Enough, already, with the superhero movies

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“I think there are too many superhero movies,” said my son — and I could see by the look in his eye that it pained him to say so.

Enough, already, with the superhero movies

I’m not sure exactly what prompted that declaration, since we’d spent the better part of the weekend trading Comic-Con 2015 news. Every hour or so, there was a new superhero movie panel, image, trailer or revelation. We’re students of the art, my son and I, having watched superhero movies together since he was old enough to sit upright. Now, at 20, he’d taken measure of the glut of comic-book inspired content ... and it was becoming too much, even for him.

I started back at him, wordlessly, and nodded — even though I spent so much of my adolescence praying for superhero movies. Still, for the rest of the weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Then, on Monday, the all-star Suicide Squad movie, starring multiple Academy Award nominees and winners, hit YouTube — and it broke me. There was nothing wrong with the clip; it had the requisite level of intensity, speed and even fanboy surprises. (“Look! Batman atop Harley Quinn’s car! The cape crusader’s appearance confirmed!”)

It also had clunky dialogue: “So that’s it, huh, we’re the patsies, we’re some kind of…Suicide Squad.” “Let’s go save the world.” Both lines, by the way, spoken by Will Smith.

I'm fairly certain that when Christopher Reeve played Superman, he never said “I’ll save the world.” He just went and did it. These modern film heroes, though, are heroes writ large — you can’t risk subtlety when you’re courting an international audience.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we have to admit that the quality of superhero movies has slowly declined as their numbers have increased exponentially. And it’s only going to get worse.

Over the next five years, studios will produce 30 superhero films. What fraction of them will be memorable, fun, special?

The golden age
There were no superhero movies when I was a kid. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, superheroes existed in comic books and reruns of Adam West’s Batman and George Reeves' Superman. Reeves killed himself in 1959, and as far as I was concerned, the TV character died with him. He was Superman to me.

TV flirted with superheroes in the mid 1970’s with The Greatest American Hero — but like the character, the show barely got off the ground. Thanks to Star Wars, most late-'70s fantasy films were obsessed with space. With one exception.

Warner Brothers did such an excellent job of marketing Superman in 1978 that I, along with millions of others lined up around the block, was prepared to believe that a man could fly — and Christopher Reeve (no relation to George Reeves) could.

Seeing Superman up on the big screen for the first time was a transcendent experience. Like Reeves before him, Christopher Reeve embodied the son of Krypton. There was a lot of action and special effects, much of which would not hold up to modern-day scrutiny — but I bought it not only because I’d never seen anything like it, but also because Superman and Superman II were fully realized stories that took time for character development, laughter and relatable emotion.

In Hollywood, though, Superman must’ve been seen as an anomaly. It would be more than a decade before Warner Bothers would try to launch a new DC character. (Marvel heroes were entirely absent from the screen.) Remarkably, they hit gold again with 1989’s Batman. Of that early series, there were exactly two good movies. Everything after Batman Returns was garbage.

It saddened me that the studio couldn't figure out how to turn these characters into true franchises — like James Bond, for instance. Both Superman and Batman suffered in in subsequent films, and eventually the franchises sputtered under the weight of their own ridiculousness.

Raimi and CGI to the rescue
Blame Director Sam Raimi. He single-handedly revived the superhero movie with 2001’s Spider-Man. The director’s quirky style reinvigorated the genre, even as the middling CGI made Spider-Man look plastic. Tobey Maguire made a believable and emotional web-slinger. The film paid homage to the comic books, but, to the chagrin of purists everywhere, mixed things up a bit too.

I was happy then. The second Spider-Man was as good as the first, and it felt special.

Even when Iron Man arrived in 2008, just as the Spider-Man franchised sputtered to a halt with 2007’s Spider-Man 3, it didn’t seem like nearly enough. Iron Man was another character-driven gem starring the industry’s best special effect, Robert Downey Jr. It left comic book movie fans hungry for more. I could not wait for Iron Man II.

When I heard that Marvel Studios (prior to Disney buying the entire Marvel Universe) was planning a slate of superhero movies (Captain America, Thor, The Hulk), I was excited. And though I’d long read comic books bursting with characters — Avengers, Justice League –- I had trouble believing they could squeeze all those characters in one comprehensible film.

Be careful what you wish for
I mostly enjoyed The Avengers, though it was also the first super hero film where I left the theater feeling a little wrung out. The last 45 minutes or so are filled with manic action and wanton destruction of New York City, enough that I was left numb.

And by 2012, when Avengers came out, I was already noticing a disturbing trend. Since 2003, three different actors had played the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo now has the distinction of being the only movie star to play the green rage monster twice. And in Spider-Man land, things were even worse. Five years after Tobey Maguire put aside his red suit, Marvel decided to reboot the franchise and start the story all over again. If you’re keeping track, you know Marvel is about to reboot Spider-Man for the third time in 2017 (Marvel is also rebooting Fantastic Four just eight years after the since the first FF).

Things seemed relatively calm in DC world. Bryan Singer (who made the X-Men films for Fox and Marvel) made an unfairly maligned Superman Returns, which failed to reboot the franchise. As for Batman, well, he had the Christopher Nolan trilogy — a masterpiece collection that apparently taught other filmmakers and studios nothing.

More is more
Lately, it seems like we can't even have a single superhero in a superhero movie. These films have to have groups, gaggles, flocks of them — more superheroes then you can throw a stick at. A half-dozen supers leaping through the air in slo-mo does nothing to move the plot forward, but it does make a nice poster.

The on-screen super hero teams are, in reality, only small parts of larger universes. There is a kind of twisted logic running through all the interconnected movies and, increasingly, TV shows. Sometimes watching these movies can feel like being the new kid in school. Everyone knows each other, and the history of the school and neighborhood — and you know nothing. You may figure things out eventually, but it can make a lot of the experience disorienting.

A new hope
It isn’t all bad. Guardians of the Galaxy was a hoot, though I did think it was kind of an accident –- a relatively star-free vehicle featuring an unknown cast of characters and a winking wit that Marvel/Disney dropped in August. That’s not tent-pole time; August is summer leftovers time. But it was, deservedly, a massive hit, and now we’re promised another Guardians.

I fear, though, that the next one will not be as good. You see, it’s part of the Marvel Universe, which means Star Lord father’s identity will tie, somehow, into The Avengers' increasingly incomprehensible story line. It’s become a black hole of franchise that’s devouring everything in its path.

I’m so tired of superhero films starring four or more heroes that I find myself almost looking forward to Batman vs. Superman, which only features two extraordinary beings. (Except, wait: There's also Wonder Woman. And Aquaman. And ... .)

There is an oasis of sorts: TV. Leaving aside Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which Marvel is forcing into alignment with its cinematic universe, there are some real bright spots on the small screen. Netflix’s Daredevil is edgy, violent, intense and emotional — a comic book for adults. (Although it also fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) The Flash is an Arrow spinoff, but it also shows promise. Perhaps that’s because these shows have dozens of episodes for actual character development, time enough for a real hero’s journey. In the two or three hours that a typical superhero movie lasts, there is no journey — just mind-numbing action, destruction and paper-thin plots.

Where’s the magic?
When I started writing this post, I did a quick Twitter search on “No more super hero movies,” and quickly found I was not alone.

I think we’re all a little overwhelmed. We love our comic book heroes and really do want to enjoy these films, but it’s become quite clear that they’re being made for money and to satisfy audiences outside the U.S. Recently, I watched the appalling Transformers: Age of Extinction and noticed how a huge chunk of its action took place in Beijing — a place where, no surprise, the film made a huge chunk of its profit.

It’s not unusual now for studios to release these films outside the U.S. first. The most worrisome part of this pattern is that these films are not only being made for U.S. audiences, they’re also not even being made for comic book fans.

Sony, Marvel, Warner Brothers and Disney have, for years, done an admirable job of hiding the profit motive behind these films. We could enjoy them without worrying about commerce. Now, though, they look like animated dollar signs on a screen, and the studios will keep making them as long as we keep buying.

Maybe it’s time for a superhero movie break. When I say that, though, my son and I look at each other and laugh. What day does Superman vs. Batman come out?

Written by Lance Unaloff

Fuente: mashable.com
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