Why I Dislike Comic Book Movies

I’m sorry, but I really dislike all the comic book movies created the past 10 years. The central problem with how we write and make comic book movies today is not just that they all feel the same but that we so willingly accept these hyper-violent, protagonist films that fail to inspire us.

As Americans it’s almost impossible to know anything else but the ‘comic trope’; to see conflict and heroics on the big screen as anything less than a group of protagonists using special skills, powers, and violence to fight more violence. For the dark worlds in these films is nothing less than a militarized, soulless void of people that are but mindless, immoral sheep to the larger group of spandex-clad villains that enslave them by their own temptations. This trope in general is becoming of a wholly American generation of people. But it has been particularly strong in the post-WW2 generations today. For having no wars to fight, nor victories, nor moral relevancy we all but flounder around in our story-telling, failing to grasp what we truly must fight for in ourselves much less the current vacuum of American culture.

Look at how far comic film has come from the dark, conflicted hero of the 1989 Batman to the massive computer-generated battles and violent encounters unleashed against Wonder Woman, Ironman, X-men, and the Batman’s today. Hero worship has moved from the psychological to the material. It’s the look and words that matter, not the humility and heart of the man. And that reflects our realistic age we are now trapped in.

For that reason the use of comic book characters and themes I feel has jumped the shark, burned out, aged to the point of becoming some dark mirror of society itself.

I’m still entertained by these films, to a degree. But I’ve begun to notice fewer and fewer protagonist, hero-based movies that move me emotionally. These stories are not like the first Star Wars film with its epic, mytho-poetic Good vs Evil theme. The reason is simple: These modern comic book movies today are too much a reflection of our current political, familial, and cultural fears. They are not about heroes or myths, but the American culture itself.

They are in fact not about our dreams or visions, nor our myth, the world’s values, or even the fantasy of older comic book stories. They are reflections of the rebellion of ourselves against a modern world missing family, value systems, and cultural unity we desperately seek today. That is what comic themes portray to me and why we feel the need to write them as we do. We need these films to do that for some strange reason…to reflect our current cultural conflicts and cognitive dissonance with its political correctness which is never pure byt dellusional. And that’s why they are written that way. \

Comic book movies are designed to confront our modern anger.

As the younger generation continue to write these stories on the big screen you will see them embrace less of the mythic adventure tropes like we saw in 1977 Star Wars, the futuristic, spiritual dystopic vision of 1982 Bladerunner, or the theme of the universal unknown as we saw in the 1979 Alien. More and more as they strive for more “social unity” in stories and in future comic book characters, the idea of the ‘rugged individual’ will be replaced with the desire to fit into a shattered society so it can be condemned, washed away, and made whole again. Its morality is the problem and must be corrected.

And yet these films feel immoral and mindless themselves.

I predict that over time you will see less fantasy film about true conflict itself, less guns, less violence, and war and more a focus on the ‘groupthink’ imposed by current politically correct themes. The violence and evil and psychology of the Self is a Baby Boomer theme kids today wholly reject. Rebellion against bad government, the darkness of history, and failure of religion will replace the older battles of the evils of the world that must be confronted. For the failure of society and the elderly that created it will be what the younger kids see as the main conflict in the world today, not the darkness in themselves. Its a doomed and hateful vision, in some ways.

We will drift off into using comic book protagonists in books and movies as shells of our modern ourselves (not mythic self) as our culture moves from the open, free, spiritual, and mythological explorations of the 1970’s – themes which exist INSIDE the Jungian Self – to the increasingly personal and cultural disillusionment themes that lie OUTSIDE the individual.

As the individual in 2020 takes less responsibility for his/her own evils and flaws and blames the world, the emptiness of the spirit will envelope the culture. For refusing to face one’s own shadow you bury it deeper inside. Creativity then dies. The authoritarian society then built to enforce conformity and goodness ends the beauty of story-telling, forever. That is where we are heading, culturally. And that is what we see in comic books movies today and why they fail to move is emotionally.

And that’s very sad. We cannot fully know what we are missing in comic film as this death occurs in our writers and creators. We seem to crave this personal conflict in comic book tropes more and more as a tool to heal our personal disappointment with the world and our real lives it impacts, not release the mythological wonder that lies in our imagination.

Comic book characters for that reason may continue to form only a temporary ‘salve’ on the selfish wounds we all carry.

We gladly walk into theaters with strangers to engage these violent yet perfect protagonists and the cultural hidden disappointments and bipolar wars that wage politically inside us and which they portray symbolically on screen in comic book movies. We do so because we can’t be the true moral leaders we seek, nor embrace fully the flawed people we are. These comic heroes are seemingly ruggedly individualistic yet socially enslaved like us to the American culture that they only engage our warring self on the big screen through our rage, losing the spiritual self that craves release from that culture. And so we need this strange dance with ourselves with these comic book heroes in entertainment today. They just reflect our own disappointment in the culture. They do not take us beyond it. They drown us in our own misery.

Long term these movies I feel are very damaging because of their shallow approach to entertainment, one where young people are denied yet increasing needing a spiritual mystery and mythological release that realism and protagonist-based story can never feel, know, comprehend, or fully explore. For that reason, it may be time to move on; to leave heroic pulp fiction to its truer medium – the comic book. After all, that is what the kid in us imagined heroes in comic book fantasy had given us so many years ago, not the cultural interpretation found in today’s shallower films.

That’s why I’ve said on my blogs, as we enter this new Metamodern Age, though the movement starts to heal the deep social and economic disconnect so many people in Western Culture now feel in our plutocratic rich vs poor world, it drives us farther and farther from the mythological and spiritual landscape of the Postmodern 1960’s. That’s exactly what comic book movies fail to achieve today – a deeper sense of pathos, tragedy, adventure, and dark exploration which they once had 50 years ago.

As we move now 70+ years out from that older cultural norm we sadly will see more and more modern cultural conflict in protagonist film and literature, and less of the mystery of the universe and the beauty and psychological horror that still hide inside us and yet outside of us. Comic book characters today are heroes that are not fully designed to explore the darker self in people today. The Campbell hero-journey in them has died long ago, trapped in the superficial goo of our modern, immoral world.

That deeper spiritual adventure story of the bigger hero diving into the waters of the ‘Unknown Self’ beyond itself has now gone underground to sleep awhile until a later more rebellious generation arrives to reawaken its true monsters.

These monsters of the Self it must fight. But young people are too terrified to explore them today. They cannot see nor admit to the evils that yet hide in their own hearts – the hearts of all Human Beings, actually. And so their inherent Mythic Life fails them. They are instead left with a hero in tights and shining weapons crying because the world has failed to live up to their desires all along. In future books and films these horrors our youth eternally fight in their minds will just rise up again within the same rebellious person that cannot face his own darkness, but instead runs to the safety of the politically correct group culture they now embrace.

Doing so they avoid the terror and pain of the singular death of the tragic hero that must die in themselves alone so they can be spiritually reborn, independent of the culture that will forever fail to nurture them.

– the Author

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