I am sick of superhero movies. While I thought Avengers Assemble was an excellent, if incoherent, piece of entertainment, the market is undeniably saturated, with each new release feeling like history repeating on itself; an ill-advised 2 AM burger perched on a stomach full of pints.
To help compartmentalise my ire, here are the main 3 reasons that the death of the superhero movie cannot come soon enough.
The first problem is that these are films based on characters and stories designed for children, not adults. While this is embraced to a certain degree in the Marvel movies, with mild peril and spangly costumes keeping things identifiably infantile and fun, the same cannot be said of DC’s efforts.
Excited as I am about The Dark Knight Rises, it is difficult to reconcile the preposterously Noirish tone with the fact that the world in which Batman operates is still drenched in soppiness, from the names of the villains and heroes to their back stories and motivations.
2010’s Kick Ass was a breath of fresh air in this respect, although it was of course sourced from a more adult comic book series. As such the movie did not have to balance the need to inject mature themes against its obligation to follow to the trajectory of the original material.
I’m not saying that films designed for children are exclusively inferior to adult-oriented movies. But tinkering with superheroes to cater to an older audience can sully the original article, ultimately resulting in something that is drab and derivative rather than colourful and engaging.
2) It’s a Monopoly, man
There are tons of superhero movies released each year, but they mostly emerge from the back catalogues of the two aforementioned publishers; Marvel and DC.
This has caused eternal churning, with the same characters and franchises being shamelessly recycled. We’re getting another Spider Man reboot this year just a decade after Sam Raimi resurrected it for the CGI generation, while the X Men series has seen an even quicker turnaround of sequels, prequels and threequels. It’s difficult to not feel fatigued by the whole situation.
The fact that more and more comic book movies are being made with less variation in the characters that they feature speaks to a reduction in the ambition and confidence of executives who have the power to greenlight major projects.
If studios are going to stump up the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars that are required to make a blockbuster today, they tend to avoid betting on a franchise which is untested. Thus returning to guaranteed money spinners is appealing, and the comic book movie is the Rumpelstiltskin of the cinema, turning characters and narratives into box office gold and smothering creativity’s first born in the process.
3) Action is Excised
Prior to the turn of the millennium, the constraints of technology meant that superhero movies were campy, unsophisticated affairs. The scope and imaginative power of the comics on which they were based could not be replicated on screen. As such the biggest box office draws were action films set in worlds without super powers. Men like Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson and even Keanu Reeves could take on international criminals with one line of dialogue and one in the chamber.
But with advances in computer animation came the inevitable ditching of bristle-chinned loose cannons in favour of satin-swaddled crusaders battling identifiable baddies. The pure action movie blockbuster died a death and became B-movie material, with Jason Statham emerging as its pluckiest star.
I’m not actually calling for a comic book movie cull that completely eradicates the genre from our screens. I just want the studios to leave the genre fallow for a year or two, allowing the green shoots of something new to grow in its place. But with Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel on the horizon, tightly gusseted pseudo-immortals are unlikely to go quietly into the night.