17 October 2019 2262 Views

Marvel Movies have Jumped Lots of Sharks and Disappeared up their own Bottoms. From Endgame to Thor: God of..er..Cancer? Stop it Now!

by James Murphy

LOVE AND THUNDER ‘MIGHT’ Use a Story-line where Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) gets Breast Cancer. Let’s just THINK about that. For ONE second, yeah? 

It’s been done in the comics, so it HAS to be great, right? Anyway, Natalie /Jane would ‘wield Thor’s mighty hammer’ and thereby absorb inter-dimensional powers, including the ability to be..wait for it – cancer free! That might actually feature. In a COMIC BOOK movie. IF they even THINK about ‘going there’..here’s why they REALLY..shouldn’t. 

  • You are feeding the Scorsese narrative about how pernicious and pervasive the genre has become. Theme park rides that graft on bits of genre cinema to facilitate the marketing on a loop. Some might well have merit IN said genre tributes, but it’s still not born from organic ideas on plot, story and character? I do ‘get’ this criticism and Jane with Cancer..would kinda feed that debate even more?
  • Wanna green-light a Terms of Endearment style film about cancer: nah; nobody will see it! (um..Philadelphia, a film about gay man with AIDS..topped box office in 1994 but anyway..yeah maybe nothing else was out that weekend?). But stick a SUPER-HERO in it and BINGO: Fast tracked, green lit, processed, packaged, box office glory and maybe even some Oscar talk thrown in as this is now an ‘issues’ film, like? THE AMAZING CANCER-MAN???


  • You make the movie seemingly critic proof because it broaches the serious subject matter; take issue with the film = take issue with the cause. That, in turn, aggravates the misogynist / sexist / inadequate brigade, because they feel marginalised. Cue ww2 online: except the battle field is Twitter and creative expression the new casualty. Bravo!


  • It is DEEPLY offensive to those who have endured, suffered or even been vaguely touched by the pains of cancer. No, it does not boost awareness or inspire hope; it trivialises a devastating condition, from which many cannot recover. Imagine trying to explain to a bereaved kid who has just lost their beloved Mom that, actually, sorry, no, but their dead parent actually cannot be resurrected. Unthinkable.

Notice, too: a super-hero ‘fights’, right? Ok, yes. And fine that they do motivate us to do better on life’s battlefields. But one does not ‘fight’ cancer; it is a mistaken narrative and there are many patients who do not appreciate it.

That was certainly the prevailing message among those I met when I was privileged to be able to visit St Catherine’s Hospice, during my voluntary service while I was a pupil at Worth Abbey. Such happy memories, though bittersweet as one held the hand of or sometimes even raised a laugh from a dying / severely ill human being. 



  • Today? No doubt a super-hero film in which a character takes on the cancer challenge yet again plays to the image of ‘fighting it’ and adverts etc would jump that presumptuous though well meaning bandwagon? Try another way. There is an ad for a cancer research fund raiser at the moment, fronted by Martin Freeman.


  • However well intended it might be? It is not inspirational stuff. He grimaces at the camera and talks about his ‘watch’ and how they will all band against cancer..like it’s a villain awaiting a beating in some second rate soap opera. Seriously, stop it. Please!


  • So: Sticking on a cancer post script to THOR..will risk  further cementing this KIND of mistaken tough yet soft approach to a real problem. 


Super-hero films are there to both help us escape and face/ prepare for the counterpart challenges in the real world. They are NOT designed as the vehicle to incorporate the ACTUAL detail OF those traumatic experiences. It need not mean that the movie be bland and unfeeling or lack grit and grime and guts.

I cite, frequently, the original Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones films, as well as the occasional James Bond episode as lessons in how to ‘do’ grown up darkness via child-like fairy-tale.

You can hint at, even mythologise the features of what might have an equivalent condition beyond the screen. But do so with a little class, respect, discretion, finesse and fun. Darkness MUST be confronted, sure. But it’s no substitute for character and plot and a self inflicted depression does little if anything to help progress either on or off screen.

To be fair, this trend is not exclusive to the official ‘MCU’. 2017’s LOGAN did it, too. I hate that movie with every fibre of my being. It’s ‘dark’, sure! It’s also completely pointless and dull, oozing an aura of morbid misery for its own sake. Why DO that?? The highlight of that overrated dross is watching Hugh Jackman trying to help Patrick Stewart do toilet.

Irony: there was more wit, warmth, depth and maturity in First Class, The Wolverine, Days of Future Past and even the unfairly much maligned Apocalypse.

Those films touch on everything from Holocaust to suicide via drug addiction, disability, segregation and mental illness.

They just know when to stop and throw in a measure of optimistic light, pace, colour and FUN. Movie as metaphor; an escape and a preparation for reality. But at NO stage being so gauche as to present the grimness of everyday life as the basis for a genre blockbuster; no pretension at being an ‘issues’ movie with a ‘message’. Either make/watch/enjoy/promote a super-hero escapism or..don’t.

Equally, either trust and believe in an adult’s power to watch a film about cancer, dementia, the passage of time toward death..or DON’T! But STOP conning us into accepting one as necessary component of the other. It’s not only bullshit. It’s offensive, tragic bullshit.

I do concede that all film is subjective. And it CAN work; exceptions that prove rules in the use of a ‘big’ issue like cancer, within a Marvel fantasy.

I did not walk out when Guardians of the Galaxy had Starlord’s mom die of cancer at the film’s start. It worked, just. Because it moved quickly, fed a character arc and was somehow in tune with the otherwise optimistic fun of the film. I did almost walk out of part 2, however, when they suggested the tumour was inserted by a vengeful space God. Hopefully, most kids simply missed that reference.

So, of course, this trend, this insertion of foreign reality objects to the cavity of cinema’s greatest successes in the public consciousness..can not only ‘work’ but indeed become a kind of orthodox method.

As though we now EXPECT  a civics lecture mid Marvel galactic, cosmic mash up among heroes /villains and co. But that does not make it ‘right’, either and it can feel very forced.

As you know, I tend to stick on a movie in the background if i have seen it before /enough etc. Endgame: so I will still have this debate. With myself. Forever. The film is ‘good’, even great. But I loathe it, despite being lured by its Biblical epic level visual bait, every time!

Yes, mythological weight, well acted etc. But that bloody AWFUL self indulgent ‘FIVE YEARS LATER’ pan (itself, one could argue owing much to Dark Knight Rises??) and mawkish, drawn out, pointless cameo from Joe Russo who..wow..brace yourself..is talking about loving /missing another actual MAN?!..HOW progressive! How mature! Bugger off. It’s the worst kind of emotional blackmail and in any event, most super-heroes and indeed audiences are blind to sexuality and immune to feel for a character who pops up in a self-serving cameo, regardless. Wasted time /effort. Shoulda been edited!

Instead? I’d bring on a LOT more Pepper, Tony and the action /comedy. And no, not to kill someone off in the most drawn out death scene since the days of Greek melodrama. I did not want or need to see Stark die, let alone watch his death foreshadowed by making him look so ill and reduced at the movie’s start!

Just bring them back in for actual light-hearted yet high minded, family friendly yet adolescent targeted, joyous, romantic, inspirational, lifestyle driven..FUN! Kinda like dialling up an ex you are on good-ish terms with. Sure, you’ll be a bit sad when they leave you after tea to go back to Mr/Ms Nice /whoever..and yes, the mere continuation of the association is itself a kind of nostalgic, sexy, teenage level romantic fantasy.

But you also gain some hope, a sense that life goes on, always, no matter what and that, as Captain America said..that even if we lose /fall..we do so, together.

Nobody (even Marty Scorsese) would really challenge the ‘quality’ of a Marvel product. They’re empirically good, always. But this? Bigger Picture. It’s about TONE and PURPOSE. One longs for the sheer JOY that burst from the screen the first time Iron Man suited up. Yes, it was ‘about’, implicitly, mostly, a weapons designer /dealer, taking on PTSD and the industrial military complex.

But it was also just a ruddy good ride! Something for Kevin Feige to ponder in his new position (congrats on the promotion, btw: could not have happened to a nicer, more talented bloke).

Compromise? Portman’s Jane maybe catches an Asgardian disease as a side effect OF using the hammer etc..and she must relinquish the power and return home in order to save herself and the universe? Just a thought. You’re welcome. 🙂

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER will be reviewed on its release. #ONWARDS. 


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