Let Me Entertain You | My Generation’s Renaissance Involves Spandex

Last week, the trailer for the next Captain America movie came out. I’m pretty skeptical about sequels, because they usually suck, but I have to admit that I’m reeeeaaaally excited for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. You’ve got Steve Rogers being his sexy self, defending freedom in a blessedly skintight outfit. There’s some badass Natasha Romanov, featuring the straightest hair known to man. There are also cameos from a cool-looking Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) as superhero newbie Falcon, Samuel L. Jackson being done with everybody’s crap, and Robert Redford (If you don’t know who Robert Redford is, I compel you to watch The Sting or All the President’s Men right now. Do it. After all, he was the original Brad Pitt).

Look at all that symbolism. Tarnished American shield? Military industrial complex? Me likey. Image courtesy of Marvel/EW.

Look at all that symbolism: tarnished shield in American colors? Representative of bygone American greatness surveying the extent of the military industrial complex? Me likey. Image courtesy of Marvel/EW.

But beyond the supercool cast, what really excites me about The Winter Soldier are its themes. It looks more like a political thriller than a superhero movie, fraught with adrenaline and moral issues about the nature of freedom. In a world where the U.S. spies on its enemies, allies, and its own citizens, it’s going to be really fun to see an action movie tackle what it means to be American citizen today. Plus, stuff blows up.

And Thor: The Dark World! I’m actually mega-excited for that one, and not just because I’m madly in love with Tom Hiddleston and Christopher Eccleston (a.k.a the Ninth Doctor) as the villain. The movie actually looks pretty entertaining, although maybe not as socially conscious as Captain America. Thor was my least favorite of the Avengers movies, even though I love Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of the titular character’s development. The movie was big on spectacle and lacking in substance. But hopefully director Alan Taylor, who directed some of my favorite “Game of Thrones” episodes, will ante up the plot as well as the action.

Captain America and Thor are both a part of Marvel’s Phase 2, which kicked off with the surprisingly awesome Iron Man 3 and will finish with 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are basically dying with happiness, because the studio just keeps giving us more. They’ve even got a T.V show out, for crying out loud! (You can find my review for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” here.)

But DC is not to be outdone: last summer’s Superman movie will have a sequel coming soon as well! Despite its “meh” review from basically everyone who watched it, Man of Steel made lots of money. You probably don’t need me to tell you that Ben Affleck is going to make an appearance as The Dark Knight in the sequel. Love him or hate him as Batman, you can’t deny that you’re probably going to pay $12.50 to watch the movie in theaters.

So what’s up with all the superhero movies? Since 2008, at least one comic book movie has come out every year. I would argue that we are in the middle of a Superhero Movie Renaissance. Studios have found a blockbuster formula, and goshdarnit they’re going to milk the idea for all that it’s worth.

Why aren’t people getting tired of all these superhero movies? Well, for the most part, the movies are pretty good. Most of them aren’t Oscar-worthy, sure, but they’re pushing the boundaries of cinematic technology. Each movie is bigger than the last, although sometimes all those explosions can be off-putting (I was super uncomfortable, for instance, with the death toll and damages in Man of Steel). Some of the films are well-acted, with good line delivery and witty banter. Right now, we’ll continue to pay an exorbitant amount to see them on the big screen.

The genre has evolved in unexpected ways: now, we want darker, edgier characters. That concept can either be a triumphant success (a la The Dark Knight) or a total misfire (here’s looking at you again, Man of Steel). It’ll be fun to see how the next Thor and Captain America movies will play with that expectation. I’m hoping they’ll impress me.

As our generation’s need for escapism and instant gratification increases, I, for one, am glad for the sequels. You know, 1500’s kids may have had Michelangelo, but I’ve got hot men (and women) in tight clothes saving the world.