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Friday June 28, 2013, at 5:09 pm

Cancel the Apocalypse

I like The Walking Dead, the Nolan Batman movies and Battlestar Galactica as much as anyone, but I am getting a bit tired of the need for everything to be gritty, dark and cynical. This exhaustion isn’t because that isn’t interesting to me but because not everything should be the same.  What finally pushed me over the edge were the two most recent movies that I saw in the theaters. Star Trek into Darkness and The Man of Steel.  I enjoyed both of these movies for what they were, but when two different directors feel the need to take two of the more uplifting franchises and make them so much darker it’s time to suggest that we need to start moving on.

Hollywood has always done this. When you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on something you don’t want to take a lot of risks. That said, I don’t think this particular trend is entirely Hollywood’s fault, and not just because it’s huge in comics, novels, ect. as well.  There are plenty of people who like this and want to write things they like. I think it’s more basic than that. People have decided that 1) dark cynical stories are more realistic, and 2) stories have to be realistic to be good.

I have a problem with both of these premises. The first is actually the bigger problem though. I have a reasonably realistic life, as it is real, and yet it really doesn’t feel that gritty to me.  It’s not perfect of course, but I’m not living in a noir story. In addition the world isn’t getting worse. Things are hard for a lot of people right now, but we still have more of almost everything than our parents and half the things we couldn’t imagine living without our great grandparents would hardly have believed if they saw it. Crime is down, health is up and in most cases things are getting better not worse.  Science fiction stories especially (like Star Trek) are not unrealistic if they suggest that in a couple hundred years we might have solved a lot of the things that are big problems today, just like we have solved little things indoor plumbing, electricity and the plague.

The second one is a bit more preference. I prefer a story that takes its own premise serious and get frustrated when it feels like the writer or director thought their own idea was stupid. That said, I also enjoy plenty of movies that aren’t realistic. To throw out some examples I enjoyed all three Toy Story movies, but was never actually convinced that toys are alive, I enjoyed the 1960’s Batman even though I’m not convinced that keeping shark repellant in your utility belt makes much sense and I read a lot of comics about people who get superpowers from massive doses of radiation.

I’ve used the word cynical a few times and I think that’s my biggest problem. I’m not naive enough to believe that there isn’t corruption that people wouldn’t get hurt if Superman was fighting Zod or that if zombies took over people wouldn’t start killing each other for supplies.  The problem is that I deal with plenty of problem in real life.  Sometimes I want to go to a movie and see someone who is not only unstoppable but incorruptible. I want to believe, at least for a couple of hours, that Superman can save the world without killing a hundred thousand people in the process and find a way to do it all without having to surrender to the dark path to do it. That’s because I go to a Superman movie, or a Star Trek movie in part to escape from what’s really happening not to be shown that even in our fantasies things would really be just as bad.man-of-steel-dark

To bring this back to storytelling and comic books I’d just like to remind everyone that no matter how big the fads and trends might be there plenty of ways to tell a story and its far more important to tell the story you want to tell and are passionate about than to try to meet trends or tell a story the way other people tell you to and just as importantly could someone explain to Hollywood that you don’t need to destroy a major city in the third act.

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