Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Superhero Genre Part 2: The End of the Heroic Film Era?

Now we come to my issue with heroic archetype films, and Hollywood’s current approach towards it. Yes granted with some of the current films that were recently released, (The Avengers, Amazing Spiderman and the Dark Knight Rises especially) I still feel that this genre of films and possibly many more, could soon come to a end.

No I don’t mean they will stop making films like this, quite the contrary, they will and with more gusto. My issue are the following: 1.) the choices of which hero/comic/novels they use, 2.) the quality of the films they put out, including how closely related the film is towards the heroes themselves, and 3.) Overall Hollywood influence/interference, particularly if those involved are true fans or not of the novel, comic or series the films are based on. I’ll go into detail with each of them. The first issue mentioned is one I think has a tendency to be overlooked. That is until recently. When you really think about it, why is it some choices of certain comic or novel based films are given the green light, while others many would like to see or have been pitched in the past, always seem to be overlooked? For example, with the success of the Avengers film, plus the general build-up of anticipation from Marvel, of making the connections of the individual hero films, to imply the potential of a superhero team affiliated movie was genius. Now and some are already aware, the members of the Avenger team number more than who you saw in the recent film. And like most film series, they would introduce other characters affiliated with the Avengers for Avengers 2. Some might be included in the film itself, while others might get their own single film of that superhero to continue the related Marvel films to another sequel of the team movie. Fans of this genre, (including long-time fans of the comic series) have expressed which additional hero they would like to see added to this franchise. Many gave nod towards Luke Cage -aka- Power man, Vision, Wasp, and Black Panther. Well, according to various rumours and the IMDb site, it looks like they will make….wait for it…an Ant-Man movie. Yeah…ANT-MAN. 

 For those of you not familiar with this super hero, here’s a brief description of him: “Ant-Man aka Dr. Henry Pym is a scientific genius with a Ph.D in biochemistry, along with expertise in the fields of quantum physics; robotics/cybernetics; artificial intelligence, and entomology. The character discovered the subatomic "Pym particles" that enable mass to be shunted or gained from an alternate dimension, thereby changing the size of himself or other beings or objects; and is the creator of the robot Ultron. After constant experimentation with size-changing via ingested capsules and particle-filled gas, Pym is eventually able to change size at will, and mentally generate Pym particles to change the sizes of other living beings or inanimate objects. Pym retains his normal strength when "ant" size, and possesses greatly increased strength and stamina when in "giant" form, courtesy of the increased mass. Pym’s costume is synthetic stretch fabric composed of unstable molecules and automatically adapts to his shifting sizes.”

So roughly, he’s a more bio chemical/ psychological version of Iron man, only with a bigger conscious and slightly lesser income bracket. Now I’m not knocking the character, but considering the genius-turned-superhero has been done to death, why continue that route? Especially when there are already established heroes like him already on the list? 

Personally a better choice in my opinion would have been the King of Wakanda himself, Black Panther. Alas, it seems the story of a wrongfully renounced turned reestablished prince turned king, and Avenger isn’t as interesting as Ant Man. Also makes you wonder if Hollywood is just appealing to a certain genre of Anglo Saxon superheroes compared to a visible minority one. If that be the case…well that’s just one of many issues I have with what’s happening with these films. 

My next issue is with those that are involved with these film projects, Producers, Directors, and such. I realize that with the way Hollywood is, at times the directors or producers that are chosen to do the film projects aren’t always the best choices to create these films. This is especially true if they’ve only did a moderate amount of research on the characters of these heroes, or worse still try to re-mould the characters and storylines to something they feel is more identifiable to those not familiar to the audience. The problem with this approach is, the film itself comes out as something so foreign or so far off from the original storyline of the comic/novel they are based on. 

And to be honest, fans of these genres are really getting tired of it. Think about it, if Peter Jackson, had actually listened to what ideas some of the co-producers for the LoTR series wanted added to the film (and what to omit), that movie series wouldn’t be anything remotely what it is now. That by the way did happen. Peter Jackson mentioned that in his commentary of the first film of the trilogy. He basically said, he listened to their suggestions, and basically told them, “I think I would do this movie the way I think it should be done.” Now, why don’t they have more directors with a general interest of their themed films make their stances like that? 

Finally, my main issue is related to the 2nd one, how Hollywood continues to influence the quality of these films. Basically turning a potentially good film based on a heroic character, to just a another lukewarm money making blockbuster, all special effects and explosions, and very little to no effort on story plot, shallow one-dimensional inaccurate characters, completely contrast to what they are in the original read novels and comics they originated from. 

Yes these films are to appeal to at least a wide audience, but at the very least, if you’re going to do it, PLEASE do it right. All these substandard, all glitz, no substance films are getting ridiculous. I feel that with Spiderman, TDKR, and to a lesser extent Avengers, I feel that the era of good superhero films are coming to a end… Yet, there is a slight glimmer of hope. During the trailers of TDKR, the teaser for “The Man of Steel” premiered, and the producer of this one is Christopher Nolan too. I must say it looks promising, but I never vouch for an entire film based on a trailer, and neither should you. Still:

 I’m curious to know what you all think about all of these events and issues…thoughts?


  1. I feel you, M. Wanderer. There are going to be cliches that continue to be reskinned and reconstituted. Unfortunately, sometimes Hollywood has to balance the books and can't always take a risk on an artsy project that may not make money.

    I have not a few favourite movies that were not smashing successes, because the artistic merit in the story was well-presented, glitz or popularity be dashed. But, I'm not the one writing the cheque to produce it, so those who do will have their opinions of what needs to be what.

    For example, the original idea for Beverly Hills Cop was for Sylvester Stallone whose revisions would have ballooned the budget beyond the producer's risk tolerance. They brought in Eddie Murphy, scaled the action way down, cranked the comedy up, and the rest is history. Would the movie have been as "successful" if it had cost twice as much to produce? Probably not, since the profitability would have been a part of the fanfare that prompted more people to go see it.

    As such, the amount of money required to produce a sci-fi action movie that by its nature needs a ton of special effects is going to be high - to offset that risk, the potential return on investment has to be buttressed as much as possible. It's just the unfortunate nature of the beast.

    Does that mean "story" should be relegated? No. However, in truth, how many comic book stories are really that good to begin with? Doesn't matter how much lipstick you smear on a pig...it's still a pig. Perhaps, some comic book heroes are not worth making into a blockbuster movie.

    And some, like Black Panther, even though I think it should be made (I'd see it, that's for sure) simply won't have a broad enough base of appeal to make money.

  2. I'm going to have to disagree with you. At least on the part of how good comic book stories are? And if their good enough for a movie? My answer for some of them is a absolute YES. Remember when I showed you that "Identity Crisis" graphic novel? Many feel that it was one of the best written comics of its time, and would make a excellent film. Thres also "Kingdom Come", thats considered an alltime great. Then there are some comic based films that did become great movies already. Two good examples are The Watchmen, and Sin City. Even the current Dark Knight Rises, had many elements of well know Batman graphic novels entailed into it, (ie Hush, The Long Halloween, and Knightfall). So its clear that there are many that have done so already, and many more that can be...if given the chance.

  3. But, your answer for "SOME of them" is precisely my point - some, not all! So, if you are a producer, which of the gazillion comic stories out there are part of the "some" and which are not? And there, my friend, is the gamble.

    Daredevil. Punisher. Spawn. Batman and Robin. There are all kinds of examples of producers thinking "any old superhero movie will make money," until they find out that such is not the case.

    I'm not saying that comic books don't have compelling stories. I'm just saying comic books were always niche to begin with and, as such, broadening the appeal to the mainstream isn't an automatic given, so that it's not a simply matter of just making a comic book movie and expecting the money to roll in.


What do you think?!