• Kaveh Jalinous

Have We Ruined Superhero Movies?

An editorial.

Throughout the last few years, the film industry has changed, in a variety of different ways. Box Office has fluctuated at rates never seen before, and the sci-fi industry has become the obvious winner in the film industry. One sub-genre dominates the film industry these days, and has shaped what people have wanted to see: superhero movies. Since 2008, when Marvel Studios launched their cinematic universe with the first Iron Man flick, superhero movies have become a mainstream way of life, influencing both cinema and the world around it. Since 2008, Marvel Studios has produced 19 films, meaning that we get around 1.72 Marvel Movies per year. Of course, this math is not to be trusted - as the amount of films released by the studio has fluctuated as the genre gained more fame (for example, there was one film released in 2010, while there were three released in 2017), but one fact remains clear - Marvel has taken over the industry of film. People flock in the masses to see these superhero movies that make them laugh, cry, and feel things for fantasy characters. ​ Because of the success of Marvel, countless other film studios have tried to create their own superhero movies, the most evident being DC Comics, who owns the Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League franchises, along with countless others. Most of these non-Marvel superhero films have failed spectacularly, getting panned by both critics and fans but still managing to make millions of dollars for the film studios behind the picture. So, what exactly is the appealing factor of these films, and why have they become such a big part of the movie industry as a whole? In this editorial, I am going to lightly explore the topic of why people adore these films so much, and if we have ruined the genre so quickly after it began. ​ HAVE WE RUINED SUPERHERO MOVIES? Movies are an escape, simple as that. Within a certain amount of time, we are transported into a new existence, and a new culture, where we meet new characters who witness events we can only imagine witnessing. From the inception of a motion picture, it has become a dominating industry throughout the world, and has generated billions upon billions of dollars. People want to pay to see a peephole of a different kind of life, because it's both entertaining and eye opening. This escapism is insanely evident in superhero films, because of one simple fact. We wish we had the powers these beings do, and like idolizing them. I mean, who wouldn't. What high-schooler wouldn't want to be Peter Parker, who can swing on webs and save the city? That lifestyle would be awesome. But, this idolization just fuels the industry even more, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in any way. It's better to idolize a imaginary superhero then a terrible figure. But, because of the sheer complexity of the universes Marvel has created, it is not just an idolization anymore. We have become obsessed with these characters, desperate to see what they do next. When they go through trouble, we feel their pain and sorrow - when they are happy, we are happy. These characters are able to control our emotions, simple as that. Is that a bad thing? Depends how you see it.

Another appealing factor of these films are the light-hearted energy they bring, and the lively spirit that occupies them. At the end of the day, these films are so much fun to watch because they are easy to understand and comprehend, and don't question any big ideas (with the exception of some, like one of the best Marvel movies of all time, 2018's Black Panther). For the most part, the simple superhero movie consists of one thing: the good guys fighting the bad guys. There are no themes that require a lot of digging to do, because they are right on the surface, sprayed like Febreeze on the action and dialogue in the film. Because of this, they have become the easiest films to watch in any mood, similar to the romantic comedies that took the world by storm in the late 90's and early 2000's. If you're sad, watch a superhero movie, it will make you fill better as you see your heroes save the world. If you're happy, watch a superhero movie, it will make you even happier as you see your heroes save the world. The films fit with any mood, because they are relatively simple, and don't question anything in particular. Should they be more than that, though? If they appeal to so many people, should they have deeper themes? That question's answer solely relies on who you ask. While some people argue that these films should possess deeper meaning (and it can be done in a spectacular way, as Black Panther showed), most would probably say that doing something like that would alter the plot and direction of the film in too heavy of a way. Now, if you were asking me, I would have to side with the form


er of the groups. I mean, look at the reception when one of these films actually has a meaningful message about the world WE live in. Although some might come at me for using critic reviews in this editorial, the facts don't lie. Black Panther, which touched on these ideas, received an 88 Metacritic score, along with seven Oscar nominations. Wonder Woman, which also included a much deeper meaning, received a 76 on Metacritic, ultimately saving DC Studios from failure. These films are a platform to reach out to millions of people, so if they have shown that they can convey deep moral ideas in a way that sits properly with the public, then why don't they do that in all films? ​

The answer to the previous question lies in a simple fact: the formula. Once Marvel Studios got big enough to generate a hardcore fanbase, they started to make movies based on a simple formula. You can especially see this when looking at the earlier Marvel flicks versus the later ones. Before The Avengers (excluding the sequel, Age of Ultron), the movies had a darker feel to them, making their characters less likeable with the audience. These films did fine both critically and in terms of box office, but the studio quickly realized that they could do so much better with likeable characters and a light-hearted plot. So, a formula came to play. The formula has taken over all of Marvel's movies, and is extremely evident when you realize that all of the films are basically the same structure, with different characters. In terms of plot, there is no unique factors anymore, because once they figured out how to make a movie that sat well with both critics and fans, there was no need to take a risk anymore. The plot arc is the exact same, subbed out with different characters and different jokes. The problem with DC Studios is that they have not mastered a clear formula yet, and their films often fluctuate based off who is sitting behind the director's chair. If you don't believe me, try comparing the plots of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Aquaman. They are completely different, in terms of everything from complexity to humor. The lack of formula is one reason why the films of DC Studios are often slammed by critics, and sometimes even fans. And based off the trailers for their upcoming films, it is evident that they are trying to create the same formula that Marvel has created, based off the sudden humor and lack of Zack Snyder that comes with the films. The use of this intricate formula is what sets Marvel studios at the top of the food chain, and can limit uniqueness throughout their filmography. Personally, I like Marvel movies, so the formula is fine with me, but I do admit that it becomes a lot of the same after a while. After watching a couple flicks in a row, it becomes easy to notice how similar each film is to each other. But even beyond that, the formula has created some catastrophic events. Has it ruined superhero movies, though? Although that question may be harder to answer, there is one particularly evident thing that it has caused. In January, in preparation for M. Night Shaymalan's Glass, I decided to watch the breakout (no pun intended) hit Unbreakable to see where the story began. The film is a superhero movie at it's core, but delivers the story in a very calm and collected way. There is not a lot of humor, and no big battles that encapsulate cities. The villain of the film: a random nobody. The hero: a dad trying to find who he is in the world, and the person he was meant to be. For the first hour of the film, I was not vibing with it in any way. I found the plot boring, and failing to launch to a story. But around halfway through the film, I realized something. My mind had been so trained to imagine a superhero movie with big battles and hordes of humor that I was completely blinded to the film in front of me. I wanted the film to be so much more, because that was what I was used to. That's when I first asked the question that prompted this editorial. Because, although it will not sit well with many, and will spark outrage in some people, the question has to be asked: have we ruined superhero movies? By setting this standard and normalcy for the genre, are we blinded to the fact that there can be uniqueness in superhero movies. That not every superhero movie has to follow this theoretical formula. When we think of the term "superhero movie", our minds are so trained to immediately think of the modern day ones that we forget about the ones before Marvel or DC. The ones like Unbreakable. Because, Marvel, or DC, did not invent the superhero genre in film - it has been around for years and years. They simply brought it into the eyes of everyone around the world. ​ So, where do we go from here? How do I leave you, the reader, satisfied with the question that is bolded at the top of this article. There is only one way to go about that task. I am not trying to say that superhero movies are bad, I feel like I need to make that clear. In fact, I love superhero movies. Just like the rest of the world, I absolutely cannot wait for Avengers: Endgame. I just think that we need to open our eyes into the genre, and realize that the studios that control the genre are not the only studio's making superhero movies. No, we have not ruined superhero movies, not yet. As long as we are aware of the facts, we are okay. But, we must change the ways we view these films. We must watch each of these movies with different eyes, not setting a standard we need each film to reach. Only then can we appreciate what these films are supposed to do. They are supposed to tell the story of people who defied all odds to become beacons of hope. If a superhero film can do that, no matter what direction or story it takes to get there, it is a winner. Simple as that.



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