Let me begin this blog entry with a question. Who asked for a new Indiana Jones movie? Seriously…who asked for a geriatric guy to run around the screen, occasionally cracking the whip while being upstaged by a younger, more female character? I get the concept of franchise greed and all that, but where was the outcry for a new Indy movie?
I ask this question as I watch the MCU movies, beginning with Iron Man and ending with Avengers: End Game. I’ve been down on comic book movies for the most part, but after a recent Facebook rant in which I admitted to being burned out on shows full of unlikeable, toxic characters such as Succession and Barry, I wanted something different. Somehow, I decided to give the MCU a try.
I can’t say I’ve been disappointed. On the contrary. I’ve really enjoyed the complex story that is being laid out in this string of Marvel productions that were released between 2008 and 2019. I just finished the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie and, while I’m not a comic book nerd convert, I thoroughly enjoy and now have a new respect for the storytelling in these movies.
It’s also not a coincidence that, against my better judgement, I watched the third season of Star Trek: Picard. I was absolutely floored by how good it was. It did everything that the first two seasons failed to do and will forever be remembered as the true send-off that the crew of the Enterprise D truly deserved.
So, I ask the question. Why were the MCU movies and Picard Season 3 so good? Why is Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny so bad, along with almost all of the new Marvel movies and TV shows?
If Ron DeSantis and his fans are reading this, they would stand as one and yell, “DISNEY IS EVIL!”
Ok, I admit that Disney has a lot of problems, many of which are self-inflicted, but the issue goes beyond Disney. I think a lot of it has to do with the ideas of masculinity, femininity and the encroachment of toxic politics into the culture.
Consider this string of events.
In 2015, Han Solo returned to the Star Wars universe after a 32-year absence. He was a broken-down old space bum drifting through the galaxy with Chewbacca. At the end of the movie, he was murdered by his son.
In 2016, Batman went to war with Superman.
In 2017, Luke Skywalker returned to the Star Wars universe after a 34-year absence. He was an embittered old hermit living in isolation. At the end of the movie, he died.
In 2020, Jean-Luc Picard returned to the Star Trek universe after an 18-year absence. He was an embittered old man living in isolation on his family vineyard in France. At the end of the first season, he died and came back as an android.
Sidebar: Even though William Shatner is still alive, It would’ve been impossible to bring Captain Kirk back as an angry old man because he was already dead. So, they did the typical Star Trek thing and brought him back as a young man in an alternate timeline.
In 2023, Nick Fury returned to the Marvel universe after a four-year absence and is…you guessed it.
In 2023, Indiana Jones returned to his own universe after a 15-year absence and got punched in the face by Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the end. I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know if he died as a bitter old fart.
Now, what do all of these fictional characters have in common. It’s obvious. They were all heroes from the childhoods of Gen-Xers and Millennials over the past 40 years. They are also all male. With the exception of Nick Fury, they are all white. So, why bring them all back and, more importantly, why paint them all with the same brush?
I think the answer has a lot to do with the rise of woke feminism in Hollywood culture. With the exception of Picard, these male heroes were all men of action and bravery. They were paragons that boys could hold up as examples to try and emulate. They weren’t overtly aggressive, but they all believed that a strong defense is a good offense. Couple that with the progressive notion that America is, at its heart, a corrupt and guilt-drenched country, and add to that the fact that all of these fictional creations are products of the American mind, and you understand why certain writers in certain corners may wish to give generations of American men the comeuppance that they think we deserve.
During this same time, strong female characters were being heavily promoted. Marvel brought out Captain Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk and a new female Black Panther. Star Wars promoted Rey as the new leader of the Jedi. Star Trek: Discovery was given a female lead. It’s also noteworthy that prequels to Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings were made with female leads.
Sidebar: Apparently, we’re going to get a new Harry Potter TV series. I have no doubt that, if someone could wrestle the property away from J. K. Rowling, they would kill off or otherwise defenestrate Harry off-screen and make the new lead a transgender character.
I have no problem with movies and TV shows featuring female leads. I enjoyed the first Wonder Woman movie. If Star Trek: Legacy ever gets off the ground, I’ll give it a fair shot as long as Terry Matalas has creative control. I loved Rogue One. But why do we have to show empowered female characters at the expense of the male characters. In other words, why is Hollywood determined to crap all over my childhood?
It is inexplicable to me why Hollywood would want to alienate its core audience. The fact is that the majority of comic book readers are boys and men. I know there are a lot of female Trek and Star Wars fans out there, but when I was a kid in the ‘80’s, all of us boys played with Star Wars figures and Transformers, while all the girls played with Barbie. I understand that gender roles are in flux right now, but if for no other reason than finances, why piss off the people whom you want to attract to your movies? Do these producers, directors and writers really think it’s worth the accolades of their fellow wokesters at the expense of losing money? Is there a large mass of girls and women out there screaming for empowered super heroes, Jedi Knights and starship captains? I am genuinely befuddled.
Only one movie defied the unwritten rule of woke pandering. It was released in 2022. It was not a comic book movie, or a sci-fi movie, or a fantasy movie. It was Top Gun: Maverick. Not only was it commercially and critically lauded, but it was the highest grossing movie of 2022.
Yes, Maverick was a lonely, melancholy older man, but when the job needed to be done, he hopped in the cockpit and did it. There was no assassination of the character. The success of Maverick, plus the success of Picard Season 3, shows me that Hollywood can still make movies and TV shows that people want to see if they stop shitting all over us.
I am genuinely happy that women are having their day in the creative sunshine. But I firmly believe that current events show us that men of all ages need heroes. Not just real life heroes like fathers, friends, mentors and leaders, but they need fictional heroes as well. Middle aged and older men don’t want to see the heroes of their youth resurrected as broken down failures. They want to see them rise up from the ashes and go out in a blaze of glory, as did Jean-Luc Picard. As men, we need something more to look to than Donald Trump and a cadre of sad imitators.
My final thought. I do think it’s more than possible that the super hero genre might simply be past its prime. Some of that may have to do with the pandemic and the seeming collapse of the movie theater experience. But I wonder about that. Maverick was in the theaters and a lot of us went…again…and again…and again.
I just realized that I didn’t answer the question about Indiana Jones. Who asked for it? I guess I don’t have an answer. It looks like it’s gonna lose money, so poor old Indy goes out on a humiliating note. How sad.
I also didn’t mention the Marvel Netflix properties such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, but they coincided with the prime years of the MCU movies.
And I forgot the glut of CW shows like Arrow, Supergirl and Batwoman, but they were forgettable. Can you blame me?