I have the same taste in movies as a 12-year-old boy cinematically; there are no depths I will not plunge. I love the classics, of course, I might mouth at a northwest London acquaintance – isn’t Citizen Kane wonderful, don’t you adore the cinematography? – but, that aside, I still find myself paying to watch Piranha or The Hangover II or a film where some people were eaten by wolves (the name of which I forget) and the rest of the brightly coloured rubbish Hollywood chucks out.
I am a junk junkie, never out of the palace of dreams (also known as Vue Cinema, Finchley Road), and if nothing screams or explodes, I can no longer watch. I am immune to quality.
Not that I watch mindlessly. When you spend as much time at the cinema as I do you have to look for trends, otherwise you are a victim: a dumbass servant of capitalist culture, paying for your trash, keeping quiet, zoning out, munching popcorn and staring until you are, essentially, a single-cell creature with a loyalty card. The cinema, as Lenin noted, is a powerful drug. So there is the trend for misogyny (in Piranha, Kelly Brook’s breasts are eaten by a fish), sadism (Saw I-VII 3D), American imperialism (Independence Day) and so on.
Obviously films are getting worse and although I don’t mind, with my 12-year-old’s mind, others might. Are cinéastes weeping into their copies of David Thomson’s The New Biographical Dictionary Of Film and praying for a re-issue of Chimes At Midnight? This is simple economics, because the film studios are no longer run by men who love cinema, but by men who love money. Big, expensive films with an already established market, such as Harry Potter And The Immense Global Profit Machine do not frighten the accountants. Little films are always a risk and even when they do well, they never make big money because The King’s Speech, for instance, offers no merchandising opportunities – is anyone really going to buy a Wallis Simpson doll? So when the producers of The King’s Speech went up to the podium at the Oscars looking amazed, it was not because they had won a pile of Oscars; it was because they had managed to get financing at all. Even down a lens, at dawn, in London, I could see that.
“If nothing screams or explodes, I can no longer watch. I am immune to quality”
And this brings me to the latest trends hitting the cinema: superhero movies. You cannot ease yourself into a seat with a cup-holder today without regarding a superhero, a cloak, a shield, a handsome man slumming it for cash and a baddie in a terrible wig. We have reboots, remakes, parodies and re-imaginings. This summer I have seen Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor and at least one other that slipped from my spongy brain during the credits. Next year we have the new Spider-Man, which is called The Amazing Spider-Man, and the latest in the new series of Batman movies, which is called The Dark Knight Rises. The Marvel superheroes (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk) will all come together in a big buffet-of-them-all picture called The Avengers, which will feature Samuel L Jackson in an eye-patch as their leader. And, just so I’m not a woman paying to see a film where Kelly Brook is eaten by a fish, I have to ask – why now?
I am not the sort of person who usually looks for homoeroticism in Batman (it’s there) or a critique of political theory in Spider-Man (it’s there), yet I ponder superheroes. That is because I know from my intense research (Wikipedia) that the men who created the superheroes were not superheroic. They were outsiders who spent the years after World War II producing characters with amazing, yet often pointless powers. I mean – Spider-Man’s powers aren’t really that great, are they?
Consider Captain America. He is a total dweeb with tiny arms until he is put in a machine, injected with serum and emerges like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is a revenge fantasy of the dweeb on the jock. It is a metaphor for a collective powerlessness which is, ironically, facilitated as much by cinema as by anything else. I can now go and see Captain America in total safety. Because I understand.
Main picture credit: Rex Features
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Stylist's regular columnist Lucy Mangan is on maternity leave.