|Posted by Ratin8tor on July 19, 2012 at 5:00 PM|
Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Last time I complained that The Amazing Spider-Man is nothing more than a retooled version of Batman Begins and that the film suffers for it. While it is still the case, I still wonder whether I can give it that sort of damning reputation. After all, aren't all Superhero Origin Story Movies the same? And if not, what makes them good?
First off, lets look at the standard way most of these films play out. You spend the first hour of the film being introduced to the lead character, the man behind the mask. We learn who he is, who he is friends with, what he does and doesn't believe in. All good character building stuff. Then comes the 'inciting incident' where he gets his superpowers. Now straight off the bat the big problem with superhero films is that it often takes them at least a third of the film to get to the inciting incident, a lot longer then most average films (if you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up). Once the superhero gets his superpower he learns what he can do with them, taking about another hour of screen time. It's only by the climax that the superhero that we know and love finally appears on screen and does what we paid to see, which is save the day in a cool and climatic fashion. Every first superhero movie is guaranteed to be an origin story. And it bugs the ever-loving crap out of me.
To put it simply: Do we really need Superman's origin story? Really? Everyone knows the origin of Superman. Baby sent from Krypton, lands on Earth, grows up to be Superman. It should be explained in the opening crawl a la Star Wars. We shouldn't spend an hour watching a character that's not Superman do not-Superman things while he gripes about being a superpowered individual. And that would make an interesting film... if I hadn't already seen that film done before and better. Hence why I'm not really looking forward to seeing the same story retold in Man of Steel next year. It's also why I found The Amazing Spider-Man rather dull in the grand schemes of things. But does that mean I hate all superhero origin stories?
Well, no. Since there are two that do it perfectly: Iron Man and Captain America. Iron Man works because Tony Stark is an interesting character. He's great fun to watch. He's got a devilish charm that shines through when he's got the suit on. Sure the movie villain was rubbish and anti-climatic, but who cares? Tony Stark is still a really fun character to watch. As for Steve Rogers, he is clearly a good person that has a good heart. He is, with no bones about it, a hero. Before he got the serum he was a hero. “Oh,” I hear you cry, “Peter Parker was the same. Why do you like Captain America better?” Because Steve Rogers, like Tony Stark, is a very interesting character. A man that chooses to do good with the powers he gets. More interesting then Peter Parker, since Peter Parker is meant to be the Everyman. Steve Rogers is clearly meant to be a good person. But the biggest strength of these films is how both Tony and Steve are interestingly flawed characters that are a joy to watch. While Captain America is the stronger film (since the title character appears on screen for a lot longer), we care about the man the behind the mask. Which is something that most film-makers are only beginning to realize.
See, back in the early day of superhero films, the first one was often considered the worst by me. Why? Because they were often the most dull. I didn't care for Peter Parker. He was a bland character who just wasted time that Spider-Man could be on screen. I didn't have much sympathy for Bruce Wayne since I came to see Batman. None of these characters were characterised in a way that made them appealing. Was I being too dismissive in my teenage years? Yeah, course I was. But the point still stands. It's difficult for the audience to care about the superhero if you don't care about the man behind it. But that's not my only gripe with the first movie being the origin story.
1989's Batman isn't a perfect movie by any stretch of the word. But it did one thing perfectly: it didn't dedicate half the film to giving Batman an origin story because it didn't have too. Batman swoops in and kicks bad guy arse, and that's all you need. You already know Batman is going to be the good guy star of the film, since his name's in the title. We don't need to see how Batman became Batman, we want to see him do his thing. But furthermore, they do explain the origin story. Briefly, quickly, and with a stupid retcon. But it's not laboured on. It's told fast enough for anyone not in the know to get it, but doesn't engulf the plot. Why can't more superheroes films follow that lead and explain the backstory in five minutes in order to make the rest of the movie more interesting?
But if you are gonna do the origin story, then at least copy one of the greatest films ever made: Chronicle. The story of three teenagers getting superpowers, 90% of it is nothing more then the origin story of a)how they got them and b)how they eventually become superheroes/supervillains. But it works because these characters are both interesting and fascinating. Even though they never don masks, if they had halfway through it would still have been interesting to watch. More movies should be trying to copy Chronicle.
So there you have it. Superhero origin movies mostly annoy me; and don't steal from the really good ones like Chronicle. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.
Categories: In Too Deep