Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The death of super hero movies?

For some time now I've been hearing about the predicted death of superhero movies. Like it's a fad that we'll soon get sick of and they'll go away. This is complete nonsense.

Back in the 40's there were serials such as Captain Marvel, Batman, Superman, Captain America, and The Phantom. Looking at them now they seem comical. They're aimed at children and seemed to spend more on catering than on costumes or special effects. For a long time superheros on screen were done so poorly that the 60's Adam West Batman was considered to be pretty good.

It wasn't until Christopher Reeve's Superman in 1978 that there was anything worth respecting in superheros on screen. Just don't get me started on spinning the world backwards to reverse time.  Alas, after Superman II there just wasn't much to talk about until Michael Keaton played Batman.

Do you remember "Supergirl"? I used to watch it all the time when I was 10 and everything we had on VHS was stuff I recorded off the TV. But it wasn't good. Nor was "The Toxic Avenger", "The Punisher", that Spiderman TV series, "Steel" starring Shaq, the non-Michael Keaton Batmen, "The Shadow", "Spawn", Superman III and IV, and I'd swear there was a Captain America with a german accent in there somewhere. These were all bad movies by today's standards. By the standards of their own day they weren't awful.

Patrick Stewart in X-Men is one of the first superhero movies I was looking forward to. OK, I'd been looking forward to seeing him play Mr Freeze in a Batman movie, but he was bumped in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger. That was followed by Sam Raimi's Spiderman. Both franchises got two good movies and then a third one some said signaled the end of the superhero movie genre. To me that just means they never understood what was good about the first two.

Those were followed by Batman Begins, Iron Man, Watchmen, Hellboy, The Incredibles, as well as the sequels to X-Men, Spiderman, and those listed earlier in this sentence. It seemed there was a renaissance in superhero movies. Daredevil, Catwoman, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Elektra - these pieces of crap fell in the middle of the superhero movie renaissance and helped show that it's not the superheroes, but the quality of the story and the acting that make a good movie. They warned Hollywood that an effort must be made. They can't just slap up anything with a superhero's name on it and expect to draw a crowd.

Today is the scheduled release date for The Avengers. When that was release in theaters it broke all kinds of records for opening day and weekend attendance and earnings records. It ended up as the third highest grossing movie ever. And all the lead up movies, except the Hulk movies, were successes of their own. That doesn't sound like a dying genre to me. In fact it's prompting Marvel/Disney to try some of their properties on TV. Like a new Incredible Hulk series and at least a pilot for a S.H.I.E.L.D. series.

DC/Warner Brothers has a Justice League movie in the works. Last I heard even Ben Affleck was turning down the chance to direct. They plan to spin off their next series of Batman movies from the Justice League film. But their Green Lantern movie didn't do so well. Wonder Woman got cancelled after all outside interest was lost with the firing of Joss "The Avengers" Whedon. I really wish I could find that essay about the series of failed Superman movie attempts between Superman IV and Superman Returns. I'll just say that when Michael Bay and Justin Timberlake are turning you down to direct and play Clark Kent then you really need to rethink your movie.

I will give DC/Warner credit. They can do cartoon superheroes a lot better than Marvel has been doing.

I'm not even getting into the really good fan stuff available on YouTube.

What I'm getting at is that superheroes are another genre just like science fiction, horror, James Bond, romantic comedy, or any of the action sub-genres. And they can be done in South Park style animation so long as there's a good story. They're not going to die off due to over saturation of the market or the audience getting bored, or running out of ideas (they have 80 years of monthly comics to draw from). If the superhero genre dies back it's because every studio suddenly starts thinking that any yutz can slap something out so long as there's somebody with a logo on his chest in it.

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