Superheroes are here to save us from dull movie hell – and Giles Coren is delighted
I am rarely so out of kilter with prevailing cultural opinion as I am just now with the world’s film critics, who have been brought collectively to the edge of suicide by the glut of superhero movies in whose midst we currently find ourselves.
In recent years we have been through several sets of Bat, Super, Spider, Iron and X-Men. We’ve had Avengers, Daredevils, Green Lanterns and at least three different increasingly credible Hulks and yet, it seems, we have barely started. This year will see more Avengers, another crack at the Fantastic Four and the advent of a guy called Ant-Man, who I can only assume has the superpower of being a bit itchy and knowing how to spoil a family picnic.
After that, there are to be 29 more superhero films before the end of 2019, with the Archnerd-in-Chief at Marvel Comics hinting at even more later ‘if there are years after 2019’, which is quite the dweebiest corporate projection you will ever hear (try saying it in the voice of Comic Book Guy from ‘The Simpsons’). All this has led cultural commentators to declare the end of Hollywood. Indeed, the very End of Days. The studios have caved altogether to the lowest common denominator, they claim, and will no longer put real money into any production that does not involve secret identities, human flight, game-level CGI and a long history of success in comic form at either Marvel or DC. We, in turn, have lost our ability as an audience to process ‘proper’ films, and our attention spans have shrunk to the length of a teenage boy’s orgasm, and because of this, serious filmmaking has come to an end.
To which I can only shout ‘hurrah!’ I much prefer superhero films to worthy didactic historical costume crap and talky rubbish in black and white. I mean, who wouldn’t swap ‘12 Years a Slave’ for ‘12 Minutes an Amazonian Princess with a Star-Spangled Swimsuit and an Invisible Plane’?
I don’t want to piss away two hours of my life on some miserable Coen Brothers bilge about a folk singer and his cat when I can thrill to Thor himself roaring ‘He is of Asgard and he is my brother!’ Scarlett Johansson objecting, ‘He killed 80 people in two days!’ and Thor replying, ‘He is adopted.’
Film buffs are the absolute worst. Books are for serious culture, films are for laughs. Actors are all just wimpy gits pretending to be something they’re not anyway. Why watch Matthew McConaughey pretending to be thinner than he is or Cumberbatch and Redmayne pretending to be clever (plus either gay or disabled) when you can watch real actors pretending they can throw trains, smash mountains or fly round the world really fast until time travels backwards? (Cumbers seems to have got that message, in fact, and signed up to for Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ in 2016).
The 1930s and ’40s, when these comic heroes were born, were dark times that called for brightly coloured cultural escape; and these too are grim years which call for light and dazzle on the screen. So I will not apologise for looking forward to ‘Batman v Superman’ and ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ in 2016, ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Black Panther’ and yet another Wolverine movie in 2017 (I basically AM Wolverine) or even ‘Aquaman’ in 2018, whose superpower is just being quite good at swimming. Hell, I’m even out of my tiny mind with anticipation about ‘Untitled Sony Female Spider-Man Spin-off ‘(2019).
Serious writers on culture tend to insist that everything ever written can be boiled down to seven basic plots. But as a serious consumer of comics since the age of six or seven, I am here to tell you that there is only one plot that matters: ‘You think I am me; but I am, in fact, a much more powerful and dangerous version of me. And if you don’t show me some respect, the other me is going to rip your fucking head off.’ Stories about anything else are just a waste of time.