Reviews | Marvel movies are the death of popular art

In 2021, every 10 of the year highest grossing movies were either sequels or adaptations of existing properties. Half of them were Marvel movies. The highest ranking obtained by an original film was the 27th place, for “House of Gucci” by Ridley Scott.

Members of Hollywood’s old guard have drawn controversy in recent years for expressing their distaste for stereotypical superhero movies. Nine-time Oscar nominee Martin Scorsese said they were “no cinema” and compared them to theme park rides rather than serious art. Francis Ford Coppola, director of “The Godfather”, went even further, judging them “contemptible.”

Popular films increasingly tend to value entertainment over artistic merit. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has thrived on pioneering this heartless and sterile brand of expression. Their interests are solely to create the most effective ways to release dopamine and extract revenue. The brand as a whole, in its current iteration, abandons aesthetic consideration for stereotypical plays on nostalgia and familiar emotion.

The lack of art in the MCU is exemplified in its most recent film, “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” It’s a fun delivery device: the nostalgic outing of its central gimmick, the flat visual style and effects that could have easily been transported from any movie in the franchise, or the delightfully cliched storyline planned for provoke a calculated emotional response. It’s raw, ready-made porn as cheap and easy as a Big Mac.

Marvel’s films are part of the larger modern movement of “dumbing down” art. Products processed, tested and written by committees that dominate theaters, shelves and streaming platforms are all empty vessels. They are not designed to challenge or question their own merit, but to generate profit through emotional triggers and manipulation of the medium.

At best, art is a process of dialogue between its creator and the public. It is the presentation of a thought or conception of reality and its response, emotional or otherwise, projected back. It is this dialogue that dictates when a creation is truly elevated to its artistic state.

Pleasure boats, like the MCU films, are the antithesis of this artistic relationship. In these kinds of films, all meaning and emotion are pre-established, leaving no room for critical dialogue. A Marvel movie, in practice, is much closer to a CoComelon sensory video for kids than true masterpieces like “Moonlight” or “Parasite.”

Another characteristic of modern mass media is the ease with which it can be consumed. Because they don’t try to push any boundaries of form and seek to deliver the most effective product possible, most modern bestsellers read like a YA novel or a book found on a discount display in an airport terminal. This phenomenon is evidenced by all Harry Potter-obsessed millennials, as they go through the middle phases of adulthood still admiring children’s books.

Real literature is difficult to read, even for the most seasoned and voracious book lovers. Pushing through the classics of even modern canon requires work, attention and understanding that it seems very few are willing to apply, instead confusing quick gratification with quality. With only 32% of freshmen able to read at grade 12 levelno wonder why.

None of this is to say that there is no value or place for media designed for entertainment. “No Way Home” is very enjoyable and one of the best Marvel movies produced to date, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. The criticism is not so much against a given property or franchise, but the philosophical and practical implications they pose for humanity.

Art is one of the most important forces in history and culture. It shapes our collective understanding of the world, our view of society and, more importantly, how we view ourselves. The ability to critically analyze and experience art is crucial to developing our sense of self in relation to those around us. By turning popular media into channels filled only with cheap entertainment, our ability to discuss and conceptualize art is diminished because we don’t interact with it.

Without artistic expression, we would develop no sense of each other beyond the factual. Our global community is built on mutual compassion for one another; art is the means by which this compassion is built. Elevated beyond language, distance and time, it binds us and allows us to share our humanity. The devaluation of these powerful means of expression robs us of our agency and the essence of what it means to be alive.

The current state of the art is, in large part, a symptom of late capitalism. As a social worldview, it inherently views each of us as atomized individuals, isolated from any sense of community or connection with one another outside of transaction. The trend is towards optimizing the human experience: achieving the purposes of daily life (pleasure, entertainment, etc.) at the lowest cost and with the least amount of interaction possible.

Our food is placed on our porch by delivery drivers we never see, our jobs rarely require us to leave bed, our sexual encounters are selfish and devoid of human connection, and our entertainment is prepackaged with easy moral lessons. to digest for consumption.

Humans are social beings. In order to thrive as a species, we reach out to others, striving to build relationships and connect. We are imperfect, physical, passionate, subject to vice, love and distress. To deny this fact of life is to deny our very nature. Late capitalism has denied it to us for too long, and art is one of the many places where it has manifested itself. Achieving gratification is work, and it should be, rather than instant happiness on demand.

Living and expressing what it is to live, to be human, is one of our main desires as people. Preserving the integrity and value of art to allow us this expression is not only necessary but mandatory if we are to survive as a species.

About Oscar L. Smith

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