Superhero Movies: Changing Times

superhero moviesSuperhero Movies: Changing Times

Without sounding too geeky, it’s time for me to voice my opinion about superhero movies and their entertainment value. I will begin by pointing out that there are two major camps about which I will be speaking. Those two camps are Marvel Entertainment (Disney) and DC Entertainment  (Warner Bros.), both of which create excellent and mediocre products alike. If you haven’t seen the movies, beware of spoiler alerts.

What prompts this commentary is that I recently went to my local theater and watched the movies Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice back to back. Both films left me with an indelible impression that I hope to opine within a few words, and I hope that it spurs some response whether one agrees with me or not.

I love film, but I don’t pretend to be a movie buff. I don’t watch the same movies over and over, memorize the dialogue, or consider each beat within the realm of each scene in a movie. Although it’s not how I work, others may, and they are superb at it. What I am good at is giving my first impression after having seen a film ONE TIME. So for those of you who credit yourselves with the expertise of intellectualizing a movie into greatness, forgive me if I miss some important points about Mise-en-scène, etc. What I am about to give you is based on gut feelings.

The Captain America movie left me with a greater appreciation for the work this studio does because of its belief in the importance of the continuity of all of its characters and consideration of each one’s individual backstories.  Each character remained impressive whether or not the main star (in this case Robert Downey and Chris Evans) was in the scene or not. Also in this movie, a new character is introduced to the audience (Black Panther), and there is a reason for him to participate in the Civil War, and to choose a side.

superherosThe Batman v. Superman movie introduces a new character as well, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). While she is stunning in her role, it seemed as though she was just a plant or merely an observer. Bruce Wayne discovers her importance after stealing a copy of Lex Luthor’s computer database, revealing that she is masquerading as a socialite. Bruce Wayne is a socialite masquerading as a superhero. To me, this was a weak setup. She just happened to be everywhere without any known reason (unless I missed the reason for her being everywhere because I may have dozed). Ironically, Whatever the case, for some reason this Batman lacks any real moral balance, experiences borderline psychotic events, and wants to take down Superman as though they are competing hip-hop artists or Instagram models or something. Wonder Woman shows up at the end after some huge rock-looking monster capable of destroying the city begins to do so, and the three of them fight together to take it down. The mysterious Wonder Woman character remains a mystery, leaving a huge gap that will derive the explanation for her presence in another movie, but this one leaves everyone guessing about other superheroes in the Lex Luthor computer database as well (Aquaman, etc.). They used this to telegraph the sequel.

Marvel’s characters remain true to form while the DC characters search for lower, humanized personalities. The Marvel characters were born that way, and the DC characters are de-evolving to keep with current trends. An unnatural move for the characters, and it may be due to the general shift in awareness of the public to accept much lower standards. I guess I’ll hold Zack Snyder responsible for the new, low-brow, non-super Superman as I almost walked out of Watchmen. But I paid too much to watch the IMAX version only to leave early.  Superman has always represented Truth, justice, and the American Way. Unlike the Batman character who has a vengeful nature about fighting crime, Superman always has been known as just being a plain old good guy. But to lessen the importance of these values and principles, to me, makes him much less of a Superman and less of a hero. Gil Scott-Heron wrote a song called, Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman. Because we all know he isn’t real, was the part of the charm that we loved about him! What is interesting is how nowadays the former man from Krypton is now viewed as an alien, more so than an American. This construct read from the pages of the recent dominant, negative public sentiment toward immigrants. Changing times point to the reality that for Superman to remain bankable, he has to move from an optimistic, opportunistic 1939 to the self-centered, narcissism of the 21st century. Sort of like trying to sell a 2016 Edsel (which at some point Ford may even try to do if they follow the path of most movie studios). Spoiler alert: At the end of the Batman v. Superman movie, Superman is dead (or so we think). Maybe they should just leave him in the grave if they don’t know how to develop a high-principled character for the vainglorious 21st century.


On a more positive note, the Marvel characters attempt to find unity in diversity. You know, E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one. In other words, what the word university used to mean until the academic hierarchy drove God out of those institutions. In their Civil War movie, the differences being fought over politically is whether to be governed by the laws of man versus the Laws of God. A far less petty argument than the one portrayed in the Superman v. Batman movie which can be compared to as a quest for social media dominance – vanity. The Marvel movie’s values symbolize a conflict worth the fight. Nevertheless, the brightest point in the film for me was the introduction of who I like to call Baby Spiderman. Tom Holland, a Brit, was most believable in his role as an adolescent Peter Parker. Marvel used their well-known masterful subtlety to let us know that there would be a new Spidey coming to the screen by integrating him into the plot, and to watch him in action! A well-needed boost for the franchise because the Spidey movies of late have been rather lackluster.

That being said, Marvel is not without its flaws, though, and DC is not without its praises. I would like to point out that the movie Deadpool was one that sunk to new lows in an attempt to elicit humor. Even if you take away the violence and the nudity from Deadpool, what remains is total irreverence, void of any logic or meaning. A movie of his type proving to be entertaining to the public because it features a man with special abilities on its own is disturbing. A lack of hope displays itself prominently in the lead character, and the fact that the audience is supposed to laugh at the main character’s irreverence is an obvious example of the hopelessness present in our world today. Not valid, people. We need to examine ourselves.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, was a self-indulgent, comedic fluke, but I’ll watch the next one because it was entertaining. After all, it had a walking, talking tree, and a smart-mouthed raccoon with whom you wouldn’t want to argue.

On the other hand, the depth of the Batman character could not have been portrayed better than what Christopher Nolan brought to the table with his Batman trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises). In my opinion, this has been the best illustration of the Batman so far. Because Nolan was first to introduce the human side of the character, we were given the ability to empathize with the torture the man has gone through that formed his Batman character.

Kudos to Marvel for its clever way of introducing the Black Panther to us. The only one in the entire movie who exhibited the highest moral ground, and therefore is the one we all are more anxious to follow his storyline. DC, you cheapened your introduction to the Justice League using the feminine charm of Wonder Woman without any real reason for her being there in the first place. I may not be right on any of this, but I certainly invite you to bring your perspective (without being too geeky).

–Stu Brown



  1. Arnold says:

    Hello Stu. I’m totally agree with you. Batman’s character is truly wonderful and Christopher Nolan presented marvelous using only natural light and Christian Bale was perfect too. What do you think? are this films have a bad influence on children. Thanks for sharing.

  2. stubabyq says:

    Hey Arnold, nice to receive your comment. Films like Batman v. Superman are trying to find a new audience by deviating from the way that they were originally presented to baby boomers in the ’40s and ’50s. The new values that these superheroes are displaying don’t fit the background of the characters in my opinion. That being said, the departure from being heroes who tend to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the greater good, to being just men with psychological problems harms the character. Not a good influence on children.
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