Why I No Longer Enjoy Fantasy Or Superhero Movies

Imperial Star DestroyerStar Wars is coming out again. The real one, with the real people. Mark Hamill. Carrie Fisher. Indiana Jones.

The first three Star Wars films are the only ones I care about. The others were a 4-billion-dollar detour and cash-out for George Lucas. I’m not mad at Mr. Lucas. You can only be mad at him if you ever made the mistake of thinking that the classic “hero’s journey” belonged to LucasFilm Ltd. It doesn’t. The hero’s journey works though. There is a Force. We all take the journey. I don’t care what went wrong in the Jar-Jar Binks films.

I blame the original Star Wars, not the crappy prequels, for why I no longer enjoy fantasy or superhero movies. I blame Star Wars for being too good at the right time. The opening shot from the original Star Wars alone, was so amazing that it ruined, for me, everything after it, even its own franchise.

I saw Star Wars when I was 7. I entered the movie theater scared of the bullies at school. As the only brown kid in our trailer park, that shot of the tiny rebel ship being chased (and then enveloped) by the big white Imperial Star Destroyer, represented everything I was up against. It was an unbelievable shot. That little rebel ship and then BOM BOM BOM!, this endless length of metal, gunnery and engines, gliding effortlessly above my head.

This I understood. The Imperial Star Destroyer.

I cared. The blood in my throat cared as it throbbed to the score. I saw the original Star Wars so many times that I lost track of how many times and then for years lied to myself about how many times I’d seen it. I remember reporting 27 viewings for a number of years, but who knows? I cared and I saw it a lot.

At school during those years, in class, instead of listening to Ms. Longnecker teach us Judy Bloom, I’d gaze vacantly at Topp’s Star Wars trading cards. Han Solo grimaced and C-3P0 gleamed. I could recall the smell of those cards as recently as a few years ago, but at the time of this writing I must report I cannot. 35 years was a nice olfactory run though.

But today’s fantasy and superhero movies rarely work for me.

Understand where I’m coming from. The $19 ticket price aside, I want superhero movies to win. If a superhero movie wins: I win. I’m not a menacing old vulture sitting on a branch waiting to consume the rotting remains of a dead film.

I didn’t hate Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I thought the CGI was well done. The large ship which was taken by pirates at the top was very well rendered in computer pixels. Believable. The hovering aircraft carriers were cool ideas, well-designed. The pace of the scenes was great — Cap ‘n’ Co. often spoke of something they were about to go do and in the next scene they’d already have done that thing and were on to something new — I call that good pacing.

I wanna love superhero/fantasy films. I used to love them. Why don’t I enjoy superhero/fantasy movies anymore?

Is it the inevitable Deus Ex Machinal swirl of strange plasma clouds over the city? When said clouds get to cracklin’, I’m busy sneak-checkin’ the time, waiting for the good guys to win (yet, again) and for the threat (yawn!) to be eliminated so I can get home to my wife and kid. Although, to be fair: my son went to Iron Man 3 and liked it, as did I. BUT, by the end of 95% of these big-budget hero/fantasy super-splurges, I literally have a headache and feel almost no investment in the outcome.

Have I lost the wonder of youth? Am I just old? Or have I lost my fear? I can’t say there aren’t things I’m not afraid of anymore, it’s just that my life is no longer flooded with and run by fear. So a concocted journey whereby someone tediously wends their way out of a manufactured danger toward a predictable victory is no longer as mind-shatteringly welcome and necessary as it was for that little brown boy in the front row of Star Wars.

Why don’t I enjoy superhero/fantasy movies anymore? Now that I think it through, it’s not Star Wars’ fault; it’s my fault for letting go and trusting The Force.

Oh well. The Amazing Spiderman opens tomorrow to mixed reviews. A new hope.