Friday, 4 November 2011

What Makes a Good Superhero Movie?

Due to the close release dates of Thor and Captain America the two movies get compared a lot, unsurprisingly so.  After seeing Captain America, one of the guys at my local comic shop asked my opinion on the two, and I said without hesitation that Captain America was better.  He said that he had heard conflicting sides on that debate, but he put a lot of stock in my opinion because I am a big fan of both characters (as almost all of the books in my pull box are Captain America or Thor related).

To clarify, I thought Thor was great.  I may have dreamed of seeing a Thor movie in my lifetime, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever see a good Thor movie, let alone a great one.  But I still think Captain America was better.  Why?

The character development in the opening act was so good I didn't care if there was any action at all.

Now of course I wanted to see Captain America's mighty shield standing up for freedom, but there is a man behind that shield and he is a great man indeed.  Before being exposed to the Vita-Rays and taking the Super Soldier Serum, Steve Rogers was a sickly, small man.  He had a list of illnesses pages long, but he still tried to enlist in the army 5 times, coming back after every rejection.  Why?  Because he doesn't like bullies.

I am far more interested in this man, who does everything he can to join the army, not for glory, but because he wants to help.  This man, who threw himself on what everyone thought was a live grenade to save a group of soldiers who had shown him nothing but contempt.  This is a guy I want to see more of.

Often I spend superhero origin stories just waiting for the hero to emerge, but when the story is told as well as this one, I don't care if he ever picks up that shield.  I felt the same way about the second Spider-Man film; I was so invested in the story of Peter Parker I didn't really care if he starting shooting his webs.  The first Iron Man also did a good job on focusing on Tony Stark more than Iron Man.

The Dark Knight is interesting because it is obviously one of the most successful superhero movies ever made, but I was far more engaged by the Joker than I was by Batman.  I didn't care at all about Bruce Wayne or Batman, I wanted to learn more about what made the Joker tick.  And really, Bruce/Batman came in a distant third because the fall of Harvey Dent was equally as captivating.  I almost wish they were not making a third film in this franchise because I doubt it can top the Dark Knight.

What is funny about this is that Stan Lee was doing this in the comics years and years ago; he took cardboard cutouts with different superpowers and gave them personalities, made them real people.  It's a wonder that so many superhero films can't seem to grasp that.

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