Summary: Our reactions to films reveal much about us and our society. Why are there so many popular dark films based on our children’s comic? Why do critics object to films giving their characters horrific dilemmas? Here are my answers. Post your answers in the comments. Spoilers!
Boomers bummed by their failures
The Batman: The Dark Knight Returns shows a 50-year old Bruce Wayne again donning his cape, seeing that his decades of work has been in vain — with Gotham still a crime-ridden wasteland. The Dark Knight Trilogy ends on an even darker note, with the Wayne fortune gone, Bruce fleeing to Europe, and his life’s work in vain.
The X-Men films end with the mutants almost exterminated both by internal conflict and human death squads — the evil mutants proven correct that humanity was their enemy. Cyclops was killed by the love of his life, Professor Xavier is a broken old man, Logan a limo driver, Xavier’s school closed and its children dead, and the dream of the X-Men program proven a folly.
In the second Avengers film, Age of Ultron, Tony Stark is a total fool, rolling out a superweapon containing alien components with minimal testing. No surprise, it almost destroys the world. Oddly, at the end of the film he is not in jail facing a trillion dollars in civil claims.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier we learn that SHIELD and Nick Fury are evil — building flying death machines to control the world. Worse, Fury is incompetent, unaware that SHIELD has been infiltrated by HYRDRA.
The boomers love these films, perhaps because they mirror the failure of our generation. The Greatest Generation handed us strong cards. We squandered them, leaving the Millennials an America weaker in almost every way than the America we inherited. As children — so long ago — we read comic books overflowing with hope. Contemplating retirement and death we imbue the same characters with the pessimism born from our failures.
It’s not the best way to learn from a film.
Shown horrific choices, we use psychobabble to close our minds
- Passengers (2016) starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
- Beauty and the Beast (2017) staring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.
Fiction allows us to imagine ourselves confronted with situations that test our values. One of the most famous is “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin (1954; see Wikipedia) — about a spaceship pilot facing one of the harshest decisions imaginable. Two recent films explore similar situations.
In Passengers a man awakens prematurely from suspended animation during a centuries-long trip, with no way to re-enter. What would you do when facing a lifetime alone? Would you awaken someone to keep you company, however morally wrong?
For the woman awakened, how might she regard this man who loved her? He woke her unjustly, but holding a lifelong grudge against him would not help either of them. They were a world of two, alone in space. Critics hated it, chanting “Stockholm Syndrome, Stockholm Syndrome”. As if this psychobabble would help either of these people in this terrible situation.
Disney radically changed the original “Beauty and the Beast” story by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (1740, see Wikipedia). Two changes dial up the tension. In the Disney versions, Beauty was held against her will. In the original the Beast says “If she comes at all, she must come willingly. On no other condition will I have her.”
Second, Disney has the rose act as a timer. When the last pedal falls, the Beast will remain a beast for the rest of his life (it is even worse in the 2017 film: the servants will die, becoming objects).
Desperate as the clock runs out, the Beast kidnaps Beauty. He knows it is wrong, but has no better options. What would you do? He wins his gamble when Beauty sees through his animal exterior to the prince within. They fall in love. Is there any other possible happy ending? Showing the empathy expected of leftist ideologues, the critics condemn the Beast and chant “Stockholm Syndrome, Stockholm Syndrome” about Beauty. It is an impermissible outcome for people to see. Both life and film must be ideological correct (our critics love their version of socialist realism).
We can learn about ourselves from these stories, but only if we imagine ourselves in the shoes of the protagonists — and honestly ask how we would react. We learn nothing by judging the characters in films excerpt the cheap thrill of self-righteousness.
For More Information
If you prefer a nice romantic comedy, without the deep questions, here’s an interesting trailer: “The Silence of the Lambs as a Romantic Comedy“.
- Recommendation: nine of the best American romantic films.
- Why have our movies become so dark, showing a government so evil?
- Review of Dr. Strange: a good film misunderstood by the critics.
- How does The Hunger Games compare to other classic stories of children fighting children?
- “Mockingjay” shows us a path to reform for America. A great movie, but bad advice.
- James Bowman reviews Disney’s “Frozen”, & its frozen ideology.
- The Great Wall is a fun film showing us a great Chinese-American future.