Pop Stuff: Imaginary Friends
Are superhero sequels breeding a “forgettable mess of spandex and destruction”?
At 14, life took a turn. We moved fromÂ London back to Mumbai. My bohemianÂ parents, unconcerned about usÂ forgetting our heritage, hadn’t tried to make usÂ learn the tabla. So as a lacrosse playing,Â rhubarb crumble-loving, non-Hindi-speakingÂ teen, I was ill equipped to deal with theÂ change. The kids I knew from childhood laughed at my accent,Â were appalled that I had never seen Amitabh on screen andÂ found my cool high tops ridiculous. The friends that got meÂ through it came from the page and the screen. Absorbed inÂ Archie Andrews’ warmth, Elizabeth Bennet’s wit and a burningÂ romance with Christopher Reeves’ Superman, I made it toÂ college.
This summer in New York after a string of unsatisfyingÂ movie nights, the debt of gratitude I owed the writers who hadÂ endowed me with imaginary friends dawned on me. The bigÂ releases ”“ Captain America: Civil War, Batman v Superman:Â Dawn of Justice and X-Men: Apocalypse merged into a
forgettable mess of spandex and destruction. None of theseÂ characters stayed with me the way Christian Bale’s BatmanÂ did.Â With the exception of Ryan Gosling’s sassy Deadpool, I mightÂ opt for the End of The World before risking an evening in theÂ company of our superheroes du jour as they trek from prequelÂ to sequel in a game of connect the dots.
This demise extends beyond the comic book hero. EvenÂ though revisiting Zoolander, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Â Divergent and countless others has produced a series of flops,Â if you have a pulse, you’ll get an encore it seems. So HollywoodÂ will bring us Star Trek Beyond, Pitch Perfect 3, Bridget Jones’Â Baby, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Bollywood will churnÂ out Hera Pheri 3 and Rock On!! sequels. Even Mel Gibson, whoÂ had been left for dead after his anti-Semetic remarks, is seeingÂ a resurrection in a Passion of the Christ sequel. It makes youÂ wonder if Game of Thrones’ massive success is attributable toÂ its most infuriating trait that “All Men Must Die”.
Every artfully conceived individual that breathes through theÂ pages of a novel is in danger of being recycled. Trotted out in aÂ movie, spun into a TV series and even lending their avatar toÂ video gamers, their sheen wears off like a washed-out celebrity.Â Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit and Devdas are a few in aÂ long list of characters that should have stayed on the page.Â Where there are exceptions it’s typically because the creatorÂ of the characters is involved in their retelling as with GeorgeÂ R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling or because a skilled storytellerÂ lets old characters shine in a new world as Vishal Bhardwaj hasÂ masterfully done with Shakespeare’s anti-heroes.
Reinventing great creations is neither a novel nor a terribleÂ idea. Since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes inÂ 1887, he has been played by over 75 actors, often brilliantly.AndÂ while I cannot wait for an alternate history of the PotterverseÂ with Hermione Granger as the star, it strikes me that if weÂ continue to chase the characters that have already been writtenÂ as opposed to investing in those who imagine new ones, we runÂ the risk of turning off the spigot. We need to ensure that JamesÂ Bond isn’t the last great spy, if only so that we can rely on aÂ universe of imaginary friends to get us through life’s curveballs.
The author is a former hedge fund manager-turned-film
producer and magazine writer. Twitter: @whats_cutting