Featured Post

NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

STORMING THE THRESHOLD PT. 2

In Part 1 I referenced a trio of scenarios that I'll henceforth call the "Anti-heroic Trio," with reference to this 1992 Hong Kong superhero film. The Anti-Heroic Trio lists the three most common scenarios by which a given work might appear to be combative when it is not, using as examples plays from the pen of the Bard of Violence.

If I belabor these matters, it's because I myself have so frequently found myself re-thinking my categorizations. I chronicled here some of the difficulties I've had in isolating the special character of the combative mode from other modes that are proved conflictive in nature. Aside from the difficulties mentioned in this essay and its links, I'll note that sometimes I've looked back at certain reviews on my film-blog and realized that I incorrectly categorized them. When I originally typed my 2011 review for DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS and my 2012 review for DOCTOR GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS, I classed both of them as combative simply because there was some sort of "fight-scene" at the conclusion. I amended both reviews later on, but the lesson is clear. If I, the person attempting to promote the concept of the combative mode, could get misled by the presence of a fight-scene, then it would be all the harder for anyone else to see the difference between a subcombative fight and a combative one. This is a concern to me not so much for what I write on this blog, which as I've said is principally pure theory, but for what I might write in future. I'm meditating how I might,  if I so chose, approach these subjects in the form of a book, but without invoking the heavy-duty philosophical thinkers that would scare away not only the average reader of superhero comics, but also the critics, so many of whom flatter themselves as educated but are content to dismiss thinkers like Nietzsche as irrelevant.

My November essay ACTIVE SHARE, PASSIVE SHARE contributed to my recent attempt to imagine domains as having thresholds, principally as a way of characterizing the different ways that megadynamicity can manifest in the "dynamic-sublime domains." I said in STORMING PART 1 that "HAMLET does not cross [the threshold] at all, while TITUS and CORIOLANUS do" -- reason being the way in which the latter two create at least one megadynamic presence of a naturalistic nature. An example of a Shakespeare work that "storms" across the threshold because it does possess all the aspects of the combative mode would be HENRY IV PART 1, given that the playwright fudges with history in order to give the audience a stimulating confrontation between Henry IV and his rival Hotspur.

Without resorting to this sort of conceptual illustration, I can see why even a fair-minded skeptic might have a difficulty with my reasons for saying that the 1976 KING KONG is subcombative even though it utilizes some though not all of the narrative tropes that make the 1933 classic combative. I could well understand such a skeptic saying, "So what if the later film only uses copters to attack Kong, while the earlier one uses biplanes? So what if '76 Kong doesn't fight as many big beasties as the '33 original? It still has roughly the same type of fights, so why isn't it 'combative?'"

Similarly, the same skeptical argument could be raised with regard to the giant-monster films of Eugene Lourie. Both his BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and THE GIANT BEHEMOTH. As much as their cinematic progenitor, the 1933 King Kong, both depend on giant critters wreaking havoc in big cities and then being defeated by whatever forces human beings can muster against them. In the end, no matter what specific arguments I put forth, they boil down to the subjective feeling that BEAST only tromps its way over the megadynamicity threshold, while BEHEMOTH "storms" across, in part because it shows a greater propensity toward the "dynamic-sublime."

On a less monumental level, most of the "invisible man" films I've reviewed merely step across the threshhold, such as the 1933 INVISIBLE MAN, its first sequel, and the franchise's one distaff iteration.  Only one film in the Universal series, INVISIBLE AGENT, conveys a sense that the invisible individual is truly challenged by the "might" of his adversaries, and so I can only picture that film as making the threshold-passage a "stormy" one.

Only time will tell if this tempestuous line of thought proves useful in my attempts at simplifying my formulations for a more general audience.

No comments: