I think it’s safe to say that 2014’s greatest hero is a vocabulistically-limited tree. (If not him, then maybe the raccoon with anger management issues.) I had already been think about how heroism and villainy seemed to be changing this year after I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The LEGO Movie. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past also gave us far more ambiguous heroes and villains than their predecessors, and then I saw Guardians of the Galaxy.
And now, I think that the Western is evolving in some really exciting ways, especially when we look at how heroes in 2014 stack up against some of our biggest cultural good guys. Be warned: I might be completely wrong. I have accepted this, and am quite open to being yelled at in the comments. Also,spoilers abound! It turns out it’s hard to write about villain-deaths and Noble Heroic Sacrifices without giving away endings, so proceed with caution.
It wasn’t until I read Steven Zeitchik’s essay in the LA Times that I finally put everything together. Zeitchik theorizes that film has entered a post-plot age, and that since TV is providing some of the great storytelling of our era, blockbuster films have begun to coast on pure spectacle. While I certainly see that point with regards to say, Transformers and the Turtle abomination, I think that some of the most popular films of the year are far more interesting that that, because I think they’re using a new heroic paradigm.