With this entry I begin a series of uncertain length. Some time ago I used to share my thoughts about movies. There is nothing distinct or distinguished about either the movies or my thinking. Anything goes, blockbuster or cultish, intimate or civic. Take it that I like disclosure as much as I like movies. They are not reviews. They are commentaries. So beware of plot spoilers, lots and lots of plot spoilers.
I spent my Sunday in the cinema watching back to back The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises. It sounded a swell idea three days ago when I booked the tickets under clouds of rain and cold. I foresaw the need for an act of self-indulgence to cancel out a Saturday afternoon in the library. So I sat for over 5 hours in front of the luminous screen while outside summer had finally arrived. The best plans…
The two orphan heroes, and I guess heroes have always been orphans from Orpheus to Superman, filial tragedy and alienation purifies their morel rectitude, are very comparable. For the purpose of organization I take three headings: bodies, gender, and the economics of knowledge.
Spiderman has always been a teen story with ostensible cues about manhood and adulthood as implying sacrifice, privacy and secrecy. It is also about bodies. Spiderman’s angular forms seemingly fragile but infinitely resilient and vital. The new Spiderman captures this better than Tobey Maguire and the story plays it out better than the previous movies. In contrast, Batman who has no privileged body, no genetic enhancement, no alien leg up, is brute force and method training alone. The Dark Knight Rises promised to show the Bat at his weakest, diminished in his confrontation against Bane. And yet, that promising plot line is merely dropped in the last moments of the movie, like something out of a kung fu or boxing script, Bruce Wayne just works harder and his bones, his scars, his age are no more a handicap. It is a body that exists and then disappears when the plot requires it.
There are no women in the Spiderman story, although the love interest is interesting but only because I am a sucker for romance. Is it because the movie addresses a world of boys, those that have yet to start caring about girls? Women in Spiderman are nominally strong. Gwen Stacy is said to be more intelligent than Spiderman and she is fast in language and thought but she does not move the narrative between the boy and the monster (I am tempted to go on an Oedipian tangent, but I hold back.) Women are weightier in Dark Knight Rises. The two main women characters provide most of the plot twists. Unlike the men their morality is tested, their identity challenged and remade. They are adults, they have desires and they matter.
Economics of Knowledge
Corporations are a big part of the Marvel and DC imaginary. Corporations make their profits from innovation alone and their downtown office buildings are packed with labs with real time experimenting, developing arsenals and tour guides for high school students. Invention is the work of single geniuses that double as CEOs, and they always share the wealth in scholarships or alms for the poor. Each genius and only him holds the key to knowledge, at best, they bequeath the talent to their sons. Corporations are benign or evil if the top management decrees it so. The model feels terribly old-fashioned and shuts out an inroad into the ways of money, invention and their corruption in a neoliberal age.
Since 9/11 Spiderman has been holding to become New York’s hero with a Broadway show to boot. A subplot of working class Americana giving our hero the crucial push to meet the bad guy in battle is nearly unforgivable, of how bad it is. Gotham too looks a lot like New York, more than ever. It is no longer a non-place, of shadows and grime. There are American flags and the anthem, recognizable bridges barraged by the American military, and … the New York Stock Exchange. New York has become an emotional cord to be strung for emphasis like some riff of the epic soundtrack.