Trends in media can often be traced back to a singular source, and right now I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise anyone to say that we are in the age of superhero movies.
Blockbuster movies like “Avengers” and “Black Panther” have flooded the theaters and shows like “The Boys” and “Watchmen” are on the small screen. It seems like everywhere you look you can find some dude in spandex flying through the sky or a grizzled soul perching on the rooftops staring down at a corrupt city.
But not all the attention is positive. Recently, there have been some notable industry figures who have spoken out against this ever growing wave of superhero flicks.
Directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppolahave have gone on record to say that they believe these blockbuster movies are taking the magic out of cinema. Actress Jennifer Aniston was also quoted saying the Marvel movies are “diminishing cinema.”
So the question inevitably must be asked: are these movies truly detrimental to the industry, or is all of this just a lack of understanding that times are in fact changing faster than these celebrities can cope?
First, let’s review the industry as a whole. Hollywood has often been accused of turning up its nose towards certain genres. Horror movies are a key example of this, often getting written off as consumer trash despite films of the genre like “The Exorcist” and “Get Out” both being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
It’s arguable that the same could be said for superhero movies. It can be difficult to compare the subtle actions in “The Godfather” to the bombastic action that takes place in “Captain America,” and yet both manage to hold the audiences’ attention to the point where many people have seen these films multiple times.
The truth is that engagement is engagement, regardless of where it is derived from.
Now, it’s no secret that comic books often get criticized by the public for being “adolescent” or “childish,” but this is actually rarely the case. Time Magazine placed the graphic novel “Watchmen” in its list of 100 Best Books of All Time. Neil Gaimen’s “Sandman” has been nominated for over 30 awards, and even won a Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2016.
This same scrutiny has carried over to the movies adapted from these works. While some films like “Kickass” and “Super Bad” directly answer to these beliefs by being over the top with their adult content, others have managed to pull it off in indirect ways. Films such as “Logan,” “Doom Patrol,” and Netflix’s “The Punisher” have all brought in more mature audiences despite still fitting into the superhero genre.
In the end, there is just one simple fact that I believe sums up what has industry veterans shaking their fist at these movies. As much as some might not want to admit it, the industry has changed. The scale of movies has grown tenfold, budgets have reached billions of dollars, and with that comes the need to reach as wide a range of an audience as possible.
However, this isn’t the attack on the craft the way some celebrities think it is, and let me tell you why. “The Joker” was loosely inspired by the infamous comic book villain, but takes most of its inspiration from iconic films such as “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy.” It has since become the highest grossing R-Rated movie in history. All on a budget of $55 million, which might as well be chump change compared to what studios like Disney and Warner Bros spend on their super-flicks.
In truth, the industry is ever expanding, and while blockbuster films may be the way to earn the big bucks, there will never be an absence of magical cinema.
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