The Wanderer - Mobile Edition


Early this year, I made a decision: no more superhero movies for me. And I've more or less stuck to it, with the sole exception of Guardians of the Galaxy, which I'd thought might be interesting. (It wasn't.) Why have I adopted this no-superhero policy? It's not out of snobbery, I assure you. I grew up on Marvel and DC comics, and well into my teens I paid weekly pilgrimages to the town's comic shop, the Comic Zone. I still respect and enjoy comics as a medium; superheroes just happen to represent America's dominant subgenre of that medium.

No, the reason I haven't been reviewing stuff like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past or Captain America: The Winter Soldier is simple: I'm sick of them. I'm tired of expensive, bombastic fantasias, often presented in murky and unnecessary 3D, based on stuff I liked when I was fifteen. So whenever possible, I've been looking to view-on-demand films, or screeners, or anything that can offer me stories about and for grown-ups. Documentaries, dramas, comedies, I don't care, as long as it doesn't involve superpowers, mutations, or spandex.

This sometimes leads to bitter disappointments. Such heavily hyped films as Gone Girl and Interstellar were touted as major reasons for adults to rekindle their faith in American movies. No, for that you had to look to low-down, unpretentious crime films like The Drop, The November Man and A Walk Among the Tombstones, all of which had gravitas without the self-seriousness that can set eyes rolling. Of course, these are only the films that you, the local reader, can see on the big screen without having to drive a ludicrous distance out of your way. There are many more you might like but don't get 3000-screen releases like a film featuring a walking tree and a talking raccoon does.

People wonder why the Oscar show has been getting decreasing ratings, and I have to say it's because a majority of the audience hasn't had a chance to see most of the nominated films before the show airs. As I write this, Birdman, a comedy-drama with a talked-about Michael Keaton comeback performance, has won hot Oscar buzz, but have you seen it yet? Are you going to be given the chance to see it with a theater audience? How about The Theory of Everything, the Stephen Hawking biopic, or The Imitation Game, the Alan Turing biopic? These films will garner acting nominations and even awards, and they will probably never come to a theater near us, not when the third Hobbit movie or the third Night at the Museum comedy commands multiple screens.

The problem with superhero movies, to return to my initial topic, is the same as the problem with superhero comics. In the American comics industry, anyway -- superheroes were never very popular in other countries until we exported ours -- costumed crusaders have driven out almost any other kind of comic book, unless it's horror, like The Walking Dead. Walk into most comic shops, and it's as if you wandered into a video store (remember them?) and found nothing but action films, or into a bookstore (remember them?) and discovered only Tom Clancy potboilers. Now a similar thing is happening to movie theaters and studios; if it can't be marketed to teenage boys, or expanded into a shared-universe franchise (like the rumored Universal Monsters movies to come), don't even bother. This sort of arrested-development fantasist fascism is why I parted ways with most comic shops years ago. I'd really rather it didn't happen to movies.

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