(Images courtesy of Marvel)
The Webb Schools

Opinion: What’s wrong with the superhero movie genre

Growing up in an Asian American household, I never had any DC or Marvel comics on our bookshelves. I found my curiosity for them outside the house, in school with the one friend obsessed with Batman or on the shelves of a school library. My siblings never read them, but seeing your run-of-the-mill American teenage comics was something so foreign and fascinating to nine-year-old me was an out-of-body experience. The dynamic art, surprisingly dark stories of revenge and justice, the philosophical conflicts… I discovered an entirely new perspective on stories shown through comics.

TV shows, movies, and comics play a large role of people’s reception of media around the world. It’s part of our nature to want to see something exciting, and whether it be Marvel’s action packed, multi-million dollar funded “Infinity War” or the hit series and award-acclaimed “Game of Thrones,” something has instilled a craving in the American people for action. DC Entertainment, and 20th Century Fox produce animations and movies that undoubtedly have reached a global audience, but I believe that the impact for many, is not there.

“Suicide Squad,” “Fantastic Four,” “Batman vs. Superman,” and “Justice League” all attempted to be interesting movies, but they simply lacked in execution. They may be thrilling, sexy, or action packed, but many of these movies have lost the purpose of creating art, something that is subjective and meaningful to each and every person in a different way. In today’s standards, because of badly produced huge superhero movies, movies may no longer be considered a form of art and visual storytelling but rather entertainment fodder.

Many movie studios have not harnessed the capability to create art that is meaningful and valuable to society rather than another generic and bad superhero movie. Take “Suicide Squad,” a movie about a group of antiheroes and jailed villains coming together seemed to be an interesting and captivating misfit adventure; but after watching the movie, it leaves the viewers helplessly unsatisfied and cheated.

The trailer lies to viewers with artistic when the actual movie and plot is devoid of creative substance, unredeemable no matter how many hit Lil’ Wayne or Imagine Dragons soundtracks ship with the film. Spoiler alert: the trailer already showcases all the film’s high octane sequences and the story’s exposition. Talented actor Jay Hernandez plays Diablo, a certified badass in the comics who bonds with a demon and is able to shoot fire out of his bare hands, but somehow director David Ayer could not express a great idea onscreen as there was bad choreography and thoughtless character design. The focal point is Diablo’s powerful CG-animated abilities, not his personal morality or his criminal origins. The movie simply did not do its source material or any of its core characters enough justice.

On the other side of the spectrum, movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” “Watchmen,” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy” all exceeded expectations as they were able to not only make their movies captivating like the others but present more than that. In the “Dark Knight Rises,” Nolan creates one of the best scenes in superhero history during the boat scene. Good movies should not only have famous actors and artsy shots but also present dilemmas capable of being disputed. These blockbuster movies require innovation rather than following the stereotypically overplayed heroes battling a villain who is un-understandably, and one-dimensionally, evil and cruel.

In the case of Nolan’s movies, he produced complex scenes showcasing Batman’s Kantian morality and self-sacrifice in the face of the Joker’s moral relativism and chaos. In the scene where two boats of prisoners and civilians must decide which one will explode generates a predicament where even the viewer may not be fully convinced of the morality of either side. Movies like this produce real life questions and philosophical ideologies that are presented to the viewers rather than a one-sided villain.

14739641 web1 spiderverse sea 1200x503 Opinion: What’s wrong with the superhero movie genre
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” incorporated several different styles of drawing, resulting in a refreshing art style. (Image courtesy of Marvel / Disney)

Recently, “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” presented a unique animated movie by incorporating several different styles of drawing and captivating attention with that. Dominating the animated movies of 2018, the film created a thrilling and fresh art style whereas others could not. It stood out and became a box office hit because of the creativity it incorporated along with the action of a “Spiderman” movie. This is a perfect example of how movies can inspire creativity in other animators but also revolutionize the movie industry to focus more about creating cultural substance rather than money. The movies itself feels new because it’s well done animation in a comic style.

There is a duality in a comic book between the work of a writer and artist that presents a unique presentation of the author’s style within storytelling of comics. The “Wonder Woman” and “Captain America” comics have not only created role models of strong men and women for generations since, but they also represent the art style and the culture of the time. Movies since have been copying and expanding off the comics, but many do not seem to have the same originality and inspiration but instead use the love for the comic characters to turn a profit.

It is unfortunate that today’s movies are comprised of too many of the already extremely popular characters, and I would like to see more featuring of characters that do not have a big enough or are not seen on the silver screen yet, although franchises like “The Umbrella Academy,” “Deadpool,” and “Doom Patrol” are making huge strides for the genre. Comics like “Sandman” and “Batwoman” could create a new generation of superhero movies providing new material and substance and subsequently presenting fresh perspectives into movies.

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