The Ubiquity of the Male Revenge Fantasy

Warning: contains spoilers for a lot of movies, mostly notably American Assassin and Captain America: Civil War.

Imagine this. A man has had some hard times, maybe a parent (or both) died when he was young, maybe he grew up in a bad situation, but he has managed to grow up and find love. Then something unfortunate, something violent, happens to the love of his life. Maybe the violent event harmed or killed their child as well. So he vows to get his revenge on what, or who, caused the untimely death(s).

What movie am I describing?

If you answered:

Braveheart, Captain America: Civil War**, Collateral Damage, Confessions*, Death Wish, Django Unchained, Drive Angry, Equilibrium, Faust: Love of the Damned, Gladiator, Godzilla (2014), Hamlet, I Saw the Devil, Inception, John Wick, Kill Bill*, Law Abiding Citizen, Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, Looper, Mad Max, Memento, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rolling Vengeance, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan**, Straw Dogs, Taken 3, The Bourne Supremacy, The Brave One*, The Bride Wore Black*, The Crow, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Fugitive, The Punisher, Unforgiven, X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or, most recently, American Assassin, you would be correct. Continue reading

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I Still Don’t Understand the Sokovia Accords: A Non-Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Warning: Contains Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers, and, yes, I know I’m still being a huge dork about this particular aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I will complain about it until Marvel hires me as a consultant, so buckle in, friends.

This will probably make more sense if you know two things. (1) I think the UN is a relatively useless institution in the 21st century, because it was designed to deal with Germany and Japan in the aftermath of WWII and uses a mostly out-dated concept of the nation-state (thanks, transnational capitalism!) as the basis for operation; (2) I thought Captain America: Civil War was lame, but I wrote a piece on how its use of the UN inadvertently critiqued it in an interesting way.

spiderman-homecoming

I still want to know if he got a new backpack.

I enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming a lot more than I thought I would. For one, it was fun. It felt like a comic book movie and not another male revenge fantasy (someone I love died and/or was a brainwashed assassin for 70 years, let me lash out because I don’t know how to have feelings–Tony, Zemo, T’Challa, and Steve all had the same story line in Civil War and only T’Challa had a redemption arc) or a thinly veiled generic action movie (okay, fine, the airport scene was cool). For another, Peter Parker wasn’t angsty or brooding beyond typical awkward, teenage, how-do-I-talk-to-girls angst.

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How A Plot Hole in “Captain America: Civil War” Inadvertently Critiqued the UN

Disclaimer: There are spoilers of Captain America: Civil War in what follows. I also realize I’m being a huge nerd about this, and it is necessary to suspend belief to watch superhero movies. Also, I’m a philosopher, not a political scientist, so my understanding of U.N. procedures is rudimentary.

Credit: Hypable.com

The fictional UN session in Vienna gone awry.

It was curious to me that in Captain America: Civil War the writers decided to use an existing organization–the United Nations–instead of continuing to use fictional groups like the World Security Council, S.H.I.E.L.D., etc.

As I understand it, the purpose of the UN is to do things like mediate and maintain world peace, promote human rights, and protect the environment. So, ideally they are in the business of promoting humanitarianism.

The UN isn’t the world police, and there’s no such thing as a world army. The UN Security Council can use armed coalition forces to maintain peace and security, but those forces are voluntarily provided by nation-states (and the UN can’t force a nation to send troops). The UN also has an International Court of Justice, but it only looks at cases brought about by nation-states against other nation-states (and it doesn’t even really have jurisdiction over them).

So, to have a UN panel that would determine when a group of superheroes would–what? be used as a “peacekeepers”?–is dubious to begin with.

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Can I Still Be A Feminist and Like Fight Club?

My sentiments exactly, Molly. Credit: Chris Large/FX

My sentiments exactly, Molly. Credit: Chris Large/FX

This is a serious question I have been asking myself for a while now. Of course, I am a feminist and I do like Fight Club, so there’s an easy answer to the question. But have I been so brainwashed by the male gaze that I can’t see fiction through the critical lens it deserves? I was watching season 1 of Fargo on a trans-Atlantic flight a couple weeks ago, and I found myself thoroughly entertained. I also found myself feeling guilty for enjoying something so male, white, and heteronormative.[1] (Allison Tolman is great, but she doesn’t make up for it.)

Obviously this is the standard for fiction in all its forms, and anything else is given a special interest label—“chick” and “urban” among my favorites—and made into a “genre” (and thus deemed inferior). Such books are pushed into the corners of stores and such movies are advertised on Lifetime, BET and Logo, so hetero white men don’t have to know they exist.

Diversity in film recently has been addressed by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are a lot of reasons why diversity is important, but one of them is simply that having more variety makes for better quality of art overall. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I see the same movies and TV shows and books over and over again. I understand that for publishers and studios trying to fatten their pockets, doing something new is risky, but I’m bored with remakes and reboots and retellings.

Mostly.

My problem is that occasionally something will come along that I really like even if it’s reminiscent of the same old thing.

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Adulthood is Still Growing Up

And these were just the ones still in my wallet.

And these were just the ones still in my wallet.

Some people drink, some people workout in excess, some people get high—I go to the movies. In the summer especially, when people are drinking on patios or out on their boats, I’m probably in the middle of a dark theater by myself trying to escape into another world for a couple hours.

Yesterday I took myself across the river to E Street to see Boyhood.

I have been waiting for Boyhood to come out ever since I heard about it. I love Richard Linklater’s films—even The Newton Boys. There’s an honesty and a thoughtfulness to his work that I don’t seem to find in any other filmmaker. In Linklater’s films, you get the distinct feeling that he is trying to capture something about the human experience in order to relate to other people, not for self-indulgence. He, like me, seems to have devoted his life to, well, trying to figure this life shit out.

Boyhood is yet another spectacular attempt, starting at youth and ending with the main character, Mason, at age 18 and starting college. It was filmed over the course of 12 years, so you get a striking continuity to the main characters that has, as far as I know, never been done before in a non-documentary film. The pop culture references peppered throughout are nostalgia-inducing. The soundtrack is woven beautifully into the movie and becomes an element of the story. (Ethan Hawke talking about Wilco’s “Hate It Here” is something I never knew I needed until it happened.)

I’m not exactly sure why, but my immediate reaction after seeing Boyhood was to burst into tears—both the good kind of tears and the bad kind of tears. For who I am, who I was, and who I thought I would be.

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When This You See

Disclaimer: I assume this is going to be controversial, because it involves me discussing 9/11. This also contains major spoilers for the movie Remember Me.

I saw Remember Me last weekend. Yesterday, I was curious, so I began to check out the reviews it received. I found one review that said Remember Me was slow, offensive, and manipulated the viewer. This seems a bit harsh.

I like slow movies, so I cannot really respond to the first.

Regarding the manipulation, though, I thought movies were supposed to manipulate the viewer in some way. If you don’t get pulled into the story and taken for a ride, what’s the point? I think the reviewer was responding to the surprise ending, which wasn’t actually a surprise at all, because you knew right from the start that the movie took place in New York City in 2001.

However, it seems like a great majority of reviews I have seen and read repeat this sentiment, accusing the movie of being manipulative and breaking the viewer’s trust. I assume this is because it is not promoted as a 9/11 movie. The thing is, it’s not really a “9/11 movie.” It’s a movie about tragedy and how people cope with it. It could have been any tragedy, at any time and any place, and that’s the point.

What would have been offensive would be if, given the setting and time period, they didn’t include the events of 9/11 in some way.

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Please Hollywood, Don’t Do This.

So long as I’m writing pleas, I figure another one can’t hurt.  ABC News is reporting that the much-fabled Jeff Buckley biopic that has been in the works for, well, what seems like longer than Jeff Buckley’s actual music career, has its choice of who is to play Jeff Buckley narrowed down to two actors: James Franco and Robert Pattinson.

Let me admit that I am skeptical of this report. First, it’s inaccurate as it seems to imply that “Hallelujah” was released posthumously, which is false.  “Hallelujah” is on Grace (Track 6), released in 1994, while Jeff Buckley was still alive.  Second, rumors of this film have been floating around for years.  Third, I don’t want to believe it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against either of these actors.  From the little I know about acting and the work of theirs I have seen, I think either could portray Jeff Buckley.  James Franco is certainly a dead-ringer for him, and Robert Pattinson definitely has the hair for it.  Of course if the singing is not dubbed, then all bets are off.  They’d have to have a Grace-off, winner take the role.

But Hollywood, don’t do this, don’t make another biopic about a great and fabled musician.

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