When I was growing up, the superheroes I knew where two-dimensional four-color characters in comic books. The live action superhero was the cartoony Batman TV show but even as a kid I realized the tackiness of it. It wasn’t until Tim Burton’s 1989 movie Batman that it felt like they at least tried to take it seriously.
Kids today have a much wider access to the characters in both comics, movies and computer games that let you fill the shoes of your favorite heroes. And it’s not just because CGI has improved that the movies have gotten better. It’s because really smart people are involved in making them, from script to screen.
Getting Christopher Nolan on board for the Batman trilogy was no doubt a smart decision. But no sooner had the Dark Knight died (at least that’s my interpretation) before DC Comics dropped the ball again, leaving the field wide open for Marvel to score big with Guardians of the Galaxy – a completely left field choice that won over even the harshest critics.
While DC seems to alienate fans with their new dark and gritty reboot of Superman and the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, Marvel keeps surprising us with smart and funny movie versions of fan favorites. Apart from the third instalment that is widely regarded as a misfire, the X-Men movies have been pretty great, both faithful to the comics and smartly adapted for the big screen and a wider audience.
In the original X-Men from 2000, there is a great line where Wolverine bitches about the costumes they are prompted to wear in the final confrontation. Cyclops replies: “What would you prefer, yellow spandex?” A great tongue-in-cheek reference to the costumes of the comics, which undoubtedly would have looked ridiculous in the movie, and a great example of fan service while still having the guts to change things for the better.
The strategy has often looked far from obvious. From Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man to the complete surprise hit of the almost unknown Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel have taken bold choices both in casting and in characters, and pulled off the impossible of bringing together a band of heroes from different movies in The Avengers. They have managed to make us all interested in less known characters, at least from a non-fan perspective, and seamlessly woven together intricate plotlines while juggling dozens of characters at the same time.
This week the news that Marvel have cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. strange and new movies will feature heroes such as Captain Marvel and Black Panther. And at the same time this new clip and trailer from the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron aired, sending chills down my spine – and I don’t even know who Ultron is! Didn’t know I cared!
From my perspective it looks like Marvel can do no wrong and it even made me want to read some of the comics again. What do you guys think? Excited for the future of superhero movies? Or just sad that no one knows these blockbuster franchises are based on comics?