Dark super hero films dont work any more, if you collect the response to the latest Fantastic 4 and Superman V Batman trailers you would get that much, the general response is just brutally negative.
But why if in the 90’s just seeing the logo of batman was all needed to make us tingly inside, swarm to theaters to watch the latest barely visible super anti hero in the big screen?
Because Shwarma thats why. Let me explain:
First of all trying to advertise a new super hero movie as something “cool” and “new” is like trying to sell hamburgers explaining how you came up with the idea of putting bread and meat together. Is not cool nor original and is definitely not new, big budget superhero movies go all the way back to the 90’s. that’s 25 years now.
Back in the 90 a super hero film was a rare find, (We have to thank Superman who went from multimilion blockbuster to literally straight to video excrement in 4 movies for that one). Producers just thought it was a better idea to leave super heroes away from any decent budget. But then Batman showed up and everyone was just crazy about it. It proved to producers everywhere it was possible to make the big bucks by bringing a beloved comic super hero face to the big screen if marketted correctly. Then came xmen and with xmen the bug man himself spiderman just fresh for the new millenium, then the dark knight showed the world good super hero movies could exist and they could almost be oscar worthy. (almost)
And then marvel, came along… and they changed everything.
The thing about Marvel is that they have a very particular way to see superheroes, for them having super powers didnt solve all life problems, it made them worse, Peter Parker was a poor, unloved and unlucky nerd before he got bit by radioactive spider, and he became a poor, unloved and unlucky nerd who had to lie to everyone he loved because they literally coud get killed if he confessed he was spiderman.
So how does these guys stay off the suicide hotline? Well for starters they know in they heart they are doing the right thing (thats important) and in the other they just have a sense of humor and/or a “deal with it / soldier on” attitude.
So in 2012 when Joss wheddon finally decided to pull the strings and get all marvel super hero (ironman, thor, captain america.. and hulk I guess?) together in one huge film: The avengers. It was awesome with a capital A, and it had this breezy, no worries tone just in the right parts, that scene where Tony Stark goes and casually talks with Loki that has so much class. It was chock full of amazing memorable action scenes but it also had that. So ok the movie happens they finally beat Loki (spoiler alert I suppose) and surprise there is a secret scene after credits, what could it be? what could that huge revelation be after they spoiled thanos was behind the entire plot all the time? what?
The avengers eating Shwarma. A joke scene with the avengers just hanging around eating shwarma. Not talking, just exhausted, beaten and eating.
So here is the brilliant thing about that scene: first of all they make sure everyone saw it by leaking it online
(yeah it was them everyone knows that). Second: Is the entire Marvel motto expressed in a scene. Yes these are super heroes, yes they have these awesome powers to do amazing feats, but they are also just people and at the end of the day, what they do is their job, they do what they have to do, not because they like it, but because they have to and when is finally over, they just want to wind out, relax, have a meal in peace and dont talk about it for a while.
Just like people hanging out a after having the worst day in work or school.
Thats so believable, relatable, so compelling and just genius.
That’s what so amazing about guardians of the galaxy too, a kid gets abducted by aliens and turns into a rogue pirate type, is he this dark, silent guy who is marked by life because the lost of his parent and home planet? No! He is this guy who dances and listens to 80’s music cassetes all the time while exploring the reaches of space and blasting alien monsters, because, well, being a space pirate is kind of awesome and because he is preserving his true earth heritage, no one dances or listens to music (not his music at least) he does it because he is from earth and only earthlings do that. (the film further acknowledges in another scene where he leaves an alien perplexed just by dancing) by being that way he is way more memorable also it means they actually expend some time thinking on his character. (btw he is not like that in the comic so Kudos to the script writer on that one)
So now lets discuss these new trailers that just showed up like fantastic 4 or f4ntastic (seriously? ok) so we meet Reed Richards who is a boy genius he is what 17? and he shows up all serious and angsty because… hum reasons? Sue who apparently has never had a emotion in her life. (except for that snicker in that scene that looks ripped from CSI thats her one emotion per year) the guy in flames with the “attitude” and the thing which is dark and tall and scary and .. hum wait isnt this the same guy who calls himself “good looking”, and declares “its clobbering time” before pummeling bad guys? I mean.. is this twilight now or something?
Dont get me wrong, dark characters can exist in this day and age, Batman, Punisher, Daredevil we know where they came from they are belieavable. But the arrow, aquaman, superman? seriously ? “I couldnt save my father because it would reveal my secret identity Im so angsty about it” seriously who wrote that? Superman would never had let his father
die to protect HIMSELF thats totally the opposite of his character. Thats the problem with amazing spiderman too, “Oh sorry Harry Im going to just let you die because toying around with my DNA is far too dangerous!” What? Peter Parker? mr. good guy, do the right thing hilself? the guy who left his all time love go (in both versions), because he promised not to put her in danger? that guy? This is 2015. You can not just put the face/logo of some hero guy in screen play the inception music tone and be done with it. No, you have to have some substance, why do we care about this guy, what makes this guy interesting? you cant just write “because he is self tortured because reasons”.
Yes at some point (the 80’s 90’s) being the tortured, angsty, silent strong type was the equivalent of being cool and the best action heroes had this trait, Batman, Stallone, Shwarzenegger, etc. The problem is it became the “generic action hero stereotype #1“, if you check any action film from the last 20 years you will realize at least one character brands exactly that description, we are talking about hundreds of movies (and tv shows) with the same “character”. And guess what happens when something in entertainment gets that much over exposition? we get freakin tired of it.
Thats the problem with these dark super hero films, they have turned beloved characters into generic action hero stereotypes and we are tired of them. they are literally struggling to turn this characters into something we dont want, because THEY think that is cool.
We need characters we can relate to or at least believe they could exist not some guy that is “silent self tortured” because someone in a meeting thought “kids like that stuff”. There’s nothing wrong on a hero being “dark” but we need a good reason (a believable reason) on why is that.
Marvel (out of coincidence or actual study) they counter attacked BEFORE it became a problem , they used their own brand motto to flesh out their characters and make them more believable, likable, entertaining. They say jokes (some of them good) they party, they get drunk, they get sick, they talk casually to their sworn enemies and at the end of the day they go out and eat shwarma.
Why? because people who designed them actually expent time building their characters and give them human traits, instead of copying and pasting an stereotype over their face.
So when the next big Hollywood super hero movie flops and the producers ask “WTF? why did this happen?” you know what is the answer…