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Two Facebook interactions led me to this train of thought. First, I noted that I haven’t watched any MCU films in months (nor have I watched any DCEU ones in the same period). Second, I noted that Star Trek: Lower Decks really grew on me after four episodes. This got me thinking about how important that show is to the Star Trek universe, and how similar its role is to Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy in their respective universes.
In the prior post comparing Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy, I talked about the thematic similarities and their impact on the big picture to their universes. I’ll draw the same comparisons to Lower Decks in kind. But first, ….
I can never say this enough, though I never focused on this within this blog. I’m too old to be considered the target market for the MCU, but I look a lot like it. The base are the comic book nerds, some of whom are syncophants that will love anything “comic book” put before them (“Thank heavens I’m seeing my childhood get its due on the big screen!”), and others who will always hate anything “comic book” put before them (“You’re ruining my childhood!”). Even if you got all of them on board, that’s not “the masses.” Any property needs to grab a related crowd: People who didn’t grow up obsessed with the material but are nonetheless the type of people inclined to give it a shot. Win them, and you make billions of dollars. That’s one big reason why movies must deviate from their comic roots, always leading to haters. (The other big reason is that movies and comics are different media.)
Because of my age, I’m not quite in the target demographic, but I look a hell of a lot like it. I’m not going to use my disposable income to buy toys, shirts, caps, etc., but in terms of how I think, I’m a lot like that group. I was never really into comics, but because my cousin was a collector, I was familiar with them. Plus, I’m a nerd, so I’m inclined to like these movies. Win me over, and you have an indicator that you’re probably winning over that target audience.
So, when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, I thought my reluctance wasn’t a good sign. I thought the MCU had finally lost its magic. Despite a decent knowledge of the Marvel characters, I’d never heard of the Guardians. It was too obscure of a property. When I learned more about them, I thought it was stupid and cinematic suicide to put a talking racoon and talking tree front and center. There were far better characters to have used, most of which could be taken seriously. In fairness, I wasn’t alone.
But yeah, I’m a dipshit.
I could focus on just how well acted, directed, and written the movies were, and how their particular themes appealed specifically to my personal psyche, making them my favorite MCU films behind Winter Soldier, but that would be missing the point. Even if the movies were mediocre, they still served an important role in the MCU as a whole. While all the MCU films were a mix of comedy and action, they gave far less importance to comedy. Guardians changed that. It gave us a break, and its influence on future films provided a comedic anchor despite the heavy-handed stakes of the Infinity War saga.
So, mea culpa. Thankfully, I didn’t make such prejudgments about Shazam!
Much Needed Lightheartedness
Every movie in the MCU and DCEU has comedy in it, but clearly the movies are about action first and comedy second. However, the mix between the two changes from movie to movie. As I discussed above, Marvel knew exactly when to make a shift with Guardians. DC may have waited too long, but eventually they got there. Star Trek has done it right with Lower Decks. It took several episodes for me to warm to it, but I absolutely did.
While I love Discovery and Picard, they’re very heavy-handed, and it turned off a lot of people. In fact, Strange New Worlds is a promise to bring back Star Trek‘s hopeful tone to bring those critics back into the fold, but until it’s ready for release, Lower Decks is swooping in to lighten the tone. Unfortunately, as quickly as it arrived — it’s only the third new Star Trek series — it hasn’t been fast enough for some. I don’t think it’s caught on as much as it deserves, but without meaning to criticize the others two series, it’s exactly what Star Trek needs right now. Lower Decks is not to be taken seriously. It’s a goofy show, providing what Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home did for the Original Series crew movies, and what Guardians and Shazam! did for their respective universes, but to a more extreme level. Right now, Star Trek needs that silly humor, and after that, they’ll need to bounce back to a show that takes things seriously but focuses on positivity. I’m glad I won’t need to offer another mea culpa. I can’t wait for Strange New Worlds to arrive.
When you consider how much time was spent on each topic in this post, I really should have title it, “Mea Culpa.”