Monday, June 11, 2012

Game Over

I have a new essay over at PopMatters examining why summer blockbusters now seem to be required to murder scores of innocent people as a prop (focusing specifically on The Avengers):

"Who better than the films to reactivate and “master” trauma than Hollywood? Hollywood may not be able to prevent the world from tumbling down, but it can save John Cusack’s family in 2012 or the woman who works at the coffee shop in The Avengers. It’s perhaps this primal repetition compulsion that keeps driving audiences back to the multiplexes for more acts of apocalyptic grandeur in the wake of September 11th. It’s a place where we aren’t forced into the complexity of the aftermath, but can revel in the brutal act’s immediate closure and resolution as a remastered event."

Other thoughts brewing around in my head at the time I wrote this:

-The way “games” has become common parlance for control systems, as in The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and The Wire. Though these games are often seen for what they are- manmade constructs, they’re also seen as somewhat insurmountable. In each of these instances, the only option within the game is “to play”.   In the Hunger Games, the games are played because of implied spectatorship, and because no one would want to substitute themselves as "tribute".   In Games of Thrones, the game appears to be something a rotating crop of aristocratic dynasties devise to retain power, but the actual game is being played on the commoners caught in the crossfire while an arbitrary king or queen is substituted for a new one.  In The Wire, the game is the system itself, upheld by the institutions that benefit from its perpetuation.  This game is the ultimate approximation of capitalist realism, which Zizek in his fairly jumbled recent speech on The Wire, rightly pointed out that David Simon agrees with; there is no alternative, so in order to win, get ahead, stay alive, or outwit your competitors, you have to accept the game's inherent rules.

- Apparently, cities get blown up in G.I. Joe 2 and Transformers 3. I remember G.I. Joe being the show from my youth where, comically, everyone was shooting all the time and no one ever got shot, which is what made the minor bits of blood in the G.I. Joe animated film so shocking. When did it become okay to sync the franchise with all this nastiness? It’s as if the stakes can only be apocalyptically high. Where does the action blockbuster go from here though if they’re already destroying half of the world? How will the next villain top this? How close are we to seeing a marriage of Roland Emmerich devastation porn and Eli Roth/James Wan style torture porn?

- From a musical perspective, it’s notable to point out that GI Joe 2 is being promoted with a Glitch Mob brostep remix of “Seven Nation Army” in its ad. Couldn’t help thinking that these films satisfy the same kind of desires (constant stimulation, bigger and more explosive, manufactured tensions (imagine the drop coming in just at the moment the building is about to fall), populism vs. art, violence vs dance) that Bassnectar style EDM does.

Initially thought this was another toy franchise in the devastation porn genre that had that song- Battleship. Turns out that one does have a trailer with some wobbly dubstep too:

Speaking of which, Simon points to a post by Leaving Earth on the best of this breed and there's much to be cheered in some of these, which suitably fit the acid/gabber/industrial legacy of atonal pop avant garde (still think Borgore is repulsive though).