The new offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the 4th Thor movie, called Love & Thunder and before I tell you how much I didn’t like it, let me tell you about the band Live and a story I may or may not remember accurately.
Live made an album in the ‘90’s, their 3rd, called Secret Samadhi and it wasn’t met with overwhelming popular or critical acclaim. I loved it, and passionately defended it against the many, many friends who derided it. Then, years later, the members of Live, in an interview for a different album, also kicked that record around, essentially apologizing for ever having created such an embarrassment. (I remember this like it was yesterday, but I have a very good friend who promises me it never happened. I’m still operating as it did, but even if it didn’t, it’s a representation of a greater reality. We’ve all heard artists slander their own work in the promotion of the new release, right?) I felt silly for loving it like I did, for investing in it like I did, like I was being mocked by the very people I was supporting.
Now. 1 more thing. I happen to like the genre of camp, if you know what I mean. When the entire piece is a ‘send up’ of the genre, when we all wink and laugh along. But everyone has to be in on the joke.
I told you before I think these superhero movies are the mythology for a new generation. Like a 21st century Iliad. They use these extraordinary people & circumstances to address ordinary universal issues, like family, friendship, identity, commitment, responsibility, corruption, faith, love, kindness, and on and on and on.
And when directors like Scorsese and Coppola, and actors like Ethan Hawke (who was in a Marvel series!!!) de-value them as movies “for 14 year-olds,” it’s disappointing but nothing more than garden variety artiste elitism, easily ignored and/or dismissed.
This new Thor movie is a different animal. This is a condescending inside joke where the butt is the audience, me, and $500 million dollars worth of other marks like me. They’re treating it as lowbrow trash, utterly beneath them, and remain ironically detached. The serious, real, emotional moments float on by with little impact, the gags (like giant screaming goats) don’t land, and the overacting is mostly offensive. Making fun of people like me, who see everything and invest in the characters and storylines, doesn’t sound like great business sense and will probably end with lower and lower scores and grosses. I can deal with incompetence, but what I have a much harder time with is inauthenticity and hypocrisy, making huge paydays, cashing checks while laughing at those who write them.
What I have learned as an adult and a person of faith that I couldn’t understand as a 17 year old is that this snobbish posturing does just the opposite of its intention. Trying to force someone to believe or like something through condescension or judgment is small behavior driven by insecurity & inadequacy. And almost always works only to repel rather than attract. I’ve changed now, and you can like what you like. You can feel what you feel, be moved by what moves you, without the external noise of my feeble embarrassing attempts to control.
Suspension of disbelief is required when it comes to Asgard and gamma mutated Hulks. Maybe that’s why I didn’t care – the filmmakers and actors inserted themselves into the story and that cracked the immersion needed to settle into new fantastic realities. I thought about Taika Waititi & Chris Hemsworth instead of Korg & Thor, I thought of the writing/directing process during the movie instead of watching it all play out onscreen. Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought, maybe others don’t want to suspend their disbelief, and maybe you loved it, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? We can and should prefer different Live albums, and that is probably the best part of us. Why would I want to squash that, or try to embarrass you for where you find joy or peace or beauty? I wouldn’t, and I wish they wouldn’t have, either.