It seems that every other film coming out in the cinema is a superhero film at the moment. A few years ago Marvel released a mission statement saying that they wanted to eventually release 4 films a year, and at the time people had misgivings but, because it was really only Ironman that was noteworthy at the time, people forgot about it, but it was only last year that Marvel announced their release schedule for the next few years and, sure enough, they are releasing 4 films a year, and I just can’t see why, and from the recent reception of Ant Man, people are starting also to wise up.
There are, of course, argument against the criticism that superhero films are just the same story over and over, but that’s not really why I dislike them. After all, I’m a fantasy buff and every fantasy book for the last 70 years has been trying to be The Lord of the Rings, and I think there’s value in putting slightly different spins on the same story to tell it again. It gives people a sense of familiarity while keeping them on their toes.
It’s not even the fact that superheroes appear as one-dimensional characters that have dialogue all befitting writing archetypes and which any writer worth his salt could have written while undergoing brain surgery whilst trying to pilot the space shuttle. Harley Quinn is a good example of this. I think it’s fairly established that there are around 15 different origin stories for each superhero/villain but the one I like to believe is that Harley Quinn was a survivor of sexual assault who was, afterthefact, put into a mental hospital wherein she underwent massive physical and mental trauma but, while there, met the Jokey and the person she is now is a reflection of how she deals with this and the strain and stresses on her mental health. That is what I would define as writing gold.
However, instead of doing something actually interesting with this character (Even just exploring the world and doing normal things would be a struggle for her and, to be honest, I’d quite like to see a story like that) they just decide to make her a side-kick to the Joker and have her fight Batman. What a waste.
But now I’ve written a lot without really saying much. I wanted to say that my dislike of superheroes probably stems from the fact that watching or reading anything to do with them required an immense suspension of disbelief. I am expected to believe that everything about our current society is exactly the same as the one in the film but in their universe there are terrorists and vigilantes with superhuman/supernatural powers that dress up in ridiculous costumes and fight crime or try to destroy the world. There’s no chance that they could answer all the lose ends that brings up. Just the question of why they don’t dress up like normal people would be a struggle for at least half of the superheroes that exist. Superman has the most obvious answer; the cold war was going on and America wanted to show him as a super soldier fighting for freedom. But then people like Batman, who wants to keep his identity secret but whose actions point to maybe 1 of 3 people in Gotham, which assumes there are 2 other billionaires in Gotham, or Ironman, who reveals his identity anyway. Every other genre has reasonable explanations for why the world has ended up the way it has
The only superhero film I could get invested in was Watchmen, and again, that’s because it harkens back to the Cold War. They are American and so they become pseudo-celebrities but, moreover, they are symbols of freedom. Doctor Manhattan is the victim of an experiment that went wrong, but he’s also effectively a demigod and hyper intelligent. The Americans frame him as someone who fights for them willingly, despite the wrongs he’s suffered, because he believes in America and suddenly the Soviets don’t look so threatening, or advanced. I could get invested in it because, in the real world, it wasn’t impossible that this could happen, even though there’s a whole crate full of pseudoscience in any superhero film. In the real world though, superheroes would have experiments done on them, they would live miserable, unhappy lives and have to go into hiding, or they would exploit their powers to make money. The BBC series Misfits actually deals with this a little bit, but it fell prey to making something more like normal superhero media from the second series onwards, which was a real disappointment.
Also, not to be a cynic here, but superheroes were made to appeal to children. They’ve moved on since then, of course, especially since the price of comics have inflated beyond any reasonable understanding, but the bright, vibrant and easily-identifiable colours, the easily understandable stories and the huge amounts of toys and merchandise that comes with them are all meant to be bought and sold to children, as presents or as a use for their pocketmoney. I hate to say it but I don’t think anyone who I would consider intelligent could be into superheroes past a certain point. Enjoying the artform and the media and the way it is presented is all well and good, but getting incredibly hyped for the 14th Avengers film, which is already churned out rubbish, albeit with a very large budget, and trying to explain why the characters within are deep and meaningful each with their own independent thought and inner struggle is a laughable task if nothing else. But then people will say that I am weirdly into some things that they just can’t get their head around. Like what you want to, but know that I think superheroes are childish.
As one last thing, when was the list time you heard someone answer the question “what super-power would you want and why?” with “I would want … because then I would use it to fight crime.” It’s always something more like “I would want invisibility because then I can have whatever I want because I can just steal it.”