Thursday, June 20, 2013

Movie Violence Hits the Uncanny Valley in Man of Steel

I think movies are actually scarier for adults sometimes. There's been a lot of talk about the "pornographic" nature of the destruction of buildings in Man of Steel-- with some articles even trying to sum up the likely loss of life that might result from the destruction during the final battle.
And I've thought about this and here's what I've come to: adults freak out about big superhero battles a lot more than children do because adults bring context to collapsing buildings that children don't. So the effect you get is this: 

(Superman throws Zod through five blocks' worth of high-rise buildings, which all collapse.)
Dad (thoughts): Holy %$%$ there must be what, 3, 6, 9, 12 thousand people in those buildings alone, not to mention the glass WTF SUPERMAN?
Child: Wow! Superman just threw Zod through a bunch of buildings!

So maybe it's not for us. I remember that DIRTY PAIR used to leave this kind of destruction and no-one cared. In GUNDAM 0083, remember when they crashed an entire bioship?

A reader joins in: Come on. Dirty Pair is an anime about bounty hunters. Gundam 0083, I don't even know what that is but it sounds like an anime too.
It is.
So that's not the same. Animated people aren't-- um.
Animated people aren't what? Waiiiiit for it...
Oh, right.
Yeah, I know. Superman is a real guy.
Okay, they're not real and neither are the buildings in Man of Steel.
Yes. I am sorry for the loss of the off-screen imaginary people.
But it seems worse. I guess because it looks so real. In cartoons it didn't look real. I can't have as much fun when it looks this real, because I know it's not real but it looks real and it makes me uncomfortable.
Yes, and I feel it too. Superhero violence has finally reached the uncanny valley. Eventually we're going to have to decide if we can view imaginary violence without the distance created by obvious artifice, or if we will demand something else. But that decision has yet to be made.

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