I walked into Birdman accidentally and apprehensive. I had planned on seeing Whiplash but there’s only one theater playing it and because of traffic, my friend didn’t make it in time. In order to save the night, we decided to watch another movie. It was a choice between Birdman and something I don’t remember. The reason I was worried I was wasting my time and money was Scott Tobias’ review for the Dissolve, which makes a pretty comprehensive case against the movie and my own personal conflicted feelings about the Marvel and DC empire.
See, I love superhero stories. They’re powerful, meaningful operatic depictions of humanity’s best virtues put on the microscope so that they can be observed at their grandest and yet experienced at their most nuanced. This could be said of all genre fiction, but DC and Marvel’s spin is filled with an idealism and a humanism unparalleled in my experience consuming all sorts of media. I always point to the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that ends literally with five friends holding hands to vanquish the antagonist… As many problems as that movie has, the good moments feel so sincere that I could not look away.
But then there’s the business side of things, Marvel’s current film universe has stuck to a very specific formula and tone. While the films have been wildly varied in milieu, everything about them feels factory made. Taken on an individual basis and when we had few releases, this was tolerable because the outings were still fun. But by the time we reached a mediocre Thor 2 and a flawed Guardians, it was quite easy for me to jump off the bandwagon (and occasionally laugh whenever the train went off the rails) while mourning the death of my love for the genre.