Spandex, Sweat, and Superhero Movies

By Benjamin J. Anderson

I’m done watching comic book superhero movies. I can’t take another sequel of another adaption of another comic book. I don’t want to watch Robert Downey Jr. be a handsome Tony Stark for the seventh time. I don’t want to see Chris Hemsworth tuck his golden locks behind his ear before defeating evil yet again. And I can live without a third Spider-Man reboot in 15 years.

Look back to the early 2000s when comic book heroes first started to get the cinematic treatment they deserved; we were coming off the tail end of the ‘90s where superheroes were (at best) campy kid’s movies, and Batman’s suit had tactical nipples. A few studios decided to try something new by giving films like X-Men and Spider-Man a more serious tone and style. To the surprise of diehard comic book fans, these adaptions actually had a modicum of respect for their source material. CGI and practical effects had developed enough to where the stunts seen in superhero movies were actually believable. The age of action scenes looking like Lou Ferrigno waddling through molasses was over, and thus, a new era of superhero movies was born.

More comic book adaptions were released over the next few years; we saw The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Punisher, Daredevil (we don’t talk about that one), and my personal favorite, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, starting with Batman Begins. However, it didn’t stop there: big name comic book publishers found that high-budget film adaptions of their more successful intellectual properties were a safe bet because they practically guaranteed massive box office returns. Along with this growth came a new wave of spinoffs, sequels, and reboots.

Look at the current list of big name releases for the next year: on the menu, we have Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, and in early 2018, we’ll have Deadpool 2 and Black Panther. What do they have in common? Literally all of them are either sequels or spinoffs of characters we’ve already seen in recent films. This year, Hollywood tried to be a little adventurous. We had Deadpool, which challenged the traditional family-friendly narrative in superhero movies, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which at least tried to do something different. But then we had Suicide Squad, the neon cinematic equivalent of a wet Band-Aid in a pool. It stars Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jared Leto as the Joker, and Will Smith as Will Smith. I don’t know what was worse about it; Margot Robbie’s embarrassingly low effort punchlines, or Jared Leto’s method “acting.” Oh, and by the way, Warner Bros is releasing a Harley Quinn standalone movie. Shocking.

Some people find enjoyment out of the oversaturation of comic book movies, and that’s fine. I however, find it exhausting. I’ve lost interest in keeping up with whatever new sequel or spinoff that DC or Marvel have found it most profitable to churn out. At this point, we may as well watch a three hour recording of an incontinent Stan Lee filing his taxes filled with endless jump cuts, because we wouldn’t want to give actors enough continuous screen time to actually act (read: do their job). So why have comic book superheroes taken almost complete control of cinemas around the country?

I think there’s two key reasons for this. First, they’re easy to sell. They’re based on characters we’re already familiar with, and it invokes feelings of nostalgia in some of the older comic book fans. Rather than take a major financial risk on new intellectual properties, studios would prefer to shoot another sequel or adaption to drum up new money. Why reinvent the wheel if the wheel can gross over $1 billion worldwide? And second, the stories have already written themselves. They don’t have to create any characters, design any real plot, or plan out a universe to stay consistent across multiple sequels and spinoffs. The writing is already there for the taking, just waiting for a couple high profile actors and a large budget to make a handsome payout.

Look, I appreciate the efforts by big-name film studios to bring comic books out of dingy strip mall shops and on to the silver screen. But I can only take so much spandex and sweat. If you enjoy the current wave of superhero movies, then by all means, keep enjoying them- don’t let this one, poorly written article convince you to hate your favorite thing.  All I’m asking is that you take a little time to think about how many comic book superhero movies Hollywood has vomited out in the last decade.

And the next time you want to invite me to see that new superhero movie? Don’t.