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Comic Book Heroes

June 9, 2019 (495 words)

You may be familiar with the popular catch-phrase “you had me at hello,” a line uttered by the female lead of a successful “summer movie” from some twenty years ago. It was part of clever script that combined breezy entertainment with some true-to-life human emotion.

Well, this summer’s mega-blockbuster, Avengers: Endgame, lost me just a few minutes into the picture, when a tinker bell-sized superhero was shown saving a disabled space station and its crew by carrying it and them over her head for “a thousand miles” back to Earth, where she then accomplished a safe touchdown by resting this huge spacecraft ever so gently on landing blocks, to avoid getting crushed herself under the weight of the thing.

My problem, mind you, is not with the idea of a strong female lead. I am still savoring Glen Close’s performance in The Wife, a movie I saw over a year ago. Along with Glenda Jackson’s heroic take on King Lear, which I caught on Broadway this past week. That this tinker bell-sized 83 year-old is cranking out her forceful interpretation eight times a week, for a mere thousand audience members at a pop, is a true marvel.

Then there is Blythe Danner’s beautifully understated turn in the new movie The Tomorrow Man, which I just saw last night.

Leaving the theater the guy ahead of us said to his female companion: “that was the most depressing movie i ever saw.”

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course. And to each their own. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, and all that.

But i must say that having finally taken in one of these comic book hero movies that have dominated the release schedule of our major film studios for several years now, i am starting to have serious doubts about the state of the union.

How many times in one movie can the world find itself saved from total annihilation? How do a superhero’s powers overwhelm an opponent in one sequence, only to then fall short and fail in a subsequent sequence, leaving said hero in ultimate peril? How many legions of computer-generated warriors must be rolled out in a grand panoramic vista, only to tumble and be crushed?

I know, I know, this makes me sound like a terrible snob. “Lighten up, fella, it’s only a movie.”

And usually I am happy to subscribe to that line of reasoning. But having recently confronted the actual mind-numbing product, and contemplating the enormous box office take that product is doing around the world, I can’t help but draw some dire conclusions.

When all our entertainments are mindless, when the masses do not avail themselves of anything more edifying than blaring action sequences or titillating sexual encounters, doesn’t that arrest our development as human beings? Doesn’t that undermine our ability to function as rational, considerate people in a cohesive community?

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
June 9, 2019

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