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Impressions of Comic-Con: Hey Hollywood, Superheroes Need A Little Love, Too

Maybe that's one reason why "Gravity" stood out as a thrilling adventure with a human heart

You'd forgive, I hope, a journalist staggering into the daylight after three full days at Comic-Con, for feeling hopeless, sad and forlorn.

It's not because the only thing to eat in Hall H is $10 nachos.

It’s because the sum totality of the movies unrolled by studio after major studio, day after day, depicts a world drenched in despair.

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It is impossible not to leave this pageant of gore and violence without a sense of personal hollowness. I sat through three hours of that at Warner Brothers and Legendary movies, deeply impressed by the storytelling and artistic accomplishment, but wanting to cower under my chair and hug somebody, anybody.

"Godzilla," the few minutes showed on three massive screens, depicted a cityscape ravaged by a monster and dwarfed by his terrifying size. "300: Rise of an Empire," seeks to one-up the blood-drenched green screen of the original, except to us viewers it’s not green screen, it seems very real. The first image is a bird's eye view of thousands of dead bodies on a battlefield. The swords fly thick with blades driven into eyes, smashing skulls and slicing heads. Similar in tone were early images of "Warcraft," "The Seventh Son" and the Tom Cruise‘s high impact, high concept futuristic military movie, "Edge of Tomorrow." (Emily Blunt is in it, but there is not a hint of romance in her exo-skeleton military suit.)

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I’m not picking on Warner Brothers or Legendary, or I don’t mean to. Because it’s not a few movies and tv shows that are this way, it’s really all of them. One becomes numb with all the gory dispatching of human life, and one is struck by the entertainment industry’s obsession with dismembering the human corpus. 

It wasn't always like this. Superhero stories used to always have some measure of human connection to them – even when the character wasn't fully human. "Superman" with Christopher Reeve in 1978 had his romance with Lois Lane as an integral part of the story. The "Spider-Man" canon, with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, allows a love story to be part of the adventure. And at the heart of the "Twilight" vampire and werewolf violence is a touching love story between Edward and Bellla. (And while we're at it, "Star Wars," the very origin myth of Comic-Con, has at least as much humor as it has Darth Vader thrills.)

But here – the Game of Thrones panel opened with an "In Memoriam" to all the characters who were killed in the past season. It amounted to (apologies to HBO and all the GOT fans, of which I am one) a nonstop litany of the horrifying ways in which characters on the show are killed. The fans in Hall H cheered, of course, sounding like a mob.

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It's not that I don’t understand that the point of Comic-Con and the blockbuster movies presented there is fantasy, and that it exists to feed the fans’ desire for thrills. But as a totality, it’s hard not to see Hollywood as celebrating a cruel world. One leaves the experience with a lonely sense that the world is a place without love or human connection of any kind.

I think this is why Alfonso Cuaron‘s magnificent "Gravity" stood out. Here was a blockbuster film with awe-inspiring images of space (it’s about two astronauts, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, stranded when the space station they are repairing is struck by space debris) and a theme that addresses something other than Medieval myth or the Apocalypse to come. It has plenty of stuff getting blown up, but it appears to be in the service of a thrilling, dramatic adventure.

Must we live on a diet of ever-increasing violence alone? My plea would be for a litte more balance. Adventure and action yes, but with a little more humanity.

Is that too much to ask?

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