Sunday, April 05, 2015

Grantland: `Spectre' and the age of blockbuster continuity

http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/spectre-and-the-age-of-blockbuster-continuity/

In the end, I wonder who benefits from this emphasis on continuity. Is it the audience? Perhaps. Watching a story unfold over the course of several films certainly has its charms. But it has started to feel like going to see a blockbuster film in 2015 is like going on one long Easter egg hunt.

What Marvel studio film fans may love most about the Marvel cinematic franchise is what I least enjoy about it, the proposition that one must have watched literally all of the cinematic universe on screens big and small to fully appreciate its scope.  What is rewarding about the Raimi Spiderman films, the Nolan Batman films, the Singer X-Men films, and to a lesser extent the Cap and Iron Man films is that you don't really need to absorb those narratives in a context that is any larger than the one presented to you.  Giving Bond some narrative continuity across films in the franchise has sort of worked but a lot hinges on what aspects of continuity get preserved.

The Spiderman reboot with Marc Webb became a trainwreck because the continuity concerns we got were the most tedious kinds.  We got treated to a ton of backstory for Peter Parker's parents that ultimately proved completely irrelevant to who the character is.  I didn't care any more for Parker's parents than I cared about Jarvis Pennyworth in Scott Snyder's Night of the Owls. Yet pages were devoted to the backstory of Alfred Pennyworth's dad as yet another butler to the Wayne family for generations back ad infinitum.  And we got a ret-con of Mr. Freeze that tied him to the Wayne family in a way that seemed kind of like G. I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.  Look, nobody really cares about Jarvis Pennyworth, do they?  By extension, the Spiderman--Webb reboot made a mistake of presuming on surname-as-destiny.  Harry Osborne was gonna be a Goblin because, well, because.  Infinite regress in considering the origin of the universe is an acceptable frustration when dealing with ontological and metaphysical questions.  It becomes a great big narrative pain in the ass when it becomes a prerequisite for understanding why a Jarvis Pennyworth should matter in The New 52. 

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