Would the current titans of movie box office success be so without the assistance of some extremist guys with beards and their oppositional clones: extremist guys in suits using the Oval Office as their version of a passenger jet? The steady climb toward box office domination by comic book movies that seems poised at the moment to possibly place "The Dark Knight Rises" as the biggest moneymaker in movie history seems to be seductively intertwined with the events of September 11, 2001.
The moment that second plane smashed through the tallest building in New York City not on fire, everything changed for America. The booming 1990s under the guidance of Pres. Bill Clinton had given us a surplus of money for the first time in the memory of the majority of the population, the biggest increase in millionaires in any decade and a lovable feeling of peace in the world since we weren't personally entangled in any unnecessary war.
And then came the terrorists. By which I mean Bush and his cabal which, fortunately for them, their friends and the comic book movie genre, took the serendipitous calamity of those bearded terrorists and undid everything, leaving us in a world desperately looking for heroes not more interesting in lining their bank accounts than putting themselves on the line in the name of securing our protection.
The big budget comic book superhero movie has transformed from the one-dimensionality of "Superman: The Movie" that was driven by the single dimension of its rather boring titular character. Not to suggest that that particular aspect has undergone much evolution. One of the defining facets of the superhero movie is that in almost every case-by which I mean the Tobey Maguire "Spiderman" series-the villain is far more interesting than the hero. To be perfectly truthful, Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman doesn't have much more depth than Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent/Superman, but Bale's Batman movies manage to be leagues deeper as a whole.
And that's what America wants. We want a hero who is a hero. He can be a nerdy kid or a zillionaire. We don't care as long as he protects us. As long he puts Americans first. We need that one-dimensionality of our heroes because despite the strongest efforts of what we have been given as "heroes" to cast America's villains in starkly black and white terms, we intuitively recognize that they are just as complex as the Joker, Sandman or Loki (even the Loki that Joss Whedon tried to turn into a simple Nazi).. Gene Hackman was great as Lex Luthor, but his Luthor would be eaten alive even by as pathetic a villain as Topher Grace's Venom. Everything is not black and white, despite what Bush and Cheney and Rice would have had us believe.
The rise of the darkness of comic book movies is, beneath even the flashy emptiness of "The Avengers" a response to the fact that the good guys in the story of 9/11 turned out to be just as corrupt and venal as the bad guys. Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. Pres. Bush was responsible for way more than double that just in terms of Americans who died in his "heroic" response to the tragedy by sending an army to invade a country that had nothing to do with the attacks.
Would Batman have taken down more 6,000 people in his vigilante response to the deaths of 3,000? I hardly think so. If you looking to Mitt Romney as your Batman, you might well want to consider how Batman's response to the evils of Bane compares to Romney's response to the evils of Bain Capital.
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