War of the Superhero Movies An exclusive post from the Subtraction.com newsletter

My monthly round-ups of all of the movies I watched in the previous month don’t inspire a lot of likes, favorites and retweets, but I really enjoy doing them anyway. They really help me think through things that I watch on screen, and since I spend so much time watching things on screen, I’m grateful to have an outlet for that thinking. Even if not many people are paying attention.

In today’s blog post, I touch upon one moviewatching experience that I’ve been wrestling with for nearly a decade now: the morass that is the Marvel “cinematic universe.” I went to see “Avengers: Infinity War” and when I left I really couldn’t articulate a more coherent take on it than, “What a strange flick.” In fact, with each new installment, I feel like I understand what Marvel is doing less and less. Naturally I’ve been trying to work on a blog post about that, an essay that attempts to make sense of this 800 lb. gorilla in moviegoing. It’s still not finished, but here is an excerpt:

It’s interesting to consider how Marvel’s movies are uniquely preoccupied with the concept of war. Almost without exception, they’re beholden to a kind of siege mentality, the idea that opposing forces are forever on the brink of overwhelming one another and that extreme vigilance—and extreme preparedness—are mandatory. In 2008’s ‘Iron Man’ director Jon Favreau set an unmistakable tone by making Robert Downey Jr.’s warmonger protagonist the center not just of that franchise but of the entire cinematic universe that followed too. Since then, nearly every installment has revisited some aspect of war, whether it’s past war (‘Captain America: The First Avenger’); mythical war (‘Thor’ and its sequels); otherworldly war (‘The Avengers’); intergalactic war (‘Guardians of the Galaxy’); or the superhero-industrial complex that results from those wars (‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’). And that’s not even naming the films that are explicit about this theme in their titles: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier,’ ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and now ‘The Avengers: Infinity War.’

Who knows when I’ll finish writing that, but I think there’s something there, something people don’t talk about much if at all. It may not be profound, but it feels like it ought to be examined.

Cheers from New York,