What’s next for costumed heroes?

Where do superhero movies go from here?  For all that I love about seeing my favorite comic book heroes leap off the page, I worry about the narrow range of storytelling.  After seeing The Amazing Spider Man I began to wonder if there is a saturation point for costumed heroes who continue along standard action plots. Whether it is Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America, The Avengers, in all cases the movies follow very standard action plots.

Yet, comic books are not all about the flash.  It is as if they have taken a medium defined by a collaboration between writer and artists and only taken the “artist” part onto the screen.  With a few exceptions, The Watchmen for example, these movies are failing to explore different kinds of stories.  We need to see more urban and street level heroes, a dive into other cultures of the world. I am ready for mysteries and thrillers and dramas filled with these characters.  I am ready for tragedy and depth, for introspection and thought. Where is the crime and detective stories?  How is Marvels newest announcement, Guardians of the Galaxy, going to bring something new to the screen? I will keep an open mind, and I hope for the best, but I feel I can already see the script.  Good guys group up, they bicker, someone bad is doing something bad. They chase them a bit through a few good battles with great effects until they have one final battle that is bigger and badder than the mini-battles earlier.  And then they win. I think I’ve already seen this movie.

I am amazed to say that my best hope seems to be the upcoming The Wolverine. Set in Japan, the movie already has a nice cultural feel with a cast that includes Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai) and Hal Yamanouchi (The Way Back), Tao OkamotoRila Fukushima and Will Yun Lee as Silver Samurai. The infusion of a crime family story alongside an authentic cultural background might be something exciting in the world of superhero movies.  Let’s hope for some success and originality that will support more projects that break out of the standard action stories we seem to have on infinite repeat.

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5 Responses to What’s next for costumed heroes?

  1. dreygeaux says:

    Excellent points here. I am also hoping to see some expansion in the story telling. Imagine what a better movie Green Lantern could have been if it had spent more time on the Corps, and less on Ryan Reynolds. Take us under the surface a little. Let the characters exercise more than their powers.

    X-Men First Class did a reasonable job with that exploration, I thought. It dealt with the history, spent time with all of the characters, and in general made it a point to not be about the fights.

  2. The problem here is that most of these movies are made by people who only have a superficial understanding of superheroes if even that! All they see is, for lack of a better word, the costume and not the character beneath. “Comic Book” used to be a put down for one-note plots that, as you mention, follow predictable lines. Unless more filmmakers understand the literary (and cinematic) potential of these characters, “Comic Book” will become a put down once again.

  3. Ronny says:

    I think X-Men First Class tried, but its still a fairly straight forward action movie. It does have some excellent performances within that form, but I think we have seen much more success with more “indy” style movies. Sin City, Scott Pilgram and V for Vendetta all tried new ways to tell their non-standard stories and each worked. I think there are directors out there who could treat the material with more maturity, the question is will Marvel or Sony allow a director to do that with a more well known franchise (or did Ang Lee provide the studios with justification to never try and do something different).

    • Maybe we should also ask if the audiences will support a superhero movie that is different from the norm? After all, the movie companies are only going to keep churning out whatever makes them the most money. In this way, are they really all that different than Marvel & DC are now?

  4. dbpyritohedron says:

    Given 2 hours 35 minutes, it is hard to be an exploration of drama film and a fast paced action flick at the same time. I think action flicks put more butts in the seats. Consider Tom Cruise for a moment. Collateral, Minority Report and Vanilla Sky all did less than half the box office of three of the four Mission Impossibles.
    Costumed Hero movies have been with us for a while now but only recently have they started to make serious box office noise. I feel the genre is still too young to start exploring themes that will cut tens of millions off the box office.
    What I am saying is that Ghost Rider and Green Lantern each grossed over $200 million worldwide as action flicks. I’d say that as character dramas instead of action flicks they would have grossed half that.
    Once a hook is mature enough that it will put enough butts in the seats, then you see character dramas. Consider again Tom Cruise. Vanilla Sky, Collateral and Minority Report – all made after the second Mission Impossible – each grossed over $200 million. Far and Away, Days of Thunder and Born on the Fourth of July – all made before Few Good Men – each grossed $160 million or less. Clearly Tom Cruise as a hook grew in value over time.
    Joss Whedon has said that he wants the second Avengers movie to be an exploration of character conflict. Given his cachet and the cachet of the Avengers, this could be a chance for a character drama. But if you are Marvel and you just grossed $1.4 billion (yes billion) with an action flick are you going to risk making a character drama that grosses $500 million?

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