Why Marvel is optimism prime

In the name of Pulp Diction, friendship, and love of films, I have had many a heated argument over opinions on movies with my best friend and writing partner. Though perhaps none as heated as the time we started to review “The Dark Knight Rises.”

We had gone to see it with a large group of people, shelled out for the gaggle of us to see it in eye-popping IMAX, and built up the potential in our minds for eons. Walking out of it though, I seemed to be the only one who seemed skeptical of how the end of the great Nolan/Batman trilogy had turned out. Surprising, since my bestie and I are normally so far on the same page it’s scary.

We debated, back and forth, for a couple hours when it came time to write the review. The argument came to a head when I asked him if he really liked “The Dark Knight Rises” over, say, “The Avengers,” or if he just felt like he did because it had a more somber tone. Though I would say in the end we found a common ground in the voice of our review, the debate struck a chord with me that I haven’t been able to shake.

Though my sisters and I have often scampered around the comic realm, we’ve always been slightly more partial to Marvel over DC. I’ve heard it said that “DC comics are about superheroes who happen to be humans, Marvel comics are about humans who happen to be superheroes,” and I think that’s reflective of the tone picked up in most comic book movies that I didn’t full realize until my debate around “Rises.”

Where DC seems to be reveling in their shade and gloominess, Marvel is celebrating in the sheer absurdity of its comic universe. It’s a tonal reflection that often happens in pop culture, believing that a serious setting is worth more than a comical, or more palatable framing (see also: almost any Oscar ballot).

But it’s a little exhausting, that universal bleakness. I could probably tell you a handful of points I enjoyed around last year’s “Man of Steel,” but it is tiring, following Superman–who has a symbol for hope on his chest–fly around such a dreary mis-en-scene.

What’s refreshing, as both an independent viewer and a reader of comic books, is how Marvel doesn’t seem to be ashamed of its zany elements or its outlandish schemes, costumes, or acronyms. Sure it might tone them down a bit–change the time frame, make the costumes a bit more realistic (or at least VFX friendly)–but at no point in its production does it seem to be doing anything but going balls-to-the-wall when building their universe up, with enthusiasm fully engaged.

So while there’s cases to be made for each side’s television, movie, and minority representation, you’ll have to drag me away from Marvel kicking and screaming. And, likely, from a line of Marvel fans all doing the same.

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