2 thoughts on “Why DC Action Scenes Fall Flat”

  1. It’s tangential, but I think the bit about physics and verisimilitude earned by paying attention to reality is also something that is relevant for storytelling itself, not just motion. Now, I *am* an animator by trade, so I’m very familiar with The Uncanny Valley and how physics are absolutely crucial to selling action, and I think he nails it with his discussion… it’s just that I’ve seen that concept echoed elsewhere, too.

    Specifically, I’d note the difference between political ideas and *politics*. Fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy (since comics dabble in both), really does work well as a way to present or discuss the real world by asking “what if” questions that couldn’t be approached in our world… but it does so by being at a distance, and by discussing things only in ways that make sense to *their own* universes. You have to use that internal logic and integrity to the fictional world if you want it to click as a story in its own right instead of a mere sociopolitical tract. Sure, maybe the Tolkien Orcs were mindless slavering hordes that could be wrapped in a German flag by a particularly pointed review, but they can really fit under *any* banner, from the Mongols to Antifa goons. That works because they made sense in their world, and their base motivations can take many forms in our world.

    If a story is bent to comment on our world, circa This Year X, it will indeed inevitably feel dated and shallow; the more pointed and direct, the stronger the effect. This is something that too many writers do in a vain attempt to be relevant and fight for some cause or another. It’s a rookie mistake, easily avoided. The best science fiction, the really timeless stuff that manages to hold interest year after year, the Dunes, the Foundations, even the John Carter stories… those work not because they avoided political rumination and messages, but because they were larger than mere politics. There’s a difference there. Write about the human condition, and it *can* get political, even while being interesting and useful. Write about politics, and you’re locked into the news cycle and your work is inevitably dated and shallow. (This is also why the first two thirds of Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Place” mostly works, as it asks simple, fairly universal questions about an alien visitor, but the last third falls apart as said visitor creates a hippie free love colony.)

    I’m not sure what to call it, but I think of it as an Uncanny Valley of plausibility. If a movie is bent to some Cause or other, like the DC movies and their weird obsession with grimdark, edgy, SRSBSNS nonsense (or the Disney Star Trek movies), it’s simply not going to work well. It’s too close to home, and we don’t want to be at home, we want to visit the movie’s world.

    I tend to think this is where Marvel does fairly well, but also, where they trip up sometimes. As in, they are sometimes too beholden to release day shallow culture (especially notable in Homecoming and Thor Ragnarok), and while it plays well at the time, it doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings, especially years later. This is why the Shrek movies are so cringy sometimes when watched a few years after their release, but Sleeping Beauty still works several decades later. Satire and politics are inherently dated, and I think that DC is trying too hard to be the edgy film universe, while Marvel is trying too hard to be the hip, funny film universe. They each have their flaws.

  2. The MCU has gotten more creative with its set pieces over time. I mean, the first two movies featured the hero fighting a bad guy with the exact same powers.

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