Isquith concludes with the politically controversial Batman finale The Dark Knight Rises as Hollywood “at its most ideological . . . [It] is one thing above all else: radically, thoughtlessly individualist.” …

His point is overstated, but Isquith is correct that each of those films focuses on a single hero or heroine. In his final paragraph he notes, though, that this choice is “less ideology than business imperative.” That’s because, not only in Hollywood but in storytelling generally, the narrative journey of a single protagonist quite simply is the most compelling and satisfying. Even a well-done heroic epic with an ensemble cast like The Avengers doesn’t resonate emotionally with the audience like a Braveheart or a Gladiator, to name two personal favorites. It is a storytelling imperative that stretches all the way from Aristotle’s Poetics to Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Hollywood screenwriters are well-versed in that formula.

So does progressive ideology take a backseat to conservative business sense in Hollywood, as Isquith says? It’s a common assumption that Hollywood is all about money, and certainly success is the bottom line. But Hollywood has also shown a headstrong determination to take a bath on occasion to prove its activist bona fides with political “message” projects such as anti-war flops Rendition, Redacted, Body of Lies, Matt Damon’s Green Zone, and Sean Penn’s Fair Game. It’s still a political town, but audiences prefer to be moved and inspired rather than lectured. That’s a message filmmakers should take to heart if they want their bottom line to increase.