Monday, May 5, 2014

Destruction By Formula

It can come as a surprise to no one that The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which opened last Friday in theaters across the country, as already taken in $92 million at the box office. As a genre, the Superhero Comic Book movie remains a staple of Hollywood’s Summer Block Buster season. This year, we’ve already seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and in a couple of week X-Men: Days of Future Past will premiere. Behind us is the wreckage of dozens of major cities and landscapes at the hands of the special effects wizards who have brought us all the Thor, Iron Man, Superman, Batman and Avengers movies. Based on the profit margins we’ll no doubt have another decade of mass destruction ahead of us.

Back when this 21st century version of the genre was still finding it’s legs, with the premieres of the first X-men and Spider-Man movies, the superhero movie was somewhat free to present a story with something of an original plot. Yes, they usually still required a grand climax that brought the hero into direct conflict with the villain, but did not require the overwhelming levels of destruction that the genre cannot seem to do without these days. The pinnacle of this frenzy of destruction can be seen in last summer’s Man of Steel, which essentially leveled Metropolis and significant portions of Smallville. Whatever human story the producers, writers and directors of these films are inspired to tell, they basically get the first two thirds of the film to do that before setting up these large destruction/action set pieces to finish.

The big problem with the emergence of this genre convention is that these films have largely become an indistinguishable orgy of destruction. And while there are very few visible deaths, most of the destruction is so absolute that you know thousands of people would be killed if it occurred in the real world. And it’s really gotten kind of boring. There are only so many smashed vehicles and collapsing buildings that you can look at before it all looks pretty much the same. But I guess as long as these films continue to break box office records, Hollywood will continue to feed us this formula of destruction.

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