Superhero Films – Going The Distance
In the beginning, there were black and white films with no sound. Then, there came black and white films with sound. Eventually, color films with sound came along. And the genres of different films expanded. However, things have been going in a decidedly unique way over the course of the last 20-30 years in film. What is particularly interesting has been the great increase in superhero films. As millennials have grown older, they have taken their love of superheroes from the comic books, television show, and a limited number of movies, and turned it into a whole new spread of fandom. Now, you see a ton of superhero films or comic book/graphic novel-based properties coming out every year. When there were a few number of them and only some good ones, some enjoyed those films. However, today, some people do not like the increasing number of people in capes on the big screen.
Since The Dark Knight trilogy showed Hollywood you can do more with a film than just tell a superhero tale, you have seen many films attempt to copy that type of quality. Many felt they needed to be dark and realistic like the Batman films under Christopher Nolan, the director, were. With how many dark themes were in those films, it’s good none of them needed a non 12 step rehab since none of those dark themes existed in their own lives. They didn’t struggle with things like depression or substance abuse as the characters in the films did. Yet, those directors seeking to copy Nolan and the Batman source material ignored all the humor that were in those three films, even during dark moments throughout the films. Marvel understood this and saw just what superhero films could be by expanding upon the genre.
While Marvel’s films appear somewhat formulaic in their approach, they have gone into different genres from science fiction to period pieces to magic. Warner Brothers and DC Comics have been able to develop some interesting genre expansions too. While many were divided over Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, you cannot argue that the film was not well made and well cast. In fact, the film actually was more than a typical superhero film. It was overtly political in dealing with things we are dealing with today. Dawn of Justice proved to be a film about politics in the world of superheroes. It also touched upon corporate secrets and a number of other things.
This is actually not new to DC Comics. These themes and stories have been touched upon by their writers for decades. You can compare Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to see just how much inspiration and story points Zack Snyder, the film’s director, and Chris Terrio, the writer of the film, took for the film. Nolan took inspiration from Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Year One for Batman Begins, the first installment of The Dark Knight trilogy. By taking stories from the source material, which has already expanded upon what a superhero film can be, you get films like The Dark Knight or Marvel’s recent installment, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a good example of a film that not only plays as a superhero film but as a coming of age story. When Marvel spoke about the influence of John Hughes and Peter Parker has to go to an ’80s party, as well as deal with problems in high school such as drug or alcohol abuse and needing a non 12 step rehab, it becomes very obvious about the profound influence of not only the source material but the greater expansion of the storytelling potential for the film. It then becomes not only a superhero film but one about high school, dating, being young, and overall a coming of age story.
Filmmakers never recognized that Parker is a teenager in high school and that is where the majority of the storytelling should focus on. With Marvel Studios guiding the creative parts of the film, Sony, who was developing the films for a long time, finally recognized they needed to focus on the high school life of the character and not make just one film about that before he goes off to college.
This summer also saw the first female-led superhero film, Wonder Woman, which not only delivered a great superhero film product but a fantastic film generally. Warner Brothers is even pushing it for Oscar consideration. It proved to be one of the best films of all time for the superhero genre, but it was also so much more like being a World War I story or one about ancient Greek culture. It explored the Greek gods and story points that have always been important within the comic books. Everyone always knew that a Wonder Woman film would be a hit but Hollywood finally recognized that too. With Gal Gadot, the film’s lead actress, and Patty Jenkins, the director of it, they put together a hit film that studios did not take long at all in putting a sequel into production.
Today, superhero films are taking over Hollywood and cinemas worldwide. It’s unlikely to change while newer generations grow older loving these characters. Whether your favorite character is Batman or Spider-Man, the future is clear: superhero films and their expansion into other genres will continue.
About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery, and the entertainment industry.