Neil Calloway looks at the seemingly endless debate over comic book movies…
You’ll often here talk of a culture war; countries that are divided into red states and blue states, leave or remain. It’s good journalistic shorthand, but in reality people are complex, with a range of tastes and opinions moulded by their unique experiences.
Still, it’s hard not to see there is some truth in it; certainly when it comes to film you can see the divide between two camps, those who cannot stand comic book movies and those who cannot get enough of them.
The two standard bearers for these two factions are Kevin Smith and James Cameron. Smith named his daughter Harley Quinn and photographed his wife in a Superman themed shot for Playboy. It’s fair to say he’s an unashamed fan of comic books and comic book movies. This is reflected in his hyperbolic praise for them. Two years ago he said that Deadpool “may be the greatest motion-picture ever made.” If you ask me, the “may be” in that sentence is doing a lot of heavy lifting. He also claimed that Ben Affleck might be the best Batman. More recently he called Avengers: Infinity War a “masterpiece”. He doesn’t really go in for understatement when it comes to his opinion.
On the other side of the divide is James Cameron, who did some throat clearing by saying he loved the Avengers movies but “there are other stories to tell besides hyper-gonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!” There’s a whole lot of irony in the man who gave us The Terminator and Avatar complaining about death defying action movies.
In a battle of Smith vs Cameron, it’s not hard to feel like Henry Kissinger reportedly felt about the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s – “can’t they both lose?” and it’s certainly tempting to dismiss both sides, believing that while some comic book movies are great, others aren’t and each should be dismissed or deified on their own merits. It’s certainly tempting to ignore Cameron, the man who is focussed on foisting endless Avatar movies on us, despite nobody being interested. In an age when you can hardly leave the house without bumping into someone wearing MCU merchandise, when did you last see someone wearing an Avatar T-shirt?
At the risk of sounding like the film equivalent of a middle of the road political centrist, I wince at the fanboy excesses of Smith, but laugh at Cameron’s seeming lack of self awareness. In the same way that some people see an attack from so called elites as a justification for their politics, a director like Cameron attacking comic book movies can make some comic book fans more certain in their beliefs, and apparently uncritical worship from the likes of Smith allows outsiders to dismiss it as an unquestioning cult. Enjoy the films, but don’t take them – or criticism of them – too seriously.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.