Saviors of the Silver Screen

Saviors of the Silver Screen, by Charles Norman.

Superhero and comic-book movies are the new rock & roll. Like rock, they were originally a passing fad understood to be for children. Now, however, they are a multibillion-dollar industry that caters mostly to grown men. …

The superhero’s rise has also coincided with our culture’s thorough and profound embrace of fantasy. The spirit of our time is obsessed with transcending the limits of being human. This is part of Elon Musk’s program, as well as the millennial fascination with witchcraft and the occult, but on the mundane level there are those believing they can fundamentally transcend their sex, age, and race. We have updated Obama’s famous line from 2008 to “We are the Übermensch we have been waiting for.” …

The superheroes have also done Hollywood another favor. They replaced that expensive feature of 20th-century filmmaking: the movie star.

Gone are the days when a blockbuster meant Warner Bros. or Universal shelling out millions of dollars to fickle stars such as Warren Beatty or Dustin Hoffman for an original film that may be a complete disaster. Now Hollywood can just hire desperate, unknown actors to make a movie from an existing intellectual property. An intellectual property with built-in appeal, marketable to all ages, and known around the world. The star doesn’t sell the picture anymore and Hollywood loves it. …

This all means that there are no new true movie stars to replace the old ones. Sure, people will go see Chris Evans if he’s playing Captain America. But if it’s just a movie starring Chris Evans…they will not see it. (You might be Googling “Chris Evans” right now to make sure you’re not confusing him with Chris Pratt, Chris Pine, or Chris Hemsworth.) …

The quasi-religious popularity of superheroes is another sign of cultural doom. Men who should’ve graduated beyond them at, say, age 9 carry with them a profound devotion to these heroes, brands, and franchises. There’s a popular YouTube video of a young man watching a preview of the newest Star Wars movie for the first time. He literally starts sobbing. I’d pay good money to see what General Patton would say, and do, to that man.