We’ve had a great many superhero movies. And, recently, many of them have actually been quite good. Take, for example, the Nolan Trilogy. Or the Iron Man movies. The Avengers. Not only are these some of the best superhero movies ever, they are some of the best movies ever. And that’s because they’ve nailed the formula. I believe that there are four essential parts to a great superhero movie, and they can be found below in order of importance.
Action is a key piece to any superhero movie. I mean, could you imagine a Spider Man movie where all Spider Man did was mope and feel sorry for himself? (Well, yeah, that’s essentially what Spider Man 3 was.) Anyways, action is key. It’s what initially attracts people to the movie. And offering some great action spectacles is always an awesome thing in any movie. And honestly, who doesn’t want to watch Batman beat up a group of Joker thugs?
The Avengers offered some great action, but not at the cost of a plot.
Competition? I think not…
Casting is another big thing. Certain actors just don’t fit the character. One of my favorite examples of this is in the Batman movies. In the Nolan trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises), the casting was spot on. Heath Ledger as the Joker, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. And then there’s Batman & Robin (this is where I take a break to go vomit) where the castign was part of what led to the movies downfall. Sure, you could make a strong case that it was the writing, but come on. George Clooney as Batman? WHAT? And seriously, Mr. Freeze is in no way similar to the Terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a mockery of the character. Another example is the Avengers and the lead up movies. The casting was excellent, especially Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk (Sadly, only in the Avengers). Casting is what allows for such great character development to occur in superhero movies, and that is one of the biggest elements of superheroes.
2. Loyalty to the Comics
The first Avengers comic book, where their opponent was… guess who? Loki.
This may seem a little odd, yes. I do understand that movies that aren’t based off comics can be good. However, it is not movies that are entirely based off comics that are the reason I say this. Personally, I feel that those are better done in the realm of animation. However, it’s taking elements of the comics and transferring them into the movies that I appreciate, and find makes the movies better. For example, after re-watching the original Spider-Man movie this summer, it really annoyed me that the webs came a s apart of being bitten by the spider. Movies that take elements from the comics, such as The Dark Knight and The Avengers, to name only two, are my personal favorite superhero movies. They don’t follow any exact story line but they do borrow elements of certain stories and put those in the comics. So, yes, I feel that this is key in creating a good superhero movie.
The writing for the Dark Knight is what makes it the best superhero movie of all time.
Writing can make or break any movie. But it’s especially important with superhero movies, as they are based off of written material. Poor writing can ensure a movie that defeats the purpose of superheroes. Good writing can create excellent character development, story lines that move forward at a good pace, and results in a fictional movie that has a message applicable to real life. Some movies, of course, do this better than others. But, generally, the good superhero movies are the ones with the better writing. Because good writing creates a good plot, and a good plot creates a good movie. Especially since superheroes are so awesome as a result of the plot, and not just the action.
To close, I’d like to say that none of these can be sacrificed for the sake of another. Take, for example, the two Fantastic Four movies. Both had some awesome action, but the writing didn’t exactly cut it. It was, quite frankly, bad. Green Lantern did the same. But my biggest issue with that is that the casting was actually pretty good, it’s just that the writing was so bad that the movie failed along with it. I can’t exactly think of a great example of a superhero movie that sacrificed action for plot, but I’m sure that wouldn’t be great either.
Fantastic Four – sacrificing decent writing for action didn’t exactly work out that well, did it?