Super (under)powered Cinema

So I’ll be honest at the start of this: I was a huge fan of superhero films. Browsing Life in Pixels’ archives will testify my adoration of the genre. But recently, I’ve become tired of these films. They’re formulaic (which is sometimes not such a bad thing… but, you know). Netflix does a great job of producing some actual substance in this field, but for the most part the television side of the genre leaves much to be desired.

I would watch, week in week out, the latest episodes of Arrow, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., … until it all just got too much. How much of my life was I willing to invest in this? There comes a point where entertainment becomes a chore, and I think I’ve reached that. In its response to mass-consumption, itself a product of the success the genre has felt since the first Iron Man hit theatres, superhero films and television have since departed the gravitas that once underscored the category.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m a voice with final-say in what people should be watching or consuming. We live in a free(ish) society; we can do what we want. But I’ve since become uninterested in this genre, a part of pop culture that at one time was a powerful critique on society, and that formed a big part of my own life.

Take Nolan’s Batman films. Yes, I know. It’s a cop-out whenever a critic of contemporary superhero cinema brings out Mr Nolan and his work. But with this succinct trilogy, he crafted a piece of cinema that is both powerful as a work of art, a strong series of examinations on our society – a society that is plagued by fanaticism, crime, terror, rogue ideology and fear. The Batman becomes the lens through which we examine what it means to live in such a world. Tom Hardy’s Bane represents that strong, terrifying faction that can, at any moment, shake the very foundations of our civilisation. Ledger’s Joker, of course, just wants to see the world burn.

The point is, these films carried substance. Gravitas. And Nolan knew when to stop. He set out to tell this legend, this mythos of the Batman, and he achieved it through those three films.

Superheroes are, I believe, a potent vehicle for exploring very human issues: politics, race, culture, power… historically, they have been used as a critique on society. But in the commodification of the genre, as Hollywood’s prying fingers tear through the metaphor to mine the cashflow, I fear we’re losing that very essence. Yes, on the print side, things still seem to be alive and kicking. But I’m arguing from the cinematic perspective, and the state of things in that arena leaves much to be desired.

 

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Can Agents of SHIELD stand on its own?

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

I’ve written before about my impressions on the latest turns in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. It started off excruciatingly slow, with the mission-a-week plots becoming repetitive and boring. But now we all know that this was simply a ruse, a setup of layering in anticipation for the tentpole movie that is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself began following the aftermath of the “Battle of New York” which happened in The Avengers. So essentially, this series revolves around these major Marvel movies. My question, then, is can Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stand on its own? It took a major picture like The Winter Soldier to reignite the fires of the show, and the last few episodes of Season 1 are indeed explosive and riveting. But that’s mainly because they’re running off the momentum of the film’s events.

Marvel has the opportunity to revolutionise the television aspect of comic book adaptations, similar to how they changed the game with their Cinematic Universe and the Avengers films. Could Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. become a major Marvel property like the films it supports? Or is it merely relegated to the support-side, to maintaining fan interest in the studio between the major films?

If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues this trajectory of just augmenting, and not significantly impacting, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then I fear that the momentum of this show will surely decline to the point of non-existence, that the show will return to its Season 1 beginnings…

Screenrant had an interesting post about the possibility of Season 2, and how the creators plan to close-off this current season:

THR spoke with writers and executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon about the “growing pains” (Whedon’s words) of the series, the response from fans and critics and the plan going forward now that they are preparing to shoot the season finale. Are the planning for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2?

“Tancharoen: We have a board going right now. We just don’t have a season two yet. But we are planning on it and at the end of season one, we are tying a lot of things up as well as teeing things up for a possible season two.”

If season one is the all fans see of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will the finale wrap things up nicely to ensure the story feels complete?

“Whedon: No, you’d be so desperate to see another season and you’d be sad. It’ll definitely be a satisfying season finale but we definitely are teeing up stuff to come.”

So, if they end up with a second season, there is great opportunity to really establish this show as a major player in the overall MCU. With Joss Whedon at the helm of Marvel’s Phase 2, and his involvement in the creation of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the TV show, we could potentially have a more tightly-integrated television and film experience. I, for one, look forward to seeing characters like Skye, Fitz and Simmons appearing in a major Marvel film. Conversely, Marvel Studios has the opportunity to cement Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as another impactful asset in their overall MCU. Let’s hope that #ItsAllConnected will continue into a season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Phase 2 of the Marvel movies.

28 Films to Watch in 2013

Last year was one of my favourite years for cinema: some extraordinary films were released and I was privileged to have seen them. The Hunger Games (highest-grossing action film of 2012), Skyfall, The Bourne Legacy, Avengers Assemble and, of course, my no.1 film – The Dark Knight Rises. 

But from Sunday’s 70th Golden Globe Awards, it’s evident that 2013 is set to supersede last year when it comes to film. For the South African circuit, many of 2012’s nominees will only open in the next few weeks, and thus I have included them as part of my 2013 selection below.

I hope you enjoy this year’s selection. (2013 release dates given from the American circuit; local release dates may vary).

Award Season favorites (releasing in early-2013)

  1. Django Unchained: Written + Directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
  2. Les Misérables: Starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Sacha Baron Cohen
  3. Argo: Directed by Ben Affleck
  4. Zero Dark Thirty Directed by Kathryn Bigalow
  5. Lincoln Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day Lewis

2013 Releases

  1.  A Good Day to Die Hard starring Bruce Willis. February 14th.
  2. Oz the Great and Powerful directed by Sam Raimi, starring James Franco and Mila Kunis. March 8th.
  3. Oblivion starring Tom Cruise. April 12th.
  4. Iron Man 3 Starring Robert Downey, Jr. May 3rd.
  5. The Great Gatsby directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mullligan, Isla Fisher, Amitabh Bachchan. May 10th.
  6. Star Trek: Into Darkness. Directed by J.J. Abrams, starring Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg. May 17th.
  7. After Earth Directed by M. Night Shymalan, starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith. June 7th.
  8. Man of Steel Directed by Zack Snyder, starring Russel Crowe. June 14th.
  9. Monsters University starring Billy Crystal. June 21st.
  10. Kick-Ass 2 starring Nicolas Cage. June 28th.
  11. Despicable Me 2 starring Steve Carell. July 3rd.
  12. The Lone Ranger directed by Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp. July 3rd.
  13. Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro. July 12th.
  14. The Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman. July 26th.
  15. 300: Rise of an Empire written by Zack Snyder (300). August 2nd.
  16. Elysium directed by Neill Blomkamp, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. August 9th.
  17. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters starring Logan Lerman. August 16th.
  18. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones 3D directed by George Lucas. September 20th.
  19. Gravity starring George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. October 4th.
  20. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba. October 4th.
  21. Thor: The Dark World starring Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth. November 8th.
  22. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), starring Jennifer Lawrence, Lenny Kravitz. November 22nd.
  23. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug directed by Peter Jackson, starring Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellan. December 13th.

I hope to watch all these films above this year, and you can be sure to read my thoughts on a select few of them right here on Pixelated Thinking.