The Age of Heroes

The Avengers

Iron Man 3 – May 2013

Man of Steel – June 2013

Thor 2 – November 2013

Captain America 2 – 2014

The Avengers 2 – Speculated 2015

What a program! We sure are going to be remembered as the Golden Age of Superhero Movies.

No, really. In the last few years we’ve seen two different Spiderman incarnations, a revamped trilogy for Batman, a Superman movie, a trio and prequel for the X-Men, a film for both the Green Hornet and the Green Lantern, not to be confused, and an adventure each (and more!) for each of Marvel’s Avengers crew: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk (more than once); the first three with parades of sequels lining up behind the release of the blockbuster The Avengers, which featured the whole damn crew and tied together all the individual films.

Never to be outdone, their competitor DC Comics is setting up a parallel set of movies for the Justice League, starting with Man of Steel starring the big S-Man himself. But Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy defies the canon of the DC Universe with its tone and lack of supernatural/overtly sci-fi elements, so they won’t really fit into a combo set like The Avengers did… guess someone will just have to redo the Batman franchise then…

To utilise the official scientific measurement, that is a crapload of superhero movies.

Man of Steel poster 2013

Hard to look too dark and elegant in your outer-pants, Clark

As my friend pointed out in a discussion of this nature, they’re releasing comic book movies like they’re comic books. With, of course, the slight hindrance of the difference in required manpower, technology and budget. The point remains. Hollywood is pumping out comic adaptations in machine gun fire.

It probably helps that they’re raking in cash to pay for all their funky costuming and CGI. People like superheroes. Immersing yourself in the shiny, explosive world where they reside is a good way to pass an afternoon, nestled into a cinema watching super fights boom and biff before your eyes and witty one-liners fly across the giant screen (maybe in 3D, even!).

Some people go to see superhero movies for the character development and intricate plotlines, but for the majority of us they present a bit of simple fun, good guys beating up bad guys and saving the world (and possibly destroying New York City in the process, for the bazillionth time in cinema. That’s the official scientific measurement).

People love a hero! It’s as simple as that. And comic fans love to see the figures they love burst to life in three dimensions off the page and onto the silver screen.

But why is it this era that’s become saturated with superheroic adventures? Is it merely the rise in technology that allows for their escapades to come to life? Or is it something else?

Explosions and flying cars

Aliens destroy NYC… again

A trend has been pointed out by some scholars on the subject — since the tragedy of 9/11, there was a dip in dark and destructive movies. In the years that followed anything with especially depressing or distressing plotlines was postponed and moved swiftly off the schedule, their places filled with brighter, more optimistic films. And we saw a rise in superhero movies.

People need things to believe in in dark times. That’s the crux of the creation of superhero figures, they provide hope that someone is looking out for the common man and ensuring that good will triumph over evil and keep the civilians safe.

Of course, as we pass the ten year anniversary of the attack, our cinemas are full of dark and light-hearted movies in increasingly equal measure, but the heroes have stuck. It’s a trend that caught on, it seems.

It’s even referenced, if you’re looking for it, in The Avengers, a few moments that demonstrate the deep-set dichotomy of fear and hope that caused the superhero trend to peak. In New York, which has been attacked and taken by surprise, one of those big, scary-looking flying exoskeletal whale things is soaring straight towards an office building full of people. They’re running away from the windows and screaming, fearing the worst as their doom flies towards them. The symbols in that are awfully familiar.

And then the Hulk bursts through and socks the thing, saving the innocent people inside. Disaster, and parallel to a terrorist attack, averted! Where would we be without our heroes?

Captain America punches Hitler

Take that, symbollic enemy of freedom!

They’ve also got the pull from the fact that people already know, for the most part, the characters and stories and are drawn in by the promise of an adaptation. Would superheroes have the same success if they were all original creations for the movie and totally alien to the audience? Maybe someone should release one to see. I doubt that will happen, though, since the studios are all already full of Avengers and Justice Leaguers. Why throw something onto the market when you can’t be sure it will sell? DC and Marvel heroes have been selling for decades, some of them since the 1930s, so why would they toss in a tried and true formula?

They wouldn’t, that’s why. So people are going to keep going to see superhero flicks and give Hollywood more money to make more superhero flicks that we’re all going to go and see even when they begin to deteriorate due to crippling sequelitis. It’s bound to happen, unfortunately. Maybe then they’ll start breaking out some of the more obscure heroes and giving them their own movies…

And with all these multiple adaptations and criss-crossing continuities the movies are going to go the way of the comics themselves. Their canons can become confused and you practically trip over yourself trying to work out which way is up and which version is correct, since so many different writers have worked on them over the years and there’s been endless revamps, reboots, retools and redesigns, resulting in a somewhat tangled continuity. It’s been avoided so far with the Avengers’ lot, seeing as they were planned out as a set building up to the Big Damn Movie (also a scientific term), but it will be interesting to watch and see…

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5 Comments

Filed under Archetypes and Genre

5 responses to “The Age of Heroes

  1. There’s a show about the Green Arrow called, originally enough, Arrow, too.

    • The Afictionado

      There’s an unending list of superhero media. I forgot the mention the Wolverine movie and all the TV shows past and present, for starters!

  2. Pingback: Sequelitis | The Afictionado

  3. Pingback: Optimism vs. Cynicism: The Great Heroic Debate | The Afictionado

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