Hero(ine) Overdose

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Riding into the sunset, perhaps?

Riding into the sunset, perhaps? Photo By Toby Canham/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Photo By Toby Canham/Getty Images

Yes, I've seen the new Batman movie, and Iron Man, and Superman Returns, and all the Spiderman films. And I'm apparently in good company... These are all movies that made gobs of money at the box office. I'd likely plunk down my $8 for the next in each series, too. But with comic book characters winning the day in movie houses, the New York Times' A.O. Scott raises a disturbing question for any fan of the cape and mask genre:

Any comic book fan knows that a hero at the height of his powers is a few panels removed from mortal danger, and that hubris has a way of summoning new enemies out of the shadows. Are the Caped Crusader and his colleagues basking in an endless summer of triumph, or is the sun already starting to set?

And before you brush it off as some sort of overly intellectual attack on comic book films, consider the evidence... Every comic book movie must follow a simple format (good guy v. bad guy, lots of action, evil never wins), and after many years of churning out movies full of bodysuits and secret identities, Hollywood may simply be running out of creative ways to get into and out of the big showdown with the villain. As comic book movies go, A.O. Scott gives credit to The Dark Knight for stretching farther than any of its kind so far. But he argues this may represent a peak... both in terms of pushing the limits, and in representing the beginning of an inevitable decline.

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I havent seen the latest Batman...yet, but like Scott, I have seen all of the recent "Hero" movies. I have to say that I was a comic book reader as a youth and I feel that, except for the notable exception of Hulk, they did a good job on these movies and I've loved every one of them.
Despite that fact, I agree that it will be hard to continue the streak that comic book movies have been on. As Scott points out, Hollywood seems stuck in recycling the same good vs evil battle over and over. Hopefully, some director/producer/screen writer will actually go back and READ some of the STORIES that are in comic books and realize that there is much more to comics than a hero beating up a baddie. To point out a recent example of such a story: Identity Crisis, one of the most intriguing story lines in comic book history.

Sent by Monty | 2:33 PM | 7-24-2008

I don't need meaningful allegories when I go to an amusement park and I don't necessarily need it for fun popcorn movies.

Sent by Tony | 2:46 PM | 7-24-2008

The Superhero is alive and well as inspiration for fashion in a current exhibit of clothing at the Met, NYC

Sent by Fernando Mares | 2:51 PM | 7-24-2008

Good gravy, the caller at 0:47 was the most meandering, obtuse caller the show has had in some time. Can anyone explain to me the caller's point?

Sent by Ben | 2:53 PM | 7-24-2008

Super hero blockbusters appeal mostly to a male audience. This genre will always be popular because there will always be young males interested in violent action films.

Sent by Mary Ann | 2:53 PM | 7-24-2008

While the comic-book action film has become a stpale of this summer, the action film as an over arching genre has been around since the conception of film. Your problem does not seem to be with the superheroes but with the over the top action which apperently every summer block buster needs.
Comic films can have soul without excess. Im excited for "The Watchmen" which is coming out next year but you "A history of violence", "30 days of night" and "road to predition" are all good movies which are based on comics.

Sent by Dan | 2:53 PM | 7-24-2008

These movies hold no surprises, little plot, rely heavily on special effects, and dis 50% of the US population -- women. How much lamer could a character be than Gweneth Paltrow in Iron Man? Adding insult is the obligatory "chick" flick label for any movie that might even hint at attracting women viewers. Thank God for Netflix and foreign films

Sent by Lou Ann Roth | 2:58 PM | 7-24-2008

As long as the movies in question are based on existing comic books, nothing truly surprising will emerge.
Any comic charater who is well loved enogh to base an entire fill off of, is to well loved to do anything radical to.
Fortunately, THE genre busting comic book of all time is being made into a film.
Watchmen will be the answer to the questions your report has raised.
'Nuf said.

Sent by William"The Ronyon" Bronson | 3:06 PM | 7-24-2008

The mistake this entire discussion is making, is conflating comic book movies with superhero movies. If you've watched, say, a History of Violence, American Splendor, the Road to Perdition, or many, many other non superhero comics that have since been turned into movies you will see that comic books are not restricted to guys and girls in tights.

Though speaking of the respective tights crowd, I feel the problem with a saturation of superhero movies is more a restriction of Hollywood on what they want from a superhero movie. Some great comics such as Invincible by Robert Kirkman(Currently in production as some sort of animated series) focus heavily on themes of Family and issues of family, but it is the studios who aren't interested in a superhero who's greatest travail is convincing his father that he is worthy of the powers that he wields, they want exactly what you complain about, and in turn, that is what we see in the box office.

Sent by M.N.Moore | 3:11 PM | 7-24-2008

It's no surprise that there is a cinematic "hero overdose" (and there is a "hero overdose.") I suppose it is the film world's feeble attempt to provide a downtrodden people who have completely lost their faith in "truth, justice and the American way," and who have no heroes to look toward to help salve a fractured nation. The problem is that these fictional heroes are just that. If there is any film that I am looking forward to is the opening of "Swing Vote." Now, there is a hero that we need -- a mirror image of the regular person. I am hoping that the film will help folks recognize that it is the common person who needs to wake up from his/her technologically-gadget-crazed-materialistic nightmare, and look in the mirror at the beauty to be found in being average. We need to become the heroes we seek. Hopefully, movie fans can understand that these celluloid fantasy/action figures are just that. In fact the only other so-called "caped and masked" character worth his salt was "V" in "V for Vendetta." His mission was to wake up the masses and inspire them to take some kind of accountability for their own destinies.
Hmmm, not a bad idea. Is it?

Sent by Denise | 3:36 PM | 7-24-2008

In a society where God is confined in our church's and temples - and on top of that, too holy to be connected with on a humanistic level (Last Temptation of Christ) - we need a pantheon of gods and heroes that allow us to explore our own incredible potential and tragic flaws, amplified times ten. In addition, the superhero genre provides a suitable spectrum of escapism that comforts us in trying times (war, economic instability).

Sent by Grant T. | 3:39 PM | 7-24-2008

I think we need to wait for WATCHMEN before we declare the demise of the Superhero Movie.

Sent by Julia | 3:49 PM | 7-24-2008

everyone should hang in there until the watchmen movie comes out. These films are for me revenge of the comic book nerd. some of the best stories that made me a reader are coming to life. I just wish they would inspire more respect for the comics and more readers in general

Sent by Ernie | 4:09 PM | 7-24-2008

They should make a movie out of "Kick-Ass" by Mark Millar. Keep it true to the comic though.....unlike "Wanted" which he also wrote....

I think comic book fans would like the movies to be more in continuity with the books. The stories are waaaaayyyyyy better......

Sent by Junior Zuniga | 3:33 PM | 7-25-2008

Comic books and graphic novels have already dealt with the 'superhero overload' the movie industry is in danger of experiencing. When people got tired of creating capes, villains, and the basic good vs. evil morality tale, the writing got more complex. Some of the work became reflective and self-analyzing like The Watchmen. Other works had no interest in superheroism and abandoned fantasy altogether, instead focusing on mundane, realistic, and introspective scenarios (American Splendor, Jimmy Corrigan). Yet others took the fantastic to new levels, mining the trove of mythology, past and present, to create new and exciting tales like The Sandman. And don't forget all the manga!

While the golden age of comic books has long passed, the age of the graphic novel has been flourishing for the past two decades, at least. So there's enough material to turn into exciting, thoughtful movies - and Hollywood seems to want to treat it with the same seriousness the original creators did. Of course there will be flops, bad acting, bad screenwriting, stories being cropped and dumbed down - it's Hollywood, after all. But great classics will also be made. I'll be curious to see what the 'visionary' director of the godawful 300 will do with the Watchmen. Till spring, then!

Sent by Dmitri Sled | 5:01 PM | 7-25-2008