By Brent Ramirez
Blog Content Contributor
From the campy days of Adam West Batman films to the explosive and CG-heavy caped crusader blockbusters of today, superhero films have definitely come a long way. There’s no question that superhero films are currently dominating box offices, but with more and more already scheduled to come out for the next four or five years, is it safe to say that it’s all just a little overwhelming? Is this popularity of the genre just a soon-to-die fad, or are characters like Batman and Spider-Man here to stay for good?
First, let’s ask ourselves just how the genre has reached the success that it has today, a level of success that has warranted the planning and development of sequels and standalone movies years and years before they even come out. From the ’60s to the ’80s, the genre consisted of films with things like bat-shark repellent and Superman flying around the world so fast that it reverses time (spoiler alert). I mean sure, the films were enjoyed by the audience at the time and have since become iconic, but compared the films of today, they were merely caricatures of their comic counterparts.
That’s not to say that the versions we currently see in theaters are exact replicas of the characters from the source material, but with the improvements in filmmaking technology, we’ve been able to more accurately display what these characters can do in the comics onto the big screen. Filmmaking technology has made some incredible leaps and bounds in the past few decades, with developments in CGI and motion capture to name a few. Thanks to modern technology, instead of a 1977 Iron Man rip off called Exo-Man looking like a suppository with arms and legs (seriously, check out him out), we have the incredibly designed CG suit that we all know and love. It’s these advancements that give the films that extra bit of flair and realism they lacked back then.
Not only do we have the effects needed to pull off these characters, but we now have A-list actors campaigning to be the next Wolverine or Green Lantern. Prior to 2000, no one knew who Hugh Jackman was. It wasn’t until he secured the role of Wolverine that he became a Hollywood staple. Nowadays, we have award winners like Tilda Swinton, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Ben Kingsley, etc. starting in superhero films. It’s honestly pretty insane to think that Oscar winning actors as such chose to play these characters on screen, characters that once lived on pages of comics and in the minds of nerds and comic book lovers alike.
While superhero movies are now these flashy, star-studded, spectacle blockbusters that rule cinemas all over the world, I think what makes these films so special is that they bring to life all this source material that is loved by so many different kinds of people. It’s this plethora of different characters with different abilities, facing different kinds of threats and perils, and it’s just such a treat to see these characters interact with each other through different films. Although DC may be playing a bit of catch up with Marvel, it’s incredible to see just how immensely grand both of their cinematic universes are becoming, and it’s this interconnectivity that many different film companies are trying to emulate now that they’ve seen the power of its success.
Moviegoers will soon see Godzilla and King Kong clash on screen, while Universal is planning to have a film universe made up of some of their most famous monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, the Invisible Man and more. Both the Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises are expanding their universes with new film series that intend to continue on building the lore. The point is: superhero movies have become so big that they’ve influenced the film industry itself.
When I take a step back and look at everything that this genre has accomplished, I realize that it truly is a beautiful time to be a nerd. Films like Captain America: Civil War and Batman V. Superman are bringing massive amounts of fans to the cinema much more regularly than they have in the past and production companies have since noticed the potential for box office gold with these audiences. The entire emergence of nerd culture in recent years has become a phenomena on its own and it seems like it will only continue to grow alongside the advancement of new technology and the development of the film industry.
I think as long as people continue to put dollars into the box office for these movies, then production companies will keep cranking them out like the machines they’ve become. Many people have compared the superhero genre to that of the great American westerns, a genre known for protagonists who sought to stand up against the corrupt and bring justice to those seeking it. Coincidentally, westerns lived a long life on the big screen, from the early 20th century up until the 1960s. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the superhero genre can pull off the same feat, but for now, let’s just enjoy things one movie at a time.
Featured image by Emily Castillo.