Earlier this week, we learned that Marc Maron had been cast in the Joker origins movie, which will star Joaquin Phoenix and Robert DeNiro.
I think, in general, the reaction to this news across the spectrum was either 1) Ugh, Marc Maron, or 2) Ugh, a Joker origins movie, or 3) Cool. I like Marc Maron. He’s also good in G.L.O.W., but also, ugh, another Joker movie?
My first thought when Maron was cast, however, was to call back to something he said on his podcast only a few weeks ago.
When I have a big actor in here, specifically recently maybe Josh Brolin or Paul Rudd, and I seem slightly condescending to superhero movies and you think that’s rude, I want to tell you this, honestly and from the heart: I will continue to do it. I will continue to condescend to grownups who defend, almost maniacally, the integrity and need and greatness of superhero movies.
Look, I’m all for entertainment. I’m glad you enjoy it. I don’t go. I’m not even saying that I wouldn’t enjoy it. What I am saying is that the consolidation and leveling of the culture’s taste to infantile intent and product is something that’s been coming for a long time. It’s great for movie companies. They can guarantee to make millions on franchises that were fundamentally designed for children. So the fact that you’re a grown-ass fucking person and you’ve kind of justified it in your periphery and your fucking worldview that these are great and you just can’t get enough of them, great. That’s good for you.
But the truth of the matter is that it pushes away and pushes aside real dialogue and real human stories that now you’ve got to go to Siberia — I’ve got to go to the Laemmle to see a movie that is grown-up themed that is actually provocative and proactive in terms of making you think and making you move forward with your life and seeing things differently. Now I have to go find those. I’ve got to watch those in my living room because the audience isn’t big enough to justify the release of these films that were once known as grownup movies. Thrillers. Michael Clayton is a good movie.
See? Now you’re so angry now that you’ve already forgotten about the fact that Marc Maron was cast in the Joker origins movie.
Where it concerns the Joker movie, I’ll just say this: 1) Either Marc Maron completely sold out two weeks after making that statement, or 2) the Joker movie isn’t a “superhero” movie at all. It’s a reality-based adult-themed film about the transformation of a man into a serial killer. “Joker” is the selling point, but this is probably a movie that will take itself very seriously and may even want to be considered for major awards.
I’m OK with this. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve actually gotten a little bit excited about this movie (Note: I have no loyalties to Joker canon).
But back to Maron’s dig at superhero films. I’m sure you all have many, many thoughts. Some of you might be quietly nodding your head. Far more of you are probably skipping the rest of this post to go straight to the comments to direct your anger at Maron, because he’s not giving superhero movies that credit they deserve for pushing the ball forward, for — in some ways — taking the lead on social and cultural issues, for increasing diversity, for taking on institutional evils with metaphors buried beneath the explosions and capes. Also, a lot of these films are really fucking good, and Maron would understand that if he actually gave them a chance (some are also not so good, but that’s the nature of film in any genre).
But I just want to speak to one issue, and that is the idea that superhero films “push aside” adult-themed movies and the concern of Maron that he has to go ALL THE WAY TO THE LAEMMLE to see a grown-up film.
That, my friends, is bullshit, and I say that as someone who is not “maniacally” obsessed with superhero films and who — on the whole — prefers “grownup” movies to superhero movies. “Superhero” films have been around for a long time, only they took different forms: Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or Michael Bay films or Adam Sandler movies or Indiana Jones or Tim Burton’s Batman films. The box office and multiplexes have been dominated by event films for a couple of decades now, and if you wanted to see one of those grown-up films that Maron is talking about, you always had to go to the out-of-the-way theater (in Boston during the aughts, I had to travel to Kendall Square to see most of the indie flicks, which was like a WHOLE half a mile away from the T-stop).
Now, personally, I’d much rather see Thor: Ragnarok than Norbit and Black Panther than Armageddon and Infinity War than Two Towers, but I’ve also seen some pretty great “grown-up” films this year, too (Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, Eighth Grade and even Blockers), and there’s never a shortage of them come Oscar season. There may not be as many Michael Claytons in theaters, but that’s because they’ve moved to Netflix, and that’s hardly the fault of superhero movies. Blame Netflix for making films that are often more suitable to your living rooms available in your living rooms. The availability of grown-up movies, however, have not been dramatically reduced, and ain’t nobody crying that a guy who gets mostly screeners occasionally has to spend a little more time in traffic to see a smaller film. The fact that my kid is watching Wonder Woman instead of Waterboy seems like a reasonable trade-off for Maron’s minor inconveniences.
Full Disclosure: I am a regular listener of the WTF Podcast and also capable of disagreeing with Marc Maron without liking him any less.
Related: Eighth Grade opens nationwide tomorrow.