A quick glance through the pages of any 2012 film magazine or website should be enough to demonstrate that we currently living through the golden age of the superhero movie. Never before have our cinema screens been so overrun by spandex-clad bodybuilders fighting the forces of evil. And with good reason. Movies after all are big business, and the superhero movie is a Hollywood producer’s dream in terms of its appeal to the ‘four quadrants’ – specifically; both male and female, the under 25’s and over. In these dark times popular culture needs its heroes, and it seems, finally, they have arrived.
And while as an audience we are increasingly expecting more depth and gravitas from our men of steel, these are still films for the family. The grownups go to the movies too, but this year in particular they have been seriously neglected. There have been exceptions: At the start of the year we were treated to David Fincher’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, and more recently Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’. But generally the childless among us have had little reason to step away from the wonderful world of drama now available on our television sets.
Which is why the recently released trailer for Quentin Tarrantino’s ‘Django Unchained’, is such cause for celebration. Having danced around the genre of spaghetti western his whole career, we are finally being offered a genuine western from the master of the Mexican standoff. A look at the trailer shows us what’s in store: Tarrantino favourites Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson underpinning the action, a star turn from Jamie Foxx – an actor bitterly underused since his Oscar Winning portrayal of Ray Charles, and finally a villainous role for the De Niro of our generation – Leonardo Di Carprio. All of this twisted with the director’s now-standard black gold dialogue.
Critics of the filmmaker may sight his previous movie ‘Inglorious Basterds’ as reason to disregard his upcoming film as more pop-history junk. But place that movie alongside recent Hollywood historical offerings such as ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ and ‘The Raven’ and its clear to see Tarrantino’s talent for meshing entertainment with issues shine through. Granted, slavery is a huge issue and Tarrantino has had his run-ins in the race department. Most notably with Spike Lee’s searing criticism of his use of the N-word in 1997’s ‘Jackie Brown’. But these misgivings should be viewed as merely hurdles for Tarrantino to overcome – he is after all a filmmaker with such a unique voice and style that I cannot but wish him the best. In an age of sanitized supermodels he remains an auteur – who takes his audience to places they may not feel comfortable to go. Places in modern cinema, where it is rare to be invited.
Lightness of touch and a real sense of humour is something our current superhero filmmakers seem to have overlooked, and it is this refusal to take himself seriously that is so appealing about Tarrantino’s latest. Real life issues such as slavery may no longer have a place in the modern multiplex, but I have a feeling that if anyone can bring the adults back to the movies, it’s Quentin Tarrantino. I can’t wait.