EDITORIAL: Of Superheros And Postmodernism

EDITORIAL: Of Superheros And Postmodernism

Analyzing the 'Conventional Superhero Narrative' and narrative stagnation. question 'I also try to look into the Are audiences ready for less conventional superhero movies or not yet?'

Postmodernism: “A late 20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism, which represents a departure from modernism and is characterized by the self-conscious use of earlier styles and conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories”.

Joss Whedon recently commented (rather famously) that he didn’t believe that superhero films should be postmodern just yet. I’m only quoting one statement from an interview where he made some great observations that I do agree with. While I’ve been a huge fan of Whedon since the Firefly days, and still stand in absolute awe of what he managed to achieve in Avengers, it seemed like an interesteing point to debate on (especially given that other projects of his, including Buffy and Cabin in the Woods are often labelled as postmodern): whether going postmodern with super hero films today is or isn’t a good thing?

Pushing the Postmodern Envelope

Comic book movies have been around for decades at this point, and it’s been the better part of the last decade and a half that we’ve seen the more realistic superhero films take the box office by storm.  Almost all of them have adhered to conventional narratives; ‘The Dark Knight’ being the only real exception so far.

Edgar Wright’s brilliant Scott Pilgrim Vs the World is another great example of pushing boundaries, and at least in my opinion, remains one of the finest comic book adaptations made, second on to TDK. Whether it worked for mainstream audiences or not is an argument for another day, but if you’re familiar with Wright’s style and his body of work, it would be hard to argue about the quality of this film.

Arguably, the contribution that ‘The Dark Knight’ (a movie-I argue-that would not exist in its current form, had it not been for Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’)has had on comic book movies is not much different from what ‘Watchmen’, and ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ did for comic books when they released in the 80s. It made even the most open critics of the genre stand up, take notice, and even be blown away! It proved once and for all that comic book movies can go above and beyond the bounds they are usually constrained to.

Like the two comics, the movie decided to take a postmodern approach to its characters and narrative, rather than settle for a conventional story, which remains the greatest asset for all these works. In my opinion ‘The Dark Knight’ will not just be remembered as one of the best superhero movies, but as one of the great movies of our times.

It's sequel TDKR, however, is another story, and is a movie I would like to think does not follow the cannon of 2 great films that preceeded it.

If we look at the works of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, among a bunch of others, the common thread seems to be unconventional narratives they’ve employed in some of their seminal works, be it Miller’s Sin City series, Moore’s V for Vendetta (stands as probably the best comic I’ve ever read), or From Hell as well, to Gaiman’s Sandman. Yes, most if not all these works came by at a time when the art form was arguably stagnating, and not early in the day.


Let’s also look at some of the more recent examples of postmodernism applied extremely successfully to narratives: Geogre R. R. Martin’s ‘A song of Ice and Fire’, along with HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ are more popular pieces of work than any other currently. HBO’s other show; ‘True Detective’ employed a rather unconventional narrative for a procedural investigation, and has been hailed as one of the best shows on television.

 Besides, films like Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner, Fight Club, Ghost in the Shell, and Nolan’s own,  Memento, are fondly remembered as great examples of film making more so because of their narrative structure than anything else. An approach, even the makers of James Bond tried to adopt to a certain degree, and very successfully too, with ‘Skyfall’.

So why not have more superhero/ comic book movies with at least elements of postmodernism to them? Does Whedon believe that it introduces a level of cynicism to the story that doesn’t respect the source material? Or is it because Marvel is owned by that Big Daddy of conventional storytelling, Disney?

I ask this because clearly the second act of Avengers was more than just inspired by The Dark Knight: A villain intentionally gets captured, with a plan to escape, thus precipitating the third act. A third act, mind you, that would have made Michael Bay extremely proud.

Whedon quoted “We had just gotten the technology to make it awesome, and I wasn't ready to be post-modern about it yet." I’m not sure I agree with that statement, as it opens up the same Pandora’s box of questions that were leveled against movies like Avatar, and more recently, The Hobbit trilogy; letting technology dictate the narrative of a movie. If movies like 1933’s King Kong and 1954’s Godzilla can push narrative boundaries in spite of the absence of technology, technology cannot be used as an excuse for narrative stagnation.

Not that Avengers had this problem. Whedon nailed each and every character perfectly, and made sure they were front and center throughout. But there was nothing TRULY original about the story itself. I just don’t see how an unconventional movie can be looked upon as “riffing on the genre”- as Whedon said.
The point I’m trying to make is that if audiences are widely hailing new stories that don’t conform to the formula, why not have more of the most popular films today incorporate elements of it already?

Looking east

Right off the bat, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on Anime or Manga. I’ve seen a few animes, but never had the chance to read a manga. But the one thing I have seen is the freshness of these animes. Whether it’s Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Angel Beats, or any other, one thing you can say about them is they are definitely not conventional.

And the fact that they only grow in popularity year over year goes to show that the narrative even trumps the fact that they aren’t live action. Akira was made in 1988 as an animated film which till date is considered a seminal work. On the other end of the spectrum, another animated film Grave of the Fireflies is commonly referred to as one of the most gut-wrenching movie going experiences there is.

In many ways the west is still trying to catch up with the creative brilliance of the east, whether it is the remakes of their films, or even employing Korean and Japanese directors to helm more and more Hollywood films. It’s no surprise that even the characters of Superman and Batman are inspired by Japanese Kamishibai superheroes Ogon Bat and Prince of Gamma.

Since the approach adopted in the East is clearly working, and even making its way westward, its time Hollywood adopts it into their renditions too.

Marvel’s Tryst with Postmodernism.

The antihero seems to be something Marvel has struggled with, not clearly understanding what mould to make them adhere to, and I believe Hulk is to blame for that.  Ang Lee’s unconventional and underrated take on the character was received as nothing short of an abomination back in 2003; whereas Marvel resorted to the more conventional ‘The Incredible Hulk’ when the rights were reverted.

The Hulk as a character is not like his Avenger colleagues; his only motivating factor is rage, which makes him a wild card. Its one thing to have a wild card in a group, but making a solo film on him is a much more daunting prospect, and the maybe reason why Marvel is being cautious about how they approach it. ‘Planet Hulk’, and ‘World War Hulk’ seem like mouth watering prospects to adapt, but do they really fit with Marvel’s current approach?

The interesting thing is that Marvel has a bunch of great darker properties that scream postmodern. Characters like Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and The Punisher and Blade are as grey as they come, and are therefore far less likely to conform to conventional superhero narratives. They have no place in Marvel’s current cinematic universe of the more vanilla Earth savers. Granted that the rights to these characters only recently reverted back to Marvel, but is anyone really expecting to see them appear in movies (not TV) anytime soon?

‘The Punisher’ with Thomas Jane stands as one of my favourite films featuring a Marvel character, one that’s not talked about nearly enough in my opinion. The other films featuring these characters however have all been sheer disappointments. I queued up twice for a Ghost Rider movie, and will continue to do so, hoping that someday they get it right.

I thought Marvel would head in a very different direction with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, given how far out the group itself is, but the trailers seem to suggest more of the same; a straightforward story, combined with generous doses of humour to make the move more palatable. I could be wrong though, and the movie could be a genuine departure from what we’re used to seeing Marvel brew.

I was extremely excited when Marvel announced Edgar Wright would help Ant Man, because he would bring something new to the table. I can’t say I was surprised at his decision to leave. Saddened- Yes, but not surprised, given the short leash Marvel tends to have all its directors on.

Why So Serious?

People argue that superhero movies shouldn’t take themselves too seriously, that they should be fun and escapist, and that DC’s brooding approach is not the way to go about it. It’s an extremely flimsy argument if you ask me. The common theme in almost all origin stories is a tragedy that motivates the protagonist to use their abilities for good. Even the Avengers were united by the death of Agent Coulson.

 It’s also the one thing Sony does not seem to understand with its Spiderman franchise. Instead of using Uncle Ben’s death as Peter’s driving force, it’s always the girl that he has to fight for. So much so that it was the biggest sub plot in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.

Tragedy adds a sense of brevity to the proceedings. I’d like to see more movies ditch the black and white/ Good V Evil shtick for greyer characters and less absolute stories.

Think about this: Which are the truly memorable villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced so far? Chances are Loki is the only one you can think of, and Loki isn’t even a conventional villain. He’s probably the most three dimensional character they have.And what wrong with mixing a few darker films along with your biennial Spiderman movie or Marvel offering?

Sure, WB hasn’t produced nearly enough movies to warrant an argument as to how far they are pushing the boundaries with their franchises, but even the little things like naming the movies ‘The Dark Knight’, or ‘Man of Steel’ rather than the characters’ names themselves suggest they have faith in the approach they’re adopting. I liked the approach adopted with Man of Steel, even the notion of the world not being ready to accept Superman went a long way for me. I loved what they did with the end, controversial as it was. I can only hope that the destruction that occurred and its ramifications are incorporated into the story in Dawn of Justice, and it doesn’t end up becoming trivialized like something out of a Transformers movie.

In contrast to my statements on Marvel earlier, lets revisit on of DCs most famous antiheros, John Constantine.
Constantine turned out to be a surprisingly good film, and handled the character perfectly(albeit not totally faithful to the Hellblazer comic). It did great service to not only the antihero, but incorporated the supernatural element quite well too. It resulted in giving the audience a memorable, if nor remarkable, unique comic book movie adaptation.

To be fair though, WB has made horrendous work of the Alan Moore works they’ve adapted. What could have been truly standout examples of postmodern comic book movies, turned out being almost unholy compared to their respective sources, with V for Vendetta leading that race by light years. Watchmen didn’t help much either.

Other DC character adaptations by studios including From Hell and even the Hellboy franchise didn’t add much in the way of freshness. Hellboy 2 set up some great prospects for a third, but till that happens we can’t comment.

Yes, the regular stories will get the job done, and even make truck loads of dough, but you don’t really remember them as individual entities in the long run. 10, maybe 15 years from now, if someone were to ask me the plot of any of Marvels single hero films my answer will probably just be this “Some Bad guy wants to destroy the world, and he needs to save it”

And Spiderman films would be along the lines of “He has to save his girlfriend from the bad guy”

I can only hope that my response for WB films isn’t “I’ll let you know once they get their Universe up and running”

I’m sure a lot of you won’t agree with my view on this, so I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Bearjew - 7/4/2014, 12:30 PM
Ghost Rider needs to be a true antihero thing when Marvel does it, have Nikolaj Coster Waldau play Johnny Blaze. I'd have it be a more Ultimate approach where he fights Bobby Blackthorn both as Ghost Riders by the end. Should be like a modern version of The Crow
WinterSoldier33 - 7/4/2014, 12:44 PM
Nice article

Completely agree
SauronsBANE - 7/4/2014, 1:23 PM
Oh man this article looks awesome!! Definitely going to take my time and read through this when I get the chance. Thumbs up ahead of time though!
phantom1527 - 7/4/2014, 1:49 PM
Good article. I agree with one of your concluding points about the cookie cutter stories of Marvel's movies being just that, cookie cutter. Although Man of Steel is a polarizing film, many love and many hate it, the story was refreshing within the genre. I hope DC continues to implement innovative stories in their new universe. X-Men looks like it's on the right track though
PeterDarker121 - 7/4/2014, 2:25 PM

Dude, HOW was Man of Steel "INNOVATIVE" and "refreshing" within the CBM genre? Can you PLEASE elaborate?
SauronsBANE - 7/4/2014, 4:08 PM
Awesome, awesome read! I don't agree with everything you said, and I literally threw up my hands when it came to the very last point you made, but MAN is this one of the better-written, coherent, intelligent editorials that I've read here in a while! Seriously, great stuff. I can't wait for some users to come along, skim through this, and label you a Nolanite, a Snyderite, or whatever other adjectives simply because you criticize Marvel a little bit. Their loss.

But yeah, I'll try to tackle this as best I can.

About Whedon's quote: I don't remember exactly what he said, but I got the sense that he was saying that The Avengers wasn't quite ready to be postmodern yet (his comment on technology baffles me, quite frankly. I don't know if I'm misunderstanding him, but it comes across like a lazy excuse), but that he was planning on making the sequel go in a more postmodern direction. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.

As for Marvel in general...I'm just not sure the whole postmodern feel really fits in with their universe. It's not for a lack of trying, since I'm VERY sure that Edgar Wright would've injected some of that unconventional narrative in Ant-Man (and believe it or not, I'm confident Marvel knew what they were getting with Wright, so it's not like he caught them by surprise or anything), and it's a shame we'll never see his vision of it.

Personally, I certainly wouldn't want Marvel to follow in the footsteps of WB/DC and suddenly turn their heroes into dark, depressed, conflicted, uber-serious creations with no sense of joy, humor, hope, etc.

And this is coming from someone who LOVED Nolan's Batman trilogy (yes, even TDKR). That tone worked perfectly with those movies. But with Man of Steel? I'd have to say that it failed spectacularly. I don't mind having a focus on the world's realistic reception of Superman...but the movie never did anything with that. It talked about that theme constantly, but we never actually SEE the world's reaction for ourselves. Instead, we witness a depressed, mopey, super-serious, un-funny, joyless, conflicted main character that is somehow supposed to be a symbol of hope...we're told all this, but never actually see that play out.

Nolan went postmodern because he felt it fit in to the character and the story he was telling. Snyder and Co went postmodern because they just wanted to copy the successful, superficial details in Nolan's trilogy: realism, dark tone, and postmodernism.

So to wrap up, I agree that postmodernism worked wonders for The Dark Knight, Skyfall, etc. But not every movie needs to shoehorn that aspect in just for the sake of it (and to be clear, I'm not claiming that's what you're saying in this article). Marvel COULD benefit from that, but WB/DC really dropped the ball on that with Man of Steel, IMO. And unfortunately, Dawn of Justice looks like more of the same.
SauronsBANE - 7/4/2014, 4:09 PM
Sorry for the mini-essay though! This is just such a great article and an awesome conversation-starter. I definitely hope to see many more of your articles in the future =)
OptionFour - 7/4/2014, 4:19 PM
I largely agree with you. I think that there's certainly room for both, though. Much like with the styles of the two major publishers themselves, its a case of different strokes for different folks.

I did want to make a comment regarding your talk of anime though. A lot of people who haven't been nearly as exposed to anime as they have western media make the mistake of thinking that anime is new, refreshing, and totally original/ahead of western entertainment.
Its original to -you-, yes. But it absolutely, one-hundred percent follows very predictable sets of cultural conventions . . . they're just different cultural conventions then you're used to. Once you're exposed to more of it you'll see that 99% of the material is nearly identical or shares very, very similar story/thematic/character beats. Just like western media.
Its not fresh, or new, and certainly not objectively better/brilliant in any way. Its just a set of cultural conventions you haven't been exposed to enough to recognize.
McGee - 7/4/2014, 4:55 PM
Great article! :)

I wish Marvel would do more mature films like the Winter Soldier.
PeterDarker121 - 7/4/2014, 5:13 PM
I'm having a hard time discerning this article....and although it SOUNDS great, I'm not quite getting HOW the films you mention (except 'The Dark Knight')employ (or DON'T employ)'Postmodern' themes. For me, postmodern CBM's began in 'Spider-Man', when Gobby basically said to SP "So what are we gonna DO? Get into battle, again and again until one of us ends up DEAD?" THAT to me, poked a BIG whole into the CB trope of having a never-ending "battle" between the protagonist and villain on the pages of the comic every other month because the series CAN'T obvious END. To continue the company's sales, you can't REALLY have the main villain DIE. You have to mold the storyline in such a way that the vilian comes back at some point to terrorize the hero again when the plot becomes convenient. A POST MODERN take on this (and other CBM conventions) makes those obvious tropes the FOCUS of the film and explores them.

There are FOUR films in the history of the CBM genre that DO that, with varying degrees of success. 'The Dark Knight', 'Watchmen', 'Unbreakable', and 'Iron Man 3'. I believe 'Iron Man 3' is the most successful, and 'Cap The Winter Soldier' continues this trend of continuing the 'meta' trend of giving the audience what it wants (eye-candy, four-color set pieces)while simultaneously questioning the very genre from which these moments spring.
phantom1527 - 7/4/2014, 5:47 PM

Superman actually killed someone. The tone was somewhat dark. The city was actually destroyed. A lot of these things don't happen in most comic book movies. It felt very grounded despite the fact that super powered aliens were involved.
Wolf38 - 7/4/2014, 7:41 PM
Nice article, good subject. I think that one of the big differences is that Batman and Superman have been getting film adaptions for decades now, so it makes sense for the current versions to be departures from past approaches. Of course it works like a charm for Batman. I very much enjoyed Man of Steel's approach, even if not everyone else did.

Most of the Marvel characters are still in the first round of film appearances, with really only Spider-Man (and Hulk/Punisher) having been truly rebooted. Even so, Captain America made a great leap from film one to film two, going from old-fashioned to quite arguably postmodern. It helps that the Steve Rogers character has that "man out of time" thing going on.

Iron Man has also incorporated a sense of current-events and complexities that deserves mention. And the X-Men franchise, of course. Spider-Man, meanwhile, is wearing a facades of being more modern, but as you say, not really embracing the possibilities underneath its skin.

I think of "postmodern" in this context as essentially meaning that a story takes a more complex, at times downbeat but in any case more realistic look at things. Anyway, that approach is typically going to be the most relevant today, and I expect and hope that more and more of these characters get such a spin.
Wolf38 - 7/4/2014, 7:43 PM
@phantom1527, I agree. I think that Man of Steel broke new ground in attempting to portray something high concept (pure sci-fi really) in a realistic way, i.e. "if this did actually happen..." It felt like a different type of film than any other mainstream CBM before.
PeterDarker121 - 7/4/2014, 7:50 PM

You're KIDDING, right? "The tone was somewhat dark?" "The city was actually destroyed?...you're telling me 'Man of Steel' was the FIRST to portray this? Uhhhmmmm....no....

By the way, didn't Superman kill Zod way back in Donner's 'Superman 2?' Didn't 'Blade' kill in THAT franchise? The Punisher? I thought Wolverine killed Jean in X-Men The Last Stand?...or do we not count that movie because it's bad? Regardless, the protagonist(s) (even Supes) KILLING the(or 'an') antagonist is a well-established trope of CBM canon.

No, 'Man of Steel's' TRAILER was grounded. The film ITSELF was VERY derivative in the fact that it TRIES to BE grounded (like certain films behind it)and ultimately isn't TRULY 'postmodern' at all....although its fanatic supporters (whom I suspect haven't really analyzed a lot of films outside the CBM genre)claim it to be so.
phantom1527 - 7/4/2014, 8:34 PM

All the people you mentioned are antiheroes who are expected to kill. Superman is not. Movies like the Avengers were destroying a city, but they didn't show the magnitude of the destruction in that movie because it probably would have been too dark for their intended tone. The things I described aren't new for any movie, but they are new for a generally "good" character like Superman. He's one of the first non-dark characters to have a movie with a dark tone in comic books. I think Captain America does this as well to a certain extent (I really enjoyed both films) but I wouldn't say anything unexpected happened in the Captain America films. I never mentioned the film being post modern, I just mentioned some stylistic and creative decisions with Man of Steel I liked. Maybe we should just agree to disagree
StarkAnthony - 7/4/2014, 9:19 PM
Man of steel didn't do anything that original either, still ended with a city smashing fight and everything exploded. I was not a fan. I don't think it was particularly bad, it just was sort of bleh
JosephKing - 7/4/2014, 9:25 PM

Let me elaborate on what you're saying:

The elements aren't new, but the way they're treated is (kinda) new. We've seen cities getting destroyed in CBMs before, but it never felt really tragic, we never had the sense that people were really dying. It's usually just an empty scenario to cool fights without any human price. In Man of Steel, the notion that those streets are full of people and they're dying is emphasized, therefore watching the destruction is uncomfortable (the simple fact that so many people complaint about it just proves that this notion exists, and we can easily see how it was narratively conveyed in the movie).
We see heroes killing villains all the time, but we never see remorse, the weight of taking a life is never even suggested. Captain America just shoots nazis and walks away, Batman "doesn't save Ra's Al Ghul" and that's it. Superman kills Zod and screams on his knees in a very "un-victorious" imagery.

But I think those elements aren't really what makes Man of Steel a bold movie (I won't say "postmodern" because... well, that's a little trickier), I think some basic narrative choices are far more important to think about. To me, the greatest risk was the way they treated Clark's dramatic arc. He's a character that feels conflicted about coming out as a hero, he understands that his existence has an impact and that's not necessarily good. They basically build the drama on the fact that he lives this identity crisis (wink wink), forcing himself to hide, to blend in. So he's not a very proactive character, he's not really a guy that we want to be. To Man of Steel, being Superman kinda sucks. We can see that in the very basic visual language of the movie: it's not exactly dark, but it's very cloudy, we see (specially in the first half) a lot of bland landscapes that are only there as a reflex of Clark's internal feelings. Maybe that's why the movie feels so un-funny and boring to some people. That's a risk they took, that's the conflict they were going for and whether we liked it or not, they were taking a risk and it's a solid concept that they sticked with. That's something we actually never see in super-hero movies, because the whole point is always to make us care about the character because we sort of want to be him. It doesn't matter if you had to see your parents getting murdered in front of you when you were a kid, you still wanted to be Bruce Wayne because he's cool, he has all these cool gadgets and he's a very proactive dude, he comes up with this idea of dressing up like a bat to fight crime and he's very confident about that being a good idea. We want to be Captain America, Iron Man and even Hulk. We don't really want to be Man of Steel's Superman because that dude clearly has issues. It purposely takes out the "fun" factor (I don't think people are wrong when they say it's a "joyless" movie, I think they're thinking about it on the wrong terms, which is different) in order to add a specific kind of drama.

So again, I think it's a little tricky to think about that in terms of "postmodernism", but Man of Steel definitely wasn't playing safe and/or predictable.
Wolf38 - 7/4/2014, 9:55 PM
Also, re: Man of Steel, it's not very often that a CBM directly addresses religion as in the scene with Clark talking to the priest. I'm not suggesting that anything too terribly profound was or wasn't accomplished there, but I think that it speaks to the general re-evaluation of "the role of faith" (for better/worse/indifferent) that is related to postmodernism.
FlixMentallo21 - 7/4/2014, 10:35 PM
I'll say this-------I'm tired of questioning everything, why don't we start ANSWERING everything instead.
RobtimusPrime - 7/5/2014, 12:51 AM
Good read. Thumb up even if I don't agree with everything said.
Klone - 7/5/2014, 6:48 AM
MoS was nothing boundary pushing or bar raising.
kong - 7/5/2014, 7:05 AM
Good read, but you totally lost me when you said V for Vendetta and Watchmen were bad.
kong - 7/5/2014, 7:05 AM
Other than that I completely agree.
PeterDarker121 - 7/5/2014, 7:58 AM

"phantom1527 - 7/4/2014, 8:34 PM

All the people you mentioned are antiheroes who are expected to kill. Superman is not."

I mentioned Superman who HAS killed (albeit not as 'violently') in film canon...or did you just completely ignore that so you could press forward with your inaccurate theory? Frankly, you're playing into the hands of those who claimed that Superman's killing of Zod in MOS was a problem, which I don't think it is.
PeterDarker121 - 7/5/2014, 10:31 AM
"SniktBub - 7/4/2014, 8:48 PM

@121- Sounds like you didn't like MoS"

No, I didn't....but in any event, my like or dislike for a film has nothing to do with whether or not I think that film is 'postmodern'. Though I think MOS was set up to BE a PM film, it wasn't for the reasons I stated.
DrKinsolving - 7/5/2014, 11:25 AM
Great Article.

I have to say though, as far as Marvel villains go, I think they are doing a great job of slowly introducing more and more powerful villains as the movies progress and the characters mature. Other than the Iron Man 2 and 3 villains I think the characters have worked extremely well in the MCU. By slowly introducing the characters I feel like they made it more believable that Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Loki, ect.... exist in the same universe. I think that was their main goal

Stain (Iron Monger)
Abomination "not sure if included"
Red Skull
The Frost Giants

Loki and his Army....

The Winter Soldier (Awesome movie and Villain)
Arnim Zola

And now they will be introducing

Ronan the Accuser
Wolfgang Von Strucker

and of course Thanos

This is one of the reasons that I give Marvel so much credit, the list just goes on, and on.... I also love how Marvel has a different feel from WB and Man of Steel, and also how The Nolan Batman Trilogy was different. There's also the X-men movies, and DOFP seems to be on the right track. We should have different movies and different tones.

The only CBM franchise that I can't stand right now is Spiderman. They need to reboot it or sell it back to Marvel ASAP.

dethpillow - 7/5/2014, 11:50 AM
I think that postmodernism isn't the best word for what you are talking about overall. and the different valid that word can be used are creating problems cuz people are talking about different things. the way that you are mostly using it seems to me to be in the sense it's often used as in the context of morals and whether anything in the world has meaning anymore. most often postmodernism vs Christian values. I know you're not talkin about that but it's the same package of things basically.

cuz it comes off like it means to u complexity, grey areas and I think also kinda narrative structure that doesn't seem tired and predictable. cuz TDK to me is an odd pick for examples of postmodernism in CBMs. it is postmodern and this has to do with what Whedon was saying and get to that in a minute. but Watchmen and Iron Man 3 are the two most overall postmodern of recent CBMs. Iron Man 3 crazily so and Watchmen even Snyder's approach to almost fetishisticly shooting it to the comic page, I mean that adds a whole 2nd story of it on top of it all.

in some ways I'd say that Batman 66 is more of an overall example of postmodernism than TDK. TDKR actually too I'd say.

I mean there's different valid ways to frame the concept and not you're wrong but overall it's not really the concept that I think your argument is served by. like totally extreme of postmodern movies to me would be Memento, Dogville, Lost Highway, Scream (actually most horror films now), Run Lola Run, Bugs Bunny cartoons, Kingpin, Chronicle. they are consciously messing with the stylization a we expect from movies and drawing attention to the form and messing around genre and in the process this ends up breaking things down to elemental blocks that can be used as a kind of shorthand for other things. cooked down to it's bare smokable crystal, this ends up being memes and gif wars. haha.

and in that there's a certain amount of Nolan in TDK, cuz that's his realm is genre subversion. and with Batman the universal thing was like the Ultimate universe... it was like what if this genre with all of it's baggage was imposed on reality? and it's not like u would have a realistic Batman, but u would have the Nolan films.

so that and the conflict between the morally postmodern Joker and Gotham City vs Batman clinging desperately to a more coherent view of who we are, that also makes it conceptually postmodern.

and what Whedon touches on that and also stuff I brought up earlier, but what can happen is that kinda schizophrenic, fetishistic deconstruction of things down to blocks. like a story can become more a set of overt devices being used not to tell a story but to take meaning from the structure itself, or it can do a lot of things but what it often ends up in, especially when poorly done, is a trading of genuine meaning for stylistic elements. which often comes off as abstract, pretentious, cynical, elitist and inhuman.

an example is when a movie puts it's value not in making us care but instead in wanting us to appreciate it's cleverness. so he's not ragging on Nolan, he's not saying is this worst case at all, but he's explaining his own reasons to not want to be postmodern in this more overall that I been trying to explain here. and about the technology part, he's not talking about laziness, he's saying look superhero movies that look good, can't we do some honest to god movies not trying to be clever or ironic or self referential and postmodern. can we just do them honestly and genuinely?

he's talking really in the context of irony in how everything now is so concerned with showing how aware it is of what it's doing. and this totally makes sense to me. cuz Nolan is purposefully always wanting us to watch and be aware of what he's doing. and that's his style. not saying he's a jerk or a balloon head, but that is his style. I think Nolan is kinda like a Hitchcock without that genuine insight into human beings that would've made Hitchcock an equally genius con man or carny hustler..it's like if Hitchcock was missing an arm.

and what Whedon is saying is not really about the technology, it's a thing like if I say "why do we have to do Planet Hulk now? can't we just get one all around great Hulk/Banner film before we worry about any.bizarre what if Hulk?"
it's that same kinda tone I think and simply that. it's not about the technology in any way.
dethpillow - 7/5/2014, 12:03 PM
postmodernism is pretty much in all CBMs we see. the whole comic book is already totally postmodern so he's talking within this pre-existing context. and Snyder is another director really lie in his overtly stylized way of filming. that's his greatest strength is translating to cinema and he naturally does that thru exaggerated stylisms. definitely visually postmodern.

postmodern doesn't mean good or bad tho. u can have David Lynch over here using the essence of postmodernism to tell amazingly human and ungodly great stories, that involve tiny old people escaping from a homeless demons box in the back alley of Denny's or u can have crap like Seth Rogen who thinks it's a joke to mention an old tv show.

it can be good or it can suck it doesn't mean anything actually about that.
and truly the cats out of the bag. there's no choice to not be postmodern anymore, whether u like it or not that's what our context is.
Yeaton10 - 7/5/2014, 1:33 PM
When I took art class, we learned that Avant Guard (modernism) forms were highly original because they pushed the boundaries of what hand been done, but now there is little left to push in that sense. Post modernism creates original forms by understanding, mixing, modifying and effectively commenting on previously extant art forms.

Trivia question: what was first thing directed by Joss Whedon to ever appear in a movie theater?

Answer: The Buffy the Vampire episode Once More with Feeling, was presented in a theater with elements of live acting and props for audience participation.

Not only did this story mix, horror, musicals, and super hero themes, but was presented with bits of Rocky Horror Picture Show. So, Whedon had brought post-modernism to super hero movies before he even thought about doing the avengers. The fact there is ambiguity between the concept of a TV episode and movie makes it even more post modern. The story comments on the nature of musicals ("give me something to sing about") recurring victims in regular tv shows ("Dawn is in trouble, it must be Tuesday") etc.

Obviously, movies like the Watchmen, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, V is for Vendetta, and even Batman the Movie (which effectively comments on the older Batman serials), have strong elements of post-modernism. So, post-modern super hero movies are here to stay.Mr. Whedon may mean that he does not think now is the time to introduce post modernism into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he could be correct, but saying it is not a time for the post modern superhero movie, is giving very misleading information about what is already happening, and will continue to happen whatever he says.

JosephKing - 7/5/2014, 6:40 PM
Talking about postmodernism in Cinema is really tricky, talking about postmodernism in comic book movies is even trickier. I would say that virtually every comic book movie is postmodern or at least works with postmodern elements to some extent. But keep in mind, "postmodern" doesn't mean "good".

Anyway, I liked the article, some very lucid ideas there, but thinking about these ideas in terms of "postmodernism" is an announced mess.
HulkOnion - 7/6/2014, 5:26 PM
Lighter tone is a Yay

Dark isnt really a nay, but i dont prefer it.

I dont really like going deep with things. I try to go relax a little, bro.
Vortigar - 7/7/2014, 5:19 AM
What is it you want to say with this article? I'm missing a closing statement.

Going post-modern should not be a mission statement for the entire super-hero genre. Some movies do deconstruction, others don't. some are just thrill rides, others show the underlying textures and ask the audience questions. All these types of experiences need one another as contrast to keep the genre alive and breathing.

My niggles with this article:
I think you should've left MoS out of this article. Its controversy draws needless amounts of attention and does not help the point you're making.

Also, many Hellblazer fans would disagree with you on Constantine. I liked the movie but I only know the character from the peripheral.

Aside to many people in this thread:
Light or dark tone says nothing about the quality of a movie. The Truman Show is a flat out comedy and one of the best flicks ever made.

And yes, Marvel does too much comedy at the moment.

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