Daily WTF: Increasingly Formulaic, Homogenous, and Boring Superhero Movies/Shows

Property of Warner Brothers, DC Comics, and Empire Magazine

Property of Warner Brothers, DC Comics, and Empire Magazine

I must confess something: prior to the Marvel movies (specifically, Thor), I didn’t care about superhero comics. In the nineties and early two thousands, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly interesting about them. Their stories lacked gravitas and weight, and they seemed recycled. The boy saves the girl/city/planet/sidekick/himself and occasionally a girl pops up, shows off some T & A, and retreats to the shadows. I’ve since learned that that is a highly simplistic and not entirely correct summary of about 60 years of comic history, but that’s how I saw superhero comics at the time and given that both DC and Marvel were struggling financially, I’m not sure everyone would disagree.

Then came the superhero movies: X-Men, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, Thor, Watchmen, Wanted, and probably a dozen more that I never bothered to see. Some, like X-Men, were giant hits and help spark the current oversaturation of superhero movies, though it wasn’t until Iron Man that I became a convert. I loved the humor, the personality, the ideals behind Tony Stark’s Iron Man, the scope, the relationships, and the over-the-top-but-not-too-over-the-top fight scenes and graphics. No, Iron Man wasn’t “great art,” but it did fundamentally change how we saw superheroes and opened up the genre to millions of people.

Unfortunately, the superhero movie hasn’t really done much since then. Avengers was a wonderful movie that focused on the characters’ interpersonal relationship and catered to the audience, Captain America: Winter Soldier was a great exploration of Steve and Nat’s characters, and Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t take itself too seriously, though I would argue it still wasn’t really on point. Agent Carter has featured some interesting role reversals and exploration of the character, and people are excited about the new Supergirl show. And, of course, there’s still excitement about all the other Marvel movies, the new Batman vs. Superman, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, etc., etc., but I’m over it.

Why? Because it’s all starting to run together. The vast majority of the protagonists are men. The vast majority of all the characters are white and (assumably or expressly) straight. All the plots are gritty and dark. All the story arcs are huge, world-enders. All the characters are oh-so-serious. No one is disabled. No one faces discrimination. No one enjoys their life. They’re driven by a sense of duty, but it seems incredibly forced. There’s little joy or vitality. Honestly, it’s getting depressing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that these movies and shows have nothing to offer. Jason Momoa as Aquaman promises to be interesting, and the battle between Batman and Superman will likely be suitably grandiose. Ant-Man offered a sweet father-daughter dynamic. Captain America: Civil War looks interesting though I doubt it will be little more than a re-hash of the Avengers movies. There’s also talk of Black Panther and Captain Marvel movies, which could be fun.

However, for the time being, I’m done with superhero movies. Until the casting is diverse (and not just racially but socio-economically and personality-wise), until the movies can be at least somewhat light-hearted and fun, and until the plots can stop leveling up like a Dragonball Z character, I’m done. Wake me when America Chavaez or Ms. Marvel get a movie.

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