The Flavour of Nostalgia: Aesthetic and Thematic Choices in Modern Cinema

Beloved and I went to see two movies just a few short days ago: Into the Spider Verse and Bumblebee. Both are very different movies, but they have one thing in common – a healthy dollop of nostalgia. One for comics, and one for the 80’s-era Hiding Outcast genre. I will explain more as I go on.

Into the Spider Verse is a CGI movie that looks like a comic book come to life. Not your modern-day graphic novel. An actual comic book. Replete with zip-a-tone and asynchronous colour plates, which took me about ten minutes’ worth of disorientation to figure out was their way of defocussing the foreground or background and making the centre of attention on the screen ‘pop’.

The people who did this love comic books. They know their stuff and have done their research. Each character and style should have been jarring but, since they follow their own rules, it’s not as jarring as you might think. Also, I have to be honest with you, I kind of lost my shit when I saw animated Kirby Dots. That was just beyond perfect.

Joke’s on you, Marvel. I want all the Superhero movies to look like this, now.

Think about it. It’s perfect. Just the right balance of unreality whilst remaining loyal to the origin material in ways that only modern animation can manage. I had to restrain myself from writing another Nightcrawler movie with the multidimensional twist and my own take on an All-new, All-different Kurt Wagner.

[I like the fuzzy blue elf, so sue me.]

Onwards to the 80’s Hidden Outcast.

I will start up front by announcing that I haven’t looked this up on TV Tropes. I’ve merely spotted it as A Thing. It wasn’t just limited to the silver screen, but it was a common trope during the 80’s. ET, Mac and Me, Harry and the Hendersons, Alf… they all had a common thread [there was more. If you lived through the 80’s, you’ll remember far more than these, I’m sure]. Being from Somewhere Else finds their way by accident into a Modern Suburban Family with Their Own Problems and the Troubled Child [Middle child, moody teen, or the family member who’s most ignored] finds/stumbles upon them and has to protect them from Earth’s Evil Forces. It’s usually the military, but there’s also an option for corporations and modern medicine to come and be the villain too.

But always, –always– the Big Bad will want to cut up our Outsider for science without a care for thoughts and feelings of said Outsider.

The 80’s were a lot woke about their colonialism metaphors.

Depending on the overall tone of the piece, this whole set-up can be played for comedy or done deadly serious. Bumblebee oscillates between the two with a razor-sharp sense of timing. In the dramatic versions, there’s a high-stakes chase scene right before or during the Big Fight. In the comedic versions, the normal family is caught on the edges of bizarre behaviour by nosey neighbours. Both of these happen in this movie.

Plot wise, Bumblebee fits the era it was set in. Not just an 80’s plot, but the 80’s setting, music, and romance subplot. The only thing that threw me off was the orchestral soundtrack rather than synthesisers and electric guitars. Then again, they could be using the orchestra to denote how this is a high end 80’s Hidden Outsider movie. I just completely forgot that ET had the soaring violins as well.

Both of these movies were overflowing with nostalgia. Both used different kinds of nostalgia for the end result – and the end result was truly the pinnacle of achievement. My dear readers, they totally nailed what they were aiming for. Bullseye. Perfect.

It’s kind-of late in the game for this, but Into the Spider Verse has a lot of flashing imagery and is not recommended for people with epilepsy. But if you can see it, please do. It is very much a perfect rendition of art come to life.

Who knows? You might walk away inspired.

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