There’s an old quote, I think it might actually be from Marx, or at the very least it’s from the extended family of Marxist writers (and I’m heavily paraphrasing it anyway) that insists that the history of the world is the history of power accumulating into larger and larger piles. And Marx, you may be surprised to learn, was never against this. It was a simple force of history to him, and more, it was a force that was necessary for progress. Because the more massive a centralized accumulation of power, the bigger humanity could dream and build. The Manhattan Project, the Moon Shot, highways and bridges, dams and skyscrapers. These things don’t happen without start-up capital, for lack of a better term. They don’t happen without the enormity of upfront investment for long term results.
This isn’t necessarily the state, although in the modern world it’s always the biggest of the big players. But size, whether public or private, is its own form of power. Marx objected to who controlled that power, and modern democracies remain stable because they distribute the control in a way that we deem at least more just than dictators, but at the end, power accumulates as it always has, into larger and larger piles.
It allows terrible things, it allows corruption and injustice, and evil men holding the levers of the world. But it also allows brilliant things, it allows us to dream so big as a species that our ancestors would think us gods for even daring. Accumulations of power are a tool, and it’s the wielder of the tool upon whom moral blame falls.
So let’s talk about Disney.
It’s easy to hate the Mouse. They are an enormous pile of money and power, with fingers in every pie in the entire entertainment world. They are oft-times the church of mediocrity, turning every television and movie theater in the world into shrines to the great lord and savior of the lowest common denominator.
And they’re also responsible for what might end up being a new golden age of movies. The Marvel Universe has been that first salvo, constructing film after film with a vision a decade out, with scheduled films, plans on the table, funding being gathered. And while DC plays catch-up, whatever you think of the quality of particular Marvel films, you have to admit to the audacity and ambition of the project. Franchise isn’t even the right term for this, that thing that used to be reserved for a trilogy here or there, or a string of relatively unconnected films over the decades like the Bond films. This is something entirely different. It’s the industrial revolution’s thousand groaning steel mills compared to blacksmiths in terms of scale.
Star Wars is next on the docket, with a following and richness of fictional universe that puts the Marvel one into a distant second place. And despite all of the bad memories of the prequels, I am so excited for this, for another trilogy and one after that, and a dozen small films filling out the corners in weird and wonderful ways.
This sort of ambition isn’t possible without the long time horizons and massive capital of a giant. For a generation we have watched media companies swallow each other up and watched them attempt to create individual blockbusters or trilogies for the quick bucks. And yet despite the money, year after year it has seemed there are less films, less creativity. Disney might screw all of this up. And they are certainly not some selfless creative force of good art. But they might just be the necessary evil to do what only a goliath can do.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.