The Rise of the Superhero

As I lay in the surprisingly sweltering Scottish sun on a Monday afternoon, I had a daydream, or perhaps a heat induced hallucination, about one of my preferred topics; Batman. I’ve long had an admiration for superheroes, and whilst I have lost hope that they exist outside of the realm of fiction, with age, I still enjoy following their stories through comic books and motion pictures. My favourite superhero has always been Batman, who I always admired for his courage and strength, despite not having any supernatural powers.

On reflection of this dream, I began to think of how many film producers share my admiration for this genre, or at least have started to notice its appeal to the rest of the world, since the turn of the century. Whilst the concept had been dabbled with in the 80s and 90s with Supermen I, II, III and IV, and the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman series which was eventually ruined in the horrible fourth film by George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite being frequently shown on the small screen, it wasn’t until the 21st Century that Hollywood saw big money in the idea of superheroes.

It began with X-Men. Whilst studios such as 20th Century Fox never expect a film to flop, it would be hard to believe that they were expecting X-Men to be quite the success story it was, making a $220 million profit at the box office alone. The trend continued in a big way with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, which made almost $700 million of profit at the box office, despite it being a rather lacklustre film in retrospect. Its success was determined not by the quality of the film, but by the originality of the idea. After this, new superhero releases became a regular occurrence, with films like; Hulk, Hellboy, Batman Begins, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, TMNT, The Dark Knight, Superman Returns, and Pixar’s The Incredibles, to name but a few, all of which were hitting the big screens everywhere.

More recently, many superhero movies have led towards the release of The Avengers, with films such as Thor and Captain America leading towards this blockbuster release. However, it seems clear to me, that this genre of film is inevitably going to fall. This is, quite simply, because all of the good ideas have already been used. Whilst some franchises, like X Men, the new and highly improved reboot of Spider-Man and the even newer Man of Steel, have many more miles left in them before they will finish; others do not. For example, the latest Marvel film in production proves my point. Ant-Man. His superpower is to make himself smaller, something that seems to me as more like a vice rather than a virtue. Doesn’t the excitement just ooze from this idea? Maybe next, we could have an Aquaman film, where he thwarts the enemy until they move away from the ocean. A film about Captain Planet would be great for the movie studio’s image, but a hero who catches eco-villains sounds boring.

The reality is that the only option the rich filmmakers have is to completely revamp the successful stories to keep the money rolling in. And I’m sure that they will do that to death. There are only so many more times that we can see a different Bruce Wayne dressing up as a bat and facing the same criminals portrayed by new actors. Personally, I never want to watch a Batman film in which The Joker is played by somebody other than Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson. My suggestion to Hollywood would be to find themselves a new gold mine, because this one is almost empty.

By David Murray

David can be found on twitter: @ac1dnati0n



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