Over at Vulture, Kyle Buchanan talks back to the major post-9/11 blockbuster trend of using massive, violent destruction of cities and faceless, nameless innocent bystanders as backdrop for superhero, action and various other Michael Bay-esque films. It’s a great takedown of the casual nature of the approach to destruction, where collateral damage is common and rarely fully acknowledged (how much of NYC died in The Avengers? how many died in the last Star Trek?). The connection to 9/11 imagery and the cheapening of the fear that accompanies the images of crumbling buildings in a terror-struck metropolitan setting is important, too.
(The point is not fully “ugh, violence in movies” although there’s that. It’s more about the fact the violence is actually largely ignored, unacknowledged and has surprisingly little long-term impact on plot. Once over, Earth or wherever usually seems to be restored. Just minus a few thousand or more people.)
All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor, behind desks and counters, in the fields and at tedious machines of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came. They could draw a weekly income of ten or fifteen dollars. Where else should they go but California, the land of sunshine and oranges?
Once there, they discover that sunshine isn’t enough. They get tired of oranges, even of avocado pears and passion fruit. Nothing happens. They don’t know what to do with their time. They haven’t the mental equipment for leisure, the money nor the physical equipment for pleasure. Did they slave so long just to go to an occasional Iowa picnic? What else is there? They watch the waves come in at Venice. There wasn’t any ocean where most of them came from, but after you’ve seen one wave, you’ve seen them all. The same is true of the airplanes at Glendale. If only a plane would crash once in a while so that they could watch the passengers being consumed in a “holocaust of flame,” as the newspapers put it. But the planes never crash.
Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, war. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges can’t titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.” —Nathaniel West (The Day Of The Locust)