The Amazing Spider-Man starts playing tonight at midnight, and my review will be up tomorrow morning; in the meantime, this is worth a read: A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis talking about this summer's superhero movies and the "current superhero boom [that] dates to the dawn of the century—Bryan Singer’s X-Men came out in 2000, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002—and shows no sign of abating." Having Dargis and Jaundice Maximus go back and forth on the topic prompts some pretty great stuff, some of it right and some of it wrong. Here's Scott, for example:
Comic book fans need to feel perpetually beleaguered and disenfranchised, marginalized by phantom elites who want to confiscate their hard-won pleasures. And this resentment—which I have a feeling I’m provoking more of here—finds its way into the stories themselves, expressed either as glowering self-pity or bullying machismo. There are exceptions: Mark Ruffalo’s soulful Hulk (though not Eric Bana’s or Edward Norton’s); most of the X-Men. But even that crew of mutant misfits turned protectors of humanity exists in a circumscribed imaginative space. As Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out in a New York Times Op-Ed article last summer about X-Men: First Class, that film noticeably refrained from connecting its chronicle of prejudice and outsider-dom in postwar America to the contemporaneous drama of the civil rights movement.
To do so would have been too risky. And much as they may fetishize courage and individualism, these movies are above all devoted to the protection of a status quo only tangentially (or tendentiously) related to truth, justice and the American Way. The DC and Marvel superheroes, champions of democracy in the ’40s and ’50s and pop rebels in the ’60s and ’70s, have become, in the 21st century, avatars of reaction.
The whole thing's here.