Box Office numbers, Marvel, and cinematic stories

                                                                           -May contain spoilers-

Any story can be a good story. Any story can convey powerful messages and touch human hearts. Be it a story about a boy growing up in the streets without guidance, constantly on the run, or a story about a super hero in tights, fighting crime. What I have come to understand though, is that the creator’s motivation in telling a story, ends up defining the story itself.

With Captain America: Civil War making over a billion US dollars in less than 20 days we can all pretty much guess what motivates those guys in making movies. If we take into consideration all the other Marvel films that have broken Box Office records in the last 5 years, plus the tons of money made by superhero paraphernalia and the rest, Marvel makes billions of dollars each year. And Marvel is affiliated with Disney, which -we know- is a money factory. I sincerely hope none of you are under the misguided impression that all that money goes to productions or -heaven forbid- the creators of those works. Not that these guys don’t make tons of money but please, let’s be real. It’s all about the marketing. Shareholders and CEOs, marketers, business associates and advisors, people who care about the numbers -any and all forms of them-, before anything else. Where is the story in all this, one would wonder.

Well, after these guys have worked out a plan, they hire people to make the product. Under strict guidelines and with specific needs. And somewhere inside the labyrinth of introducing future products and reacquainting the audience with said other products and connecting present product with previous ones, a story is written. Let’s not forget that marketers generally think of audiences (and the much talked of general public) as a troop of baboons, with the attention span of a fruit fly and the cognitive abilities of a cabbage. Which means everything should be written in a level that will be understandable to us and with enough action that we will not grow bored and leave the theatre.

And now I bring the question to you, what kind of stories can one tell under such conditions?

It’s painfully apparent, that these guys -the creators- not only know what they are doing, but they also like it. They like writing about these heroes, they like making these movies and -from what I’m reading in their interviews- they like and know their characters. Which makes me wonder, what stories would they write if they were able to roam free with them?

Take Captain America for example. I was never a big superhero fan (although as a kid and a teenager I read enough comics about them to know a bit on the subject) and certainly never a Captain America fan, but even I can see the greatness in the character. The poor sick boy (from an immigrant family no less) with the golden heart, who allows himself to become a lab rat, because he wanted to be of use to the world. Poster boy for integrity and loyalty and honorable to a fault, he finds himself challenged by having to choose between loyalties in a world foreign to him (was in the ice for 70 years) and dealing with issues that bring countries to wars in the actual world. Free will and individual freedom in today’s highly terrorized societies. How much is too much meddling in another country’s affairs when it comes to global organizations? What do we protect, freedom or security? Where is the line drawn? The tales one could tell with such material.

In the end, the movie has excellent effects and is filled with amazing action scenes. Unfortunately it only scratches the surface of what could be and is found wanting in lots of ways, story-wise. Even more character-wise, considering the potential.

At this point I will seize this opportunity to complain -as many have done before me- about the lack of female presence in the film and -let’s be honest- generally the Marvel cinematic franchise.

I find the reasoning “female leads don’t fill theatres” disgusting. When the female with enough dialogue to be considered a main character is as awesome as Black Widow is, that reasoning is also idiotic. Hunger Games made more money than Iron Man and evened out Captain America so that argument is invalid as well as disgusting and idiotic. Especially when the Black Widow is a spy with more back story and development than James Bond could ever hope to be.

And since we’re talking about character development, I for one would be interested in finding out how an orphaned girl from Russia, who was taken by an organization to be raised and trained as an assassin, who was tortured and brainwashed and used as a puppet all her life, finds herself fighting the good fight of her own free will. Chooses to continue fighting, to subject her will and freedom to others for the good of the people, in spite of being considered a dangerous individual instead of a beloved hero and in spite of the fact that she had only recently become her own person, and not somebody’s asset. And, if that was not enough awesomeness for you, she chooses to become a fugitive of the world once again, to protect a friend. Now that’s what I call a good story. It was given about 8 minutes of screen time.

A piece of advice to productions everywhere: People are people, not fruit flies. We can take a good story whenever you choose to tell it. We’ll even pay for it (even though we shouldn’t at least not as much, but that’s another story). So go ahead and use that potential!

P.S. I’m a good girl and I will try to leave this in a more positive note. You can find making of videos below that will make you go “how do they make these films?!”. I’ll just say it involves much less cgi than I originally thought, which is shocking and fun to watch. They break things a lot.

 

French Simpson couch gag by Sylvain Chomet

You guys know Sylvain Chomet. He is the genious behind L’illusionniste and Les triplettes de Belleville. He has also been honored with the making of an alternate couch scene for The Simpsons intro.

I love everything about this bit. Especially the self-deprecating humour, always a favourite. I also love Sylvain Chomet’s look into the world and the human nature. There’s always a sense of nostalgia mixed with a very critical eye towards people and society that observes and describes with no judgement. Just honest understanding and yet beauty in every shot and expression. He draws his characters with love, he sees people with a need to decode and portray, not to judge, I think. Love him, love him, love him.

Don’t forget to check out the making of!