For years I’ve been awaiting the end of superhero megaplex dominance…for the twin giant squids of formulaic entanglement and corporate piss-soaking (DC Extended Universe, Marvel Cinematic Universe) to lose their mojo and crash into the streets like the Martian space ships in George Pal‘s War of the Worlds.
Native microscopic organisms killed the aliens in that 1953 classic, and the same kind of biological process has brought a temporary halt to the annual superhero summer onslaught…thank God.
Would superhero flicks be absent without the intervention of COVID-19? No, but the DC/Marvel machine does seem to be slowing down. Either way we’re in the midst of the first spandex-free summer in a dozen years (2008 being the summer of Iron Man).
From A.O. Scott‘s “A Summer Without Superheroes“, posted on 7.1.20: “Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist.
“That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.
“[But] maybe, as we use this time to rethink many of the other systems that have seemed so immutable, so natural, so much a part of the way things just are, we can reflect on why we thought we needed all those heroes in the first place, or how they were foisted on us. Eventually, we’ll go back to the movies, but maybe we’ll be less docile, less obedient, when we do. I’m not necessarily saying that we should abolish the Avengers or defund the DC universe, but fantasies of power are connected to the actual forms that power takes. What feels like a loss in this superhero-free summer might be liberation.”
What Scott seems to be saying (unless I’m misreading) is that the current surge of BLM, #MeToo and cancel-culture activism by way of loony-left absolutism (i.e., progressive wokester Khmer Rouge enforcement by way of SJW guilt, Robespierre finger-pointing, safe-spacing, editorial fanaticism, Woody Allen sliming and statue tear-downs) may be spawning some kind of psychological antidote to the mass market docility of the superhero era (’08 to ’19)
Clarification: HE doesn’t regard Todd Phillips‘ The Joker as an example of smirking dipshit suffocation — that was an urban noir one-off. And The Batman won’t be this kind of film either, if I know anything about the cinematic inclinations of Matt Reeves.