Filmmakers find out that superhero flicks make money, and the genre explodes
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s another lame superhero film.
With a new hero entering the spotlight every few months on the big screen, the cheers are turning into jeers faster than a speeding bullet.
Thinking back to my childhood, I used to enjoy many of the escapades that were shown on television and printed in comics. The X-Men animated show; Batman and Uncanny X-Men comics of the mid-1990s; Batman films from the early 1990s—excluding Batman and Robin (1997), which was the worst film ever made; and the Superman films (1978-83), all had their own unique charm, occupying much of my youth with steady viewership. I have been a fan of the costumed heroes ever since I can remember. Something about the implausible nature of their environment and abilities inspires me.
If it was so easy to inspire me through hand drawn animation and printed comics, how do we explain the deteriorating superhero genre of films produced since the turn of the millennium? You would figure that seeing my favourites on the big screen would be enough to keep me satisfied. Unfortunately, this is as far from reality as the superheroes themselves.
It seems that however the heroes are portrayed, the comic creators will reap enough success to recuperate the money spent on the film to move on to their next title, scraping by with the bare minimum to produce a coherent film.
Spider-Man (2002) was the focal point for modern superhero films, given its only predecessors from the previous decade didn’t have CGI technology that the new
millennium brought. The film was a new beginning for the genre, putting a familiar story arc to work, casting a veteran actor as the villain, and employing advanced computer graphics. It was the perfect template to build off of.
Unfortunately, its success hindered the genre, making it seem that any film featuring a superhero will make more than the invested money once released. From Daredevil to the most recent Thor and Green Lantern films, the genre is doing little to innovate at this point, yet the films still make more than double their budget on average. They are always presented in the same fashion: big name actor and over-the-top action to draw a crowd on opening night.
The surprising aspect to the release of these films comes in two forms: first, that the films are poorly produced, despite bottomless budgets and A-list actors; second, that some viewers are still satisfied with these films which showcase a less-than-expectable version of classic superheroes.
What’s wrong with superhero films? Are they even super anymore?
There are still the odd films that surpass my expectations. The Christopher Nolan Batman series, the Watchmen film adaptation of 2009, and most recently X-Men: First Class are among the finest exceptions. Surprisingly, film critics have called them equal or even worse than some of the other superhero films that shouldn’t even be rated anywhere near the aforementioned films.
It seems filmmakers aren’t encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to this genre, and for that reason, the films have become predictable and drab.
The producers, writers, and directors should be spending more time on individual titles; it isn’t good enough to just see our favorite comic book heroes on the big screen. They should surpass our expectations and surprise us—otherwise, they should be left to the other forms of media.
A film should never be based off a formula; it should work towards being its own entity, achieving something that other films of the genre are not.
Your favourite superheroes are faster than speeding bullets, impervious to injury, possess superhuman strength, or a cunning ability somewhere in between, but they may be missing the most important super power of all: appearing in a good film adaptation.