Archive for November 20th, 2019

The debate over comic book/superhero movies seems to be snowballing.  It started with comments made by Martin Scorsese in an interview with Empire magazine.  Francis Ford Coppola then joined the debate, now comic book writer and creator of the Watchmen Alan Moore has added his opinion.  Alan Moore is an interesting addition to the list.  A comic book writer who has worked for Marvel UK, DC, and 2000AD (publisher changed several times in its 40 something years).  His notable works include original stories: Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as well as stories for some of the most recognisable characters Superman (For the Man Who Has Everything), and Batman (The Killing Joke).

While I don’t disagree with any of the points these people make, I take a different point of view. Superhero movies are essentially a combination of Sci-Fi and fantasy, these are as valid and ancient form of art as anything else: Beowulf is around a thousand years old is considered one of the most important works of Old English literature. We are still recycling, Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology into modern day mainstream.  To look at it from another point of view, take a look at the two images below, is one a more valid piece of art than the other?  Your opinion on this may point to your opinion on the larger debate!

This brings us to What Makes Us Human? A few years ago BBC radio 2 ran a series within Jeremy Vine’s show where he asked various people the question What Makes Us Human? The question was left open, many people took it as a simple definition of what separates us from other living creatures, others went far deeper.  As a side, film critic Mark Kermode (whose PHD was on horror movies) suggested it is fear that makes us human  his, and 85 others entries in the series are still available online.  Taking the idea of what separates us from other animals, I think the thing that makes us human is the need (not just the ability) to tell stories.  From cave paintings and stories around the camp fire, it is something we have always done.  Art, literature, and religion all boils down to telling stories, and who is to say one story is more valid than the next?  I actually believe fantasy is the purest form of storytelling.What Makes Us Human - Mark Kermode

Once we start telling a story, even a true one, an element of context and agenda is unavoidable making it a fiction.  Think of the unreliable narrator of a Kurosawa movie, or a differing accounts of a real life incident.  Look at all the movies you have seen that are based or inspired by a true story, or my personal favourite “Some of this actually happened.” As I started with Martin Scorsese, I will take his latest movie, The Irishman as an example.  The film tells the story of mob hitman Frank Sheeran from the 1940’s to the 1980’s.  At least two of the “hits” in the movie, including the one the film purports to be about, are disputed. This doesn’t actually matter, as the film is telling a bigger story than what is onscreen.  To quote the aforementioned Mark Kermode, Jaws isn’t about sharks!  The further you get away from reality, the easier it is to introduce subtext and metaphor into a story.  Most stories will have some kind of message, even the simplest of comic book movie is no exception, and many explore the same ideas and ideals and they are the things a nation was formed upon after a revolution a couple of hundred years ago: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.  This brings me to the final question, What is Art? If the artist thinks its art, or the consumer thinks its art, then I think its art, you are entiteled to your own opinion, as is Scorsese, Coppola, and Moore!The Irishman

Having said all of this, if given the choice between a new Martin Scorsese movie, or another entry in the MCU, I would take the Scorsese movie every time!

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