Spare a thought for non-comic-book fans. While it is a golden age of cinema for those of us who, ahem, marvel at the sight of crime-fighting billionaires, invincible aliens and funny-talking space Vikings, there are plenty who see the sudden glut of men in capes, tights and suits of armour as a dull prospect, spelling the demise of originality in movies. But are superheroes really overpowering the schedules? And would it really be the end of the world, of our shared universe, if they were?
Firstly, with all the fan-baiting hype and speculation that occurs, it’s easy to forget that only three superhero movies were released theatrically in 2015 (for comparison’s sake, there were at least nine spy movies released in the same year). But yes, there’s a lot more on the way, with 24 superhero movies flying, swinging or teleporting into action between now and 2020. That's a Hulk-sized proportion of all the blockbusters currently in the pipeline.
The problem, however, is in considering 'the superhero movie' as its own genre. It isn't. It's a platform. A springboard, if you will. It's a signal shining in the night sky calling for other genres to pitch in and help guide the mission at hand.
Just look at how Marvel has positioned its solo films recently: Ant-Man was a heist movie; Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political thriller; Guardians Of The Galaxy was a bonkers space adventure. Even Fantastic Four flirted briefly – albeit unsuccessfully – with body horror.
Because these other, more closely defined genres suited the story that needed to be told at the time. Yes, they're all linked by superhumans with superpowers and super abs, but these are really just characters – strong role models even – around which greater tales can be told. And these tales can be anything, in any style. Seriously, who doesn’t have their fingers crossed for one day seeing an X-Men musical?
Of course, we mostly just get action spectacle of the highest order - but when was that such a bad thing? With superstrength, superspeed, shapeshifting powers and whatever it is that Vision does, superhero movies allow Hollywood to showcase the very best of its own abilities. They allow us to see the most special of special effects and, with moviemaking technology finally matching up to the pages of its comic-book counterparts, they are limited only by the imagination of the extreme wealth of talent involved (not to mention the extreme wealth of the studio financing them).
And their adamantium claws have barely scratched the surface. There may be overfamiliar tropes emerging already – yes, we don’t need to see another climactic aerial assault any time soon – but superhero movies are still in their relative origin stages. There are decades of unfettered creativity and incredible storytelling still to be found in comic books, and if Hollywood is looking to do even better and bolder things on the big screen, it should using this largely untapped resource even more than it already does. Or is it just me?
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