With a slew of heart-pounding action films being released in theaters this summer, it is obvious that adrenaline sells. Just look at The Avengers, which became the third-highest grossing film of all-time a month after its release. Movies such as Prometheus and Battleship have been missing an extra touch of weight – the adrenaline pumping scenes don’t leave us with much to talk about other than , “How awesome was that movie?!”
The Dark Knight Rises promises to do a bit more – packing in adrenaline action scenes just like the other comic-based films currently in vogue.
Perhaps because the U.S. provides the world with entertaining, and to some extent mindless, films, other countries are cultivating movies with more political and serious themes. For example, Latin American cinema has a history of politicizing the messages behind its films, in stark contrast with today’s American blockbusters. Some of the most widely-known, successful Spanish-language movies have been Machuca and Pan’s Labrynth, both of which have political undertones. Machuca deals with Chile’s turmoiled political past through the eyes of a young boy. This presentation of a weighty issue through the perspective of a boy or girl is also seen in Pan’s Labrynth. Latin America cinema has embraced the trend of dealing with political issues in the majority of its mainstream movies.
Machuca and Pan’s Labrynth taught me about the history of the Chilean plebiscite and the Spanish Civil War. This is something missing from American cinema: the potential to use film as political expression.
I am not advocating for a complete change into political cinema in America, but more of a sprinkling of political based films that serve to cultivate a well-versed public. So far, The Dark Knight trilogy has provided us with a more adult-oriented experience, pushing us to accept that political context can play a role in our entertainment. Part of the enjoyment of watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is in the complex subplots and Gotham city politics that created a rich context for the storyline.
However, this does not have to mean the abolition of solely-for-pleasure cinema, because everyone needs some BOOM! POW! WHAM! every once in awhile.