I live for watching super hero movies. I love the aesthetics of the otherworldly, fantastic, heroic. I don’t care about normal people, so I don’t want to watch them in movies. I like to imagine there’s somewhere better than this place, and that we can someday get there.
During Thor, I felt something I rarely feel. It might have been joy. Not an easy thing to accomplish, because I don’t “enjoy” much of anything in life. I get called negative a lot. It’s because I’m on a constant search for That Which is Meaningful. I believe in growth and change and progress. Entertainment — consumer relief that keeps us docile so we’ll keep working and buying things and making CEOs rich — is the opposite. I don’t have much tolerance for a system that shuns our critical thinking skills. (Because if we really peel away all the superfluities and find The Truth, will there be anything left? I like to think there is.)
You might have noticed by now… the imaginary entity known as Hollywood collectively generates a lot of bad movies. You could call them “cheaply-made” but they’re not cheap. The standards are so low, it’s like the people who made them are Professional Amateurs.
Against all odds, with so many creative and unemployed filmmakers available (I’ve met them), Hollywood spends zillions of dollars a year on duct-taping together trite, meaningless, low-class nonsense that panders to the worst within us. Poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed, poorly edited, breaking every single rule taught in Good Moviemaking 101.
It’s because they (The Shadow Industry) assume we’re really, really stupid.
So what do they do? They hire filmmakers who are equally as stupid. That way, the stupid audiences will be attracted to and identify with their stupid storytelling. Because that’s the way the stupid audience would make the stupid movie, too. It requires a form of stupidity that is so deep and primal that it can’t be faked by an intelligent person.
”All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.” -Hitler
When movie studios churn out potboilers like Fast Five, they’re after the cash. Period. 125 Million in, 250 Million out. Who wouldn’t want to double their money? It’s Banking disguised as Art.
Thor was different. In a way.
At the core, the movie was heroic. Thor was a direct, no-bullshit character, fighting for the cause of good, trying his best to do the right thing. There were plenty of scenes where Thor triumphs by his own virtues. All of the Gods of Asgard, aside from Loki, were like Thor. Heimdall? My favorite character in the movie. No sense of humor. Loyal to the death. Awesome.
And here come the Earthlings: silly, flawed, stupid. Small-minded. Something the audience can identify with!
Darcy Lewis (played by Kat Dennings) was the “whoa, dude, this guy is totally freaking me out” comic relief. The sarcastic teenager sidekick that’s required in every movie these days. Because it wouldn’t be acceptable to see Thor’s story told through Thor’s own eyes, would it? It would be too lofty. He had to be “brought down to Earth” with slapstick and “Doh!” moments. His adventure had to be told by the average, non-intellectual human on Earth that doesn’t take life seriously, has no clue how big the universe really is, a character written in for cutesy-ass trailer moments.
The original Clash of the Titans didn’t need that shit, and neither did Thor.
Have you ever noticed that non-human races (Vulcans, Goblins, Hutts) are written as being somehow inferior to humans? They always lack some element, whether it’s technology, hygiene, emotion. To create an alien, just think of a human and remove something. The subtext is, “they haven’t figured it out like we have.” Humans are always just right, aren’t they? The perfect balance. The entire universe should emulate us. (Sounds like every religion, doesn’t it?)
The subtext of “Thor gives up on his life as a deity and makes breakfast with a dish towel over his shoulder” is no exception. That he was able to somehow become greater by not being great anymore was the moral of Act 2. “Aw, even a God realizes that Humans are the superior race.”
You ask: “Oh, come on, Carl. It’s just a movie. Why take it so seriously?”
Because that’s the cop-out that results in the low standards we have today. There’s very little high art in our culture to “worship.” It’s all just escape: to cure anxiety and boredom. Consume, consume, consume. Alcohol, TV, sports, comedy. Fun, fun, fun. Irony, sarcasm, parody. Constant, constant joking. About everything.
Try to be direct for a day and see where it gets you. See if it makes people uncomfortable. Surprise! Better run back to the humor. Make sure everyone feels safe.
There was a solid foundation in Thor that I can’t deny: the hero that is an authentic hero — devoted to nothing else. He wasn’t an alcoholic, a playboy, a loser who bumbled his way into defeating the bad guy. He was honest, strong, brave, healthy, and he didn’t even use slang!
Why has our culture devolved to such a degree that we can’t respect Thor for what he is, without all the wise-cracks? Why do we have to juxtapose him with modern (temporary) culture for him to be relevant? I imagine the movie studio telling the writers: “do another joke pass. Okay, now do another one. It’s still too heroic and classic.”
Look at the other “hero” movies being made these days. Lazy fuck-ups, wimps, losers.
Out of all this, I’m happy with one thing: Thor was such a mighty and invincible character, he even survived our culture’s fear of sincerity.
If you do the same type of creative work every single day, year after year, your creative mind will run out of nutrients.
Example: If you’ve been a musician for 30 years and have written the same song hundreds of times, take six months (or a year) off and study creative writing. Take an art class, acting lessons, or travel. All peripheral studies will enhance your life experience and can be used to strengthen your artistic statement.
At the end of 2001, I quit music and devoted myself to the study of sales and marketing, while working at a small advertising agency. 3.5 years later, I released a concept album about what I learned. It was the most engaging and educational creative experience of my life.