Whilst on the publicity round for his new film Birdman, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made some very headline worthy and attacking comments towards the current superhero movement.
He labeled superhero movies as ‘right wing’ and went as far as to say that they will incite ‘cultural genocide’ – ideas and observations that are clearly routed in Birdman, in which a fallen actor tries to revive his lacklustre career by producing and headlining a theatre production thus ridding himself of his superhero past as Birdman.
Being a big fan of superhero films and films of variant and genre spanning features I had to take a look at both sides of the room here.
On one hand Inarritu is ahead of the curve. He has identified a great truth of Hollywood studios and executives – they love to make money. And what makes money at this very moment in time? Superhero films. That is why Marvel supposedly has its shared superhero universe planned until 2028. It is also the reason that DC and Warner Bros announced their superhero slate from 2016 to 2020, which comprises of at least 2 films every year. It is also the reason that Sony and Fox have endeavoured to milk and expand their respected Spider-man and X-Men universes.
It is true that superhero films are taking over the summer box office schedule and bullying other competition out of the way but isn’t it harsh to label them as genocide? Well, Jane Fonda clear sees them as a dumbing down of society by claiming that special effects driven movies have taken away from emotion and story telling.
The main arguments seem to be that superhero movies are saturating the market. In essence all audience want to see at present are heroes flying around, fighting, saving the world and having fun.
I and I’m sure many others will testify with me think that there is plenty of space for the two to coincide. The superhero film genre is funding culture breaking and expanding genres. Billion dollar-garnering films will let money and revenue be pumped back into smaller more thoughtful independent features. Warner Bros has made it abundantly clear that their superhero films and universes will go to fund smaller and award winning projects for the likes of David Ayer and Ben Affleck.
You could also say that they cant be killing culture when they are a genre in their own right. Much like action movies ruled the 80s and 90s, superhero films look set to rule to 10s and 20s. You cant call them ‘cultural genocide’ when they are a sector of culture itself. Millions and millions of comic book readers see these characters as their Don Quixote, or their Ben Hur or even their Harry Potter. That is what they are in the end – an adaptation of modern American heroes and villains from comic books.
Some may see superhero films as a plight on film and society in general. Certainly producers are labeling them as creative shackles when n truth they should be thanking the genre fro influxes of funding and profit that is readily being allocated to young and promising individuals who can balance big blockbusters with more left wing cultural features.