Thursday, July 24, 2008

FILM: Superhero Movies Changing the Formula

I went to see Hancock a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised by how non-formulaic its superhero backstory turned out to be. I was also supposed to see Hellboy 2: The Golden Army with my dad, but he bailed on me (so sad). Then recently, I was blown away by the graphics in the upcoming comic adaptation of Watchmen. A few days later I read about Rob Liefeld's upcoming comic Capeshooters and I have an epiphany. Something is happening in Hollywood that I don't think people are noticing very much.

Many critics are applauding The Dark Knight for bringing superhero films into the next level, making them respectable and award-worthy. My suspicions of this "happening" were solidified when I read TDK's EW review. The critic said something to the effect of Batman being difficult to differentiate between the good guy and the bad guy--that he sort of smudged the line between the two.

It's true. The age of the honest, noble, self-righteous superhero (i.e. Superman) is slipping away. Yes, Batman had to get dirty and question his morals in this sequel--as did Spiderman in the third film and Iron Man in the beginning--but Hancock was about a guy who didn't want to be a hero. He just wanted to know who he was, where he came from, and if he was the only one of his kind. He was unapologetically a pathetic alcoholic. Similarly, Hellboy is a cigar-smoking, tough guy, who kicks ass and then takes names. And Watchmen is about an alternate universe where being a superhero is against the law and those who secretly wear the masks are just as flawed and mortal as humans.

So it's no surprise that on the heels of those pioneering flicks, a film like Capeshooters should be greenlit. Hollywood is trying to approach the superhero genre from a different angle to keep restless, formula-hating moviegoers interested. Its story follows two slackers who become paparazzi to superheroes, stealthily filming them in action. One day they stumble upon a well-kept secret. It turns out one of the most respected superheroes in the world is actually a villain.

I think that superhero movies have taken a lot of heat this summer (no pun intended) and deserve a bit of an overhaul. Bring on the unexpected twists and creative backstories. Don't get me wrong. I love Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, and Superman (in that order), but I wouldn't mind something out of the...extraordinary.

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