Superheroes… Superheroes… Superheroes… There has been an explosion in Superhero movies this decade, from Marvel rolling out the really quite well done Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and with DC finding their footing with the awkward start to the DC Movie Universe (DCMU) with Man Of Steel.
We also have FOX churning out X-Men movies and still trying to figure out the Fantastic Four (it really isn’t that hard? Dysfunction family with super powers that explore other worlds and uses science yo!) and Sony trying (and finally giving up) with Spider-man. Then we can count all the independents that with various successes that have appeared, are we now perhaps hitting saturation point?
An Act Of Will
I cannot blame the studios, it is a gold rush and anything with Superheroes attached to it is almost a guarantee to make money… almost… FOX really did find away to turn gold into fool’s gold, all they had to do was forget about the characters, the source, employ a one-trick director and operate on a we know better than our audience level.
Instead of a superhero adventure movie featuring the first family of Marvel, who are essentially science explorers and are known for their dysfunctional dynamic. We ended up with an over-boiled trudging plot disaster, that was gritty and dark where it really wasn’t needed, (yes, I am talking about the Fantastic Four), and effectively scared away almost its entire audience base.
Now that takes a significant act of will to execute.
You Got To Have Character
In comic books all characters have certain tropes that signify who they are, for example Captain America is a genuine good person, Superman is the ultimate Boy Scout, Wolverine is a borderline savage killer, Deadpool is a jerk, Tony Stark is an egotistic futurist, Reed Richards is a fixated scientist, Black Widow is scarely efficient, and Batman is a grim-crime fighter etc… etc…
When the character moves away from his tropes the movie is in trouble and you end up with a mess (ain’t that right Fantastic Four). Respect the source material, the spirit of the book, the character personalities and you can so easily get a good movie without breaking a sweat, (explain to me again why they just didn’t make both the Storm siblings African-American?)
It Is Escapism, Not Realism
There is an odd movement in comic books at the moment that you have to make Superheroes realistic, that you have to explain their powers or the audience cannot connect with the character. This is nonsense, audiences connect with the characters personality and their traits, not with their powers (character first!) And anyhow… You’re filming a movie about a bunch of people who have nonhuman powers and dress up in tights (and sometimes cape) to fight crime/aliens/super-villains. What has realism have to do with it?
Superhero movies are pure escapism, if you get bogged down in trying to explain how powers work you lose the point of what a Superhero movie is (again looking at you Fantastic Four). The audience is already has decided to buy into your work, and has a suspension of disbelief built-in. So… Take them for a ride. One of the reasons the first Kick-Ass movie worked so well is because it was an ultra-violent parody that didn’t trying to explain anything, it went over the top and reveled in what it was… And Kick-Ass was supposed to be a movie about what happens in the real world when people put costumes on and fight crime.
Batman was overloaded with grit, darkness and morality and did very well because in the end it stayed true to the Dark Knights world, and again that was another movie that supposed to represent Batman in a more realistic way. Guardians of the Galaxy proved that audiences will accept absurdity, I mean come on a talking Raccoon and a Walking Tree is not the best opening pitch for a movie; and that did bank because it leant on its space opera origins.
What made them work as movies was tropes… Character and story… They stayed true.
We’ve seen in the hands of the big boy studios like Sony popular characters like Spider-man flop so hard they gave it back to MCU. FOX is on a personal crusade to release confused messes involving the X-Men and the Fantastic Four is totally failing to gain traction, (again how hard is it to make a Fantastic Four movie?). We are witnessing the DCMU struggle to find its feet basing their universe of the woeful misery that is Man Of Steel. At the moment we only have the MCU getting it right, (although they are running the danger of getting to formulaic). Unless attention is paid to the character, to the story, a Superhero movie is nothing more than fool’s gold.
Audiences vote with their feet, in this social media age if that Superhero movie is a five-finger stinker then word get’s around pretty fast, and you end up with a $120 million turd, wrecked careers and a franchise that really does deserve better treatment becoming almost untouchable (really do I have to say it again who I am talking about?)
They deserve better… The characters and the audience.
With Superhero movies everywhere at the moment we do stand a very real chance of the super-bubble popping and the audiences starting to yearn for more grounded action. It already happened for the Minions, audiences turn so very easily… So no resting on the laurels, tell a good story, keep to the character tropes and that Superhero property will be golden.
Okay… I’ve said enough… Peace…