Make Superhero Movies Great Again
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Since 2000, we have witnessed a rise in the popularity of superhero films. With the release of the first X-Men film, the world gradually became entranced with the modern superhero story. Obviously, the X-Men alone didn’t solidify the omnipresence of Marvel and DC on the cultural landscape. The first two Sam Raimi Spider Man movies drew much critical acclaim, and legitimized the superhero film in the eyes of many. Batman Begins was no schmuck either. However, it was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s crawl to the top which permanently changed the industry. Now, every studio is looking to expand their universe to mimic The Avengers. They subscribe to the same quipping heroes beating up forgettable villains until a blue beam is shot into the sky. With the caveat of a handful of gems like The Dark Knight, The Incredibles, and Days Of Future Past the genera has become a barren plane of monotony.
Some projects have made attempts to break that mold; Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Watchmen, and the DC Cinematic Universe have all taken on a darker tone. R- rated superhero movies have only recently been proven to be viable by the wildly popular Deadpool, and earlier Kick-Ass. But this March we were graced with an oddity, an emotional send off to Wolverine, Logan. The argument could be made that this is the darkest hero movie to date, but not because of it’s hard R violence, or it’s frequent use of big-boy words. No, the occasional claw through the head is something we have seen before, but the themes of Logan elevates the film to a very mature place. This kind of story cannot be given justice with a PG-13 rating, a story about an old Logan who is no longer invincible, and an even older Charles Xavier suffering from a degenerative brain disease. The movie grounds itself in these characters, and trusts their performances to keep you engaged. The events aren’t world shaking; it is smaller, more personal. That being said, there is no shortage of action. The audience feels every punch, stab, slice, and gunshot. But it doesn’t lose it’s way and go over the top. The success of this film shows that people want something different, and with any luck we’ll get it.
However, will the film industry learn from Logan? Or will they continue to milk the genre dry? Only time will tell. On the other hand, a comprehensive checklist for how to quickly fix their upcoming films, and make something really special (in a good way) may be beneficial to the big movie exec who happens upon this piece and is willing to take advice from a high school senior. If you are that unfortunate executive who is so desperate to have made it this far in this article, here is a ten point list of some of the things you can do to make your superhero movies last the test of time.
- 1: Creative Control– For the love of God, if you pull anything from my incoherent rant, let it be this; if you don’t trust a filmmaker to make a good movie, why did you hire them? Give the directors and writers more liberty to do what they want with the movie. Yes it is a gamble, and has resulted in some very special (in a bad way) movies, but when done right you can get a masterpiece.
- 2: Variety– More creative control will help with this, however it merits a point of it’s own. The most successful superhero movies of late have been the ones that are the most different. When someone can no longer distinguish scenes from separate movies, it makes both experiences less memorable. The simplest thing as a change in color palate could mean the world of a difference.
- 3: Darkness isn’t always the answer- Going dark doesn’t enhance the bad parts of a movie. It isn’t the magic key to making the most money, Dawn of Justice proved that. Sometimes those stories can be impactful ones, but often times tales of people running around in tights warrant a lighter tone.
- 4: Neither is silly– When heroes are quipping in the middle of what should be an emotional and impactful moment, there is a problem.
- 5: Memorable characters- Having a memorable hero is the easy part, but making the supporting cast and villains pop is something many superhero films struggle with. This alone is half the reason why The Dark Knight is so beloved. Many people can’t even think of the name of an MCU villain except Loki.
- 6: Keep advertisment out of it- The MCU is at the point where every movie is just a glorified commercial for the next one. If the movie is good on it’s own, people will come to it’s sequel.
- 7: Quality writing- The biggest insult you can give is that a film is average. This often comes down to the writing, where the movie makes its first effort to distinguish itself. Predictable, heartless, and boring scripts make movies of similar stature.
- 8: The three frame punch- The more a film cuts, especially in a fight scene, the harder it is for a viewer to keep their bearing. Long, one shot fight scenes are incredibly impressive and always give movies a sense of realism. Don’t cut three times over the course of one punch.
- 9: Music- Often overlooked, but hugely important, is the score of a movie. Reinforcing emotional beats, and manufacturing tension adds a second persona to your film, the mere humming of it’s theme will bring back the memories of it. OPTIONAL: Hire Hans Zimmer to do the score, always.
- 10: Do something else- There are three or four superhero movies coming out every year now, and this is eventually going to take it’s toll. Slow it down while you’re ahead. Go fund an original project that will surpass the popularity of The Avengers in five years.