avoided until now). THanks for posting. :)

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  3. Anna,
    I'm hopelessly out of touch when it comes to movies. If I'm going to sit in one spot for two hours, I want it to be in front of my computer. Or a baseball game. But when I watch baseball at home, I move around. My thighs were so sore after the World Series because I was doing lunges the whole game.

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    1. we all have our go to things, Kristina. :) At least yours gets a season! Sometimes I have to wait almost a year between mine, LOL

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  4. Aquaman is like the green lantern to me. Ho-hum. We'll see

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    1. Aquaman is like that to most people, Mel, LOL. Even die hard comic fans...it's interesting casting for sure as he brings a huge fan base in. First glimpse will be in Superman vs. Batman. Good way to test him out :)

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  5. I'm way out of it with superheroes, though my grandkids see all the movies--and so do their fathers. I just don't have enough of an imagination! I enjoyed your post, though!

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    1. Hi Liz! No worries..I'll be happy to keep you up to date with them, LOL.

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  6. Anna, well done! You should consider super hero movie critiquing in your 'spare' time. I love super hero movies (in general). Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is probably my favorite--and probably for the reason you stated. (And also Christian Bale.) I love the character exploration you referenced--finding out what makes these guys tick and what the motivation is for their actions. I am looking forward to Aquaman!

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    1. Oooh, great idea, Carol! I actually have a workshop I want to give on just this topic--motivation and what makes the good "and bad" guys tick . Definitely love the DK trilogy--just watched #2 the other night...again (although Heath Ledger makes me sad).

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  7. Haven't seen many of the more recent superhero movies - though I loved Robert Downey, Jr. in the first Iron Man. Didn't see the second one. Have an ongoing friendly disagreement with my daughter-in-law about Christian Bale because she thinks he's such a fine actor, and I have a hard time getting the self-important brat he is in real life out of my head when he's on-screen. Anna - you should give us a superheroine we can root for. There - I challenge you. Sounds as though you understand the genre and know what it takes. Do it!

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    1. Oh, Muriel--you hit on one of my issues. I often have a hard time separating real life persons from who they're playing on screen. Some I can get beyond (like Christian Bale)...others, not so much . A new superheroine? Hmmmm....I could definitely tackle that and get back to my paranormal roots. Thanks for the idea! *scrambles to make notes*

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    2. Oh, and feel free to skip Iron Man 2 if the opportunity presents itself...it was horrible, LOL. I'm stunned they did a 3 (which was better than 2, but #1 is best--probably because it's all about discovering the character ).

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  8. I'm not a fan of superhero movies in general. I'm too much give me a good romance, but your post is fascinating. A great story and characters are a great story and characters, never mind the genre. I think Finding Nemo is just about perfect for that reason. ET too. And I now look forward to seeing your Aquaman onscreen. Intense is right.

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    1. I think that's another reason I like some better than others, Leigh. I liked the romance between RDJ and G. Paltrow (who I can't stand in real life, LOL)...and the romance in Thor was a nice addition. The stories that incorporate romance strike a deeper chord in me. I LOVE Finding Nemo! Can't wait for the sequel...plus it gave me my motto...just keep swimming! Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. I found a theater stub in my coat pocket the other day dated December 17, 2011. Sherlock Holmes. *sigh* That's the last movie I saw in the theater. I did watch Thelma and Louise not long ago. And as for superheroes, I don't think I've ever seen one of the movies. I wish I liked movies, but I think it's my ADHD that keeps me from going. The idea of sitting in one place without a typewriter in front of me for that long...

    But thanks for bringing me up to date on all the superheroes! Now I will at least know what my granddaughter is talking about--maybe.

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    1. LOL, Patricia. To each her own ...anytime you need some SH info, just drop me a line, LOL

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  10. Jason was the reason started watching GoT too!! My friends were going nuts over him, so I had to check it out. I also put off seeing Guardians of the Galaxy because I assumed it was going to be stupid - but I was so entertained! I love a good superhero movie. :)

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    1. I knew we got along for a reason, Amy ...he's just so...different and amazing. Yay! A superhero kindred spirit, LOL

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  11. Anna, if you ever get tired of writing (which I personally hope you never will), you could have a successful career as a movie critic. Oh, wait . . . better yet, how about a director?

    Great post!

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    1. Oh, another fun idea, Kate! :) I've been writing a column in my chapter newsletter about TV and movies for the last couple of years...might be time to branch out (but still write!). Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  12. I used to love these movies, when my boys were young. Now I can't wait for my 4 year old grandson to be old enough to go with me!

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  13. Anna, so true about the hero's journey in super hero movies! I love, love, love Downey as Tony Stark. Captain America isn't necessarily my favorite, but I loved his journey and had my youngest watch the movie bc he isn't very athletic, though he tries and wants to be, and he tends to get teased...so I loved seeing Captain America's journey from skinny little, unpopular kid to true hero ;).

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