Superheroes, sci-fi and the silver screen
Superheroes, sci-fi and the silver screen have had an exceedingly healthy relationship in recent years, and 2018 is set to continue this trend.
There’s Black Panther, Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Incredibles 2 and Avengers: Infinity War all due for release this year and that list isn’t exhaustive. Now, for the more discerning readers, some of these titles will provoke eye-rolls and be slightly exasperating. It’s true that they’re very much in the mainstream, blockbuster category of cinema, but there is something to be said for this category on occasion and even the most refined of cinephiles should be open to this.
Take the new Star Wars film for example. Now that the original trilogy has been extended so very extensively with sequels, prequels and so on and so forth the thing has been pretty much been “sold out”. But one shouldn’t give up all hope…. The new Hans Solo flick might retain some of the charm of Harrison Ford’s rendering of the intergalactic mercenary. As a concept, it’s very appealing- a solitary wanderer amongst the stars etc.
We should also hope for some impressive special effects. It’s sometimes hard to remember just how ground-breaking and aesthetically impressive the original films were for their time. And recall that there’s nothing wrong with sophisticated special effects- the Renaissance painters strove to represent their scenes and tell their stories more realistically than their predecessors by using all the latest special effects of the period: in particular, linear perspective and foreshortening.
This whole concept of superheroes in our culture is also more dignified than it’s often tempting to think. Yes, it’s fun to play the superhero-themed games on a site like InterCasino while you’re killing time waiting for a train or whatever, but there is a more serious side to superheroes. Greek gods and goddesses were in effect ancient superheroes and we don’t perceive those as in the least bit juvenile. On the contrary, we look back to Ancient Greek civilisation as a great achievement and the model for so much of our culture.
The very idea of creating super beings is actually quite admirable. It’s an attempt to improve the human condition, to extend our abilities from the physical to the psychological, and most nobly the moral realm. Standing against ignorance, selfishness, greed and oppression can be represented as simplistic and naïve, but it’s not these things at all. This isn’t to claim that all of these superhero films have something profound to say- many of them are certainly a bit on the trashy side, but others are excellent and just because they don’t strike one as Art House or high drama it doesn’t mean that they should be dismissed.
Both the Superhero and Sci-fi genres tend to suffer from the same issues actually. They’re both enormously undervalued. Sci-fi can be incredibly philosophical and when it’s done well it can be a very highbrow sort of field exploring moral questions (Gattaca), epistemological questions (The Matrix) and ontological questions (Blade Runner). However, both genres are very often seen, unfairly, as childish.
So the point is that we should greet the news of the release of another haul of superhero and sci-fi films for 2018 with excitement rather than exasperation and look forward to this year’s releases with an open mind.
The editorial unit