Hello again everyone! I took an extended break after the final season of Game of Thrones, but I have returned to Cinema Grandcanyonscope! Oh wait, I got rid of that name six years ago because of its wordiness, among other things. Anyway, I’m bringing back a modified version of it. Welcome back to Cinema Canyonscope!
Now that I have gotten that particular piece of business out of the way, the summer movie season wraps up in, well, it has wrapped. An odd thing: we now have a “summer” movie season that really begins in the middle of spring and, for all intents and purposes, ends the first weekend of August. If we loosely define summer as the period between the summer solstice and autumnal equinox…oh no, I’m losing you, aren’t I? Absolutely nobody cares that the summer movie season starts around Easter now, do they? Well, this is no way to welcome you all back, is it?
Here are some highlights from Summer 2019 in movies. By “highlights,” I mean the movies I actually saw in a theater.
Is anyone else concerned that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has run out of steam, or at the very least, is currently running on fumes? Old Endgame, lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing! That’s the wrong Endgame – or is it?
I enjoyed Endgame, but the film had a disposable quality that I can’t shake. Part of that comes from too much familiarity with the main characters, and by that I mean decades of comic book backstory.
The comics weave complex tales filled to the brim with alternate histories, resurrections, and some of the most gonzo storytelling this side of a Phish concert. The key point here is that decades of comic book lore written and drawn by wildly creative individuals developed dozens of complex and interesting versions of the Marvel characters.
In contrast, the folks behind the MCU have cherry-picked the elements of these characters that work best for a wide audience. This makes the Avengers movies wildly successful, so from a business standpoint, it’s absolutely the right move.
However, as a comic book fan reared on the wild comics of the 80’s and 90’s, I can’t connect the main characters in the MCU because I already feel more connected to different, more complex versions of the same characters.
Spiderman: Far From Home
Case in point: I like the 90’s, thirty-something, broke, tired Spiderman a lot more than I enjoy Tom Holland’s portrayal of the character. Holland acts well considering what he’s given, and, after all, a young actor like Holland just does what he is told to do, so it’s nothing against him. The Spiderman I grew up reading about had an edge to him, and that, to me, made him much more relatable than a Spiderman who, let’s face it, is more Dick Grayson than Peter Parker.
Like Grayson, MCU Parker has a wealthy, somewhat misanthropic benefactor with tons of gadgets. That alone ruins the central and defining aspect of the character. Parker is supposed to be an everyman superhero. I mean, c’mon, in every iteration of Parker except for the MCU version, he actively avoids fighting with the Avengers, or any group really. Who are his closest hero allies? Certainly not Iron Man or Captain America, but other grinders like Daredevil.
I have read countless hot takes on how refreshing the MCU Spiderman movies are for not killing off Uncle Ben. While we certainly don’t need to see the gruesome murder of family members in every iteration of the character, the fact that it’s not even mentioned causes problems. MCU Parker does not feel the same weight on his shoulders, he does not fully understand the great responsibility that goes with great power, and the attempt to ret-con that into his character in Far From Home does not work for me.
That said, it was a fun movie to watch. See, I’m not all negative about it!
Which one of these is not like the other ones…let’s see…superhero movie….superhero movie….superhero movie…aw man! Actually, never mind, in Rocketman, the hero is real!
The world knows present-day Sir Elton John as a pillar of his London community, a philanthropist, a family man, a model citizen in every respect. The man has a “Sir” in front of his name and scored a Disney movie (well technically two Disney movies, but let’s not get into that)! But it wasn’t always this way, it wasn’t always this way at all.
I’m not saying that Rocketman is a classic of modern cinema by any means. However, the true, if not entirely factual, story of Sir Elton’s triumph over addiction inspired me to revisit Sir Elton’s music. Watching the Avengers triumph over Thanos or watching Spiderman triumph over Mysterio inspired me to do absolutely nothing.
Overall, I enjoyed all three movies I saw in theaters this summer while I was watching them. Afterwards, the Marvel movies just didn’t resonate with me. I can’t blame super-hero fatigue entirely, although I am concerned for the MCU’s future. After all, as I mentioned above, isn’t Elton John a real-life superhero?
As Aristotle once wrote, spectacle ranks as the least important element of drama. With few exceptions (Iron Man (2008), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Black Panther (2018)), the MCU emphasizes special effects over character development. As the MCU moves on from characters in the “popular among comic fans but not well known to the general public” category to the “obscure even to comic book fans” category, character development will become more important than ever before.
In the meantime, to paraphrase Sir Elton’s best friend and go-to lyricist Bernie Taupin, you can’t keep me in your special effects penthouse, I’m going back to my character development plough.
(C) 2019 D.G. McCabe