4 Reasons Why Superhero Movies Are Still Smashing Box Office Records Today

the avengers part 2

It has been over half a century since the first Superhero movie was made and yet we still flock to cinemas on opening night to see our favourite comic book heroes being brought to life. With each remake comes an entirely new cinematic experience and we are still being surprised by the development of these age-old stories as well as by the visual spectacles that we have come to expect.

It is not often that we come across one movie, let alone a franchise of movies, that can have the same impact on an audience today as it did 50 years ago. Not only that. These franchises have now attracted a much wider audience than their predecessors. It is understandable that dedicated comic book fans would be excited at the prospect of a movie being made about their heroes, however, I find it a testament to the movie makers, as well as the actors and actresses, that people of all ages and cultures are still queuing in the millions (and in some cases billions) at cinemas all over the world to watch these stories being made reality. I think there are many reasons why these movies are becoming more and more popular; however I would like to draw your attention to my 4 ingredients to the ‘perfect’ comic book film recipe:

4. Heroes are physical Specimens

Man-Of-Steel-Poster-Movie-WallpaperIn order to believe in a Superhero he must look like a Superhero, right? Well, throughout the age of Superhero movies, our leading actors have taken this idea very, very seriously. While Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer’s physical attributes in films such as Batman and Batman Forever were indeed convincing, they are not quite like the physical specimens that we see on our screens today. Today’s leading men, with particular reference to Henry Cavill, who reprised the role of Superman in Man of Steel and Christian Bale, who took the coveted role of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, are now expected to not only act the part but really look like supernatural heroes.

Their impressive physiques comply with the audiences expectations of what they had envisaged their heroes to look like; they should represent a hero that women love and men would love to be, and it is because of this that today’s leading men look larger than life. If we are to look back at actors like Val Kilmer and look now at actors like Henry Cavill, what is always constant is their facial beauty as well as their great physique. We can’t have a Superhero that looks anything less than perfect, can we? We expect to see a body that looks like it was carved by Gods and a face that was chiselled by angels and anything less is rather disappointing. While it may be superficial to have such high expectations of our leading men, it is undeniable that good looking heroes attract a bigger audience. After all, “with great power comes great responsibility”… to look good.

3. A dash of Romance

superman and lois laneWhile a Superhero’s super abilities are indeed the main attraction, a Superhero movie would not be complete without a little romance. You could not have the Supermans and Spidermans without the Lois Lanes and Mary Janes and without these women the heroes would be incomplete. After all, “behind each great man, is a greater woman.” The addition of leading ladies allows for the audience to see another side to their invincible hero and, while Superheroes can possess all the powers in the world, wear the most impressive suits and drive the best cars, the audience can never connect completely to a character that does not possess the quality of emotion. The romance in the comics is often so important and, therefore, it is crucial to get it right when it comes to bringing it to the big screen.

With talented actors like Superman’s Christopher Reeve and Batman Begin’s Christian Bale, we are spoiled with possibilities of what they can do with these characters. If we are to look at Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder for example, their romance was very sweet and pure which was satisfactory for audiences at the time it was aired. Nowadays, this kind of romance might not have the same desired affect and so it has been developed for a more modern audience. In doing so, many modern day writers present their leading couples with a more passionate relationship and this is successfully portrayed by talented actors and actresses.

The main example that immediately comes to mind when thinking about this kind of passionate romance is that shown in Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman whereby Spiderman and Mary Jane have the very famous ‘upside-down’ kiss. This famous kiss is so significant as it is the moment that the audience realises the characters’ powerful affection for one another. It is in instances like this that we are able to see the different dimensions to the superhero and it is for this reason, I think, that romance plays a huge role in their stories.

2. Scarier Villains

mr freezeWhat makes a Superhero film complete? Supervillains! And for every Superhero there is certainly at least one arch nemesis. They are there to challenge the invincible hero and generally try to take over the world. Although the first Superhero movies have many great elements to them, creating scary villains is not one of them. The remakes of each movie, however, are, more often than not, very good in casting the right actors and giving them the right scripts to bring these villains to life. Of course advances in costume and special effects give the newer releases a big advantage in making these characters more terrifying, however much more goes into creating a good villain.

While Arnold Schwarzenegger made for a very convincing Terminator, he far from succeeded in making me hide behind my pillow in his portrayal of Mr Freeze in Batman and Robin. His static delivery of incredibly cheesy lines made for more of a comical comic book villain, much like Danny DeVito’s depiction of The Penguin in Batman Returns.

One comparison needs to be made between original and remake that shows the contrast in acting styles and this is between Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger who both portrayed The Joker. Although I enjoy Jack Nicholson as an actor, his performance in Batman did not quite meet the same standards as The Dark Knight’s Heath Ledger. Nicholson performs the task of representing the joker as mentally unstable and ‘a joker’ very well however he does not capture the sadistic side to the character that makes him such an unrelenting villain. On the other hand, Heath Ledger depicts a great combination between comedy and horror with his clever interpretation of this same role. I think it is fair to say that many of us were scared of, if not definitely left uncomfortable by, his amazing performance and it is for this reason why the late Heath Ledger received the deserved honour of the Academy Award. He, like Thomas Hardy as Bane, most assuredly left their mark as some of the scariest villains in superhero movie history.

1. Special effects

avengersTo answer the question, why do superhero movies keep being made? Well, special effects is why. When the very first movies were being made, the creators were doing things that had never been done before and the same can be said with each and every new remake. While we look back now on films such as Batman and Robin we are often bewildered as to why people were going to see movies with such bad special effects, however at the time, these effects were indeed impressive. In films like The Avengers Assemble and Iron Man we are treated to a feast of extraordinary effects that continue to blow the audience away.

Cities being blown up and paths to other realms become a reality rather than an imagination. It is because of the ever expanding possibilities of technology that these special effects exist and, so, makes the action element to the movies that much more enthralling. Our favourite stories are really being brought to life before our very eyes which is why they become so irresistible to us. As well as allowing for great action scenes, special effects can now allow for greater development of stories. They enable the writers to write stories that can include anything and everything they want and can transport the stories into new places thus creating the possibilities of endless adventures. There are no limits anymore.

It is now that I can conclude by saying that while there may be people that tire of watching Superheroes fighting Supervillains, I think that as long as there are good casts (both hero and villain), good writers (to bring romance to life) and advances in technology (to make fantasy a reality) there is no reason why Superhero movies shouldn’t keep smashing box office records.

My ‘icing’ on the Superhero cake is this: Superheroes have their immortal place on paper and with this recipe, the only thing that can be cooked up is an inevitability that their place in film will also be everlasting.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I'm Catherine and my all time love is reading with film coming in at a close second. My favourite films and books range from romance to action to fantasy.

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10 Comments

  1. Kathryn Graham

    I loved the comparisons of different representations of superheroes and supervillians throughout the ages, really interesting points. Although I never think romance is needed in superhero films! I know it’s to make the heroes look even more heroic as they save the damsel, but the damsels are usually irritating! Look at the Avengers, no love there and still an amazing film. But perhaps I’m just a cynic 😉
    Really good article!

    • Catherine Sweeney

      Thanks for commenting:) While I love superhero films, I also, quite sadly love watching chick flicks which is probably why I like the odd touch of romance! But I completely agree about the Avengers, it’s still sooo amazing!!

  2. What we really need is new good directors taking on the superhero genre. Imagine Darren Aranovsky, or a visionary like Yimou Zhang! THAT would be something.

  3. Taylor Ramsey

    It is not really fair to blame Ah-nold for Mr Freeze. He did what he was cast to do, be hammy and stupid.

  4. Justin Wu

    I’m not a big action fan, but after meeting a middle school student who bases his project on the development of superhero comic books I’ve paid more attention to this genre. I think people love superhero movies also because it gives them a fantasy someone saving the day no matter how messed up the situation is, and we terribly need such kind of person in many scenarios in our lives.

  5. As a comic book fan, I never really liked the films much.
    I have enjoyed some none the less, I have to disagree about Jack Nicholsons performance as the joker, I agree it was very different from Ledger but it was just as good. Tom Hardy as a villain was just as good, perhaps in an inferior film that could of been better. Overall when I look at the Dark Knight series, it has been an effort to make the most realitic comic book hero film as possible… where as the melodrama of the old Keaton films combined witht hat film noirish look seemed to me more fitting aestetically (sp) to what a batman film should look like. Which brings me to something that I find annoying, the recent superman film seemed as if it was trying (very hard) to cater to a Nolan/ Batman audience, spiderman was guilty of this too with its reboot but they were really selling it hard with Man of steel… a film that I thought could afford to be lighter in its tone, as a contrast to Batman, because in a way both characters work very well as a foil to eachother.

  6. Bill Scheggia

    Hey, nice article! I think romance is definitely underrated in superhero movies. At the core of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films is essentially a love triangle; you’ve got the whole Superman/Lois thing, and how Clark/Superman duality affects their chances of being together; even Christian Bale’s Batman dealt with some pretty heavy unrequited love themes.

    And, without wanting to trigger an angry debate, I’d also add the current political climate as a factor. Nothing gets done, bureaucracy reigns supreme, promises are broken, etc. (at least that’s how it is here in Australia at the minute) But superheroes represent the leaders we wish we had – brave, courageous, capable.

  7. Jemma Baddock

    Nice article, thanks for the read! Superhero movies relate to both genders and all ages .. They will forever be a hit!

  8. Sean Hodges

    Great article! I’d have to agree with the points you made – though I have to note that there are rare exceptions to the rule that superheroes must be physical specimens. The Hulk, while many are fond (shall we say) of Mark Ruffalo, is not what you’d call conventionally beautiful, and the Hulk himself is, well… you get the picture. That said, heroes like the Hulk and the Thing (of Fantastic Four fame) have a bit of a different role in their stories, in my opinion; whereas Superman is meant to be admired, Hulk, Thing and heroes of their kind are meant to be more “sympathetic,” if that makes sense.

  9. I love these films and you really wrote a great article! These films give us hope that maybe one day we could throw on a really tight suit and save the world…or maybe not.

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