It’s been a massive part of the movie theater experience for most 14-year olds, but the superhero franchise, is it really as relevant as it once was? We’ve seen the superhero morph from the fringe genre in the 50s, to a campy offshoot in the 60s (RIP Adam West, you were probably the most memorable Batman) and then we don’t really need to discuss the Marvel and DC universes in great detail because they have been sown into the fabric of our cinema lifestyle. You can’t turn a corner without your favorite superhero being suited and (re)booted yet again. What does this mean for the superhero movie? Has it been taken as far as it can go? In order to answer this question, it’s probably easier to see where it has been.
The perceived notion of the superhero genre as just being camp as Christmas was mainly due to the 1960s Batman TV series and die-hard fans (as we all are to an extent) of the Caped Crusader’s exploits have taken umbrage of the leather-clad, tight-wearing Bat, kapowing his way through that week’s villain. It’s important to note that even in 1997, a certain George Clooney single-handedly killed off the Batman movie franchise started by Tim Burton, which went from dark (Batman) to wintry (Batman Returns) to camp-ish (Batman Forever) to full-on confusion (the unmentionable fourth installment) only for it to be saved by Christopher Nolan. But the progression of these four Batman movies shows that it can only go dark for so long, even Batman v Superman, although considered a failure in the eyes of critics, it was a box-office success, and whether you think that Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was the movie’s saving grace or not, it’s still a major talking point. Camp sells! And box-office is the name of the game, even the Star Wars franchise is remaining questionable due to the firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from the Han Solo installment, by all accounts indie to the core with their own style, and even Rogue One was subject to reshoots, which points out that the indie sensibility may not carry so well to any fantasy genre.
And as a product, quirky has its merits, look at the sci-fi con stylings of Return To The Batcave, an indie smash, featuring reams of guest stars from within the sci-fi con community, and a natural successor to this is Surge Of Power: Revenge Of The Sequel, which has 66 featured celebrities such as cast members from the original original Fantastic Four movie, the one from ‘94, not the one before the most recent disaster. So, it’s my belief that camp has a firm place within the canon of superhero movies. Why? Because it’s fun! It’s that simple. Iron Man 2 suffered under its own sense of seriousness within the Marvel universe, but the sense of fun is being evened out throughout the subsequent efforts, and the less said about Suicide Squad, the better.
When it comes to the superhero genre, there are firmly two “camps” (pardon the pun), those that need it to be serious and those that take it for its sheer entertainment value. And while that might be a controversial statement, the post-DVD generation that pored over every single movie frame are not the kings of the internet forums anymore, seeing as it’s the job of movie blogs to do this now. So, why don’t we all revert back to taking these movies at face value? The lesson learned in Batman v Superman is that everyone expected this to be some almighty clash! What movies with a “v” in the title have ever been anything but a smash ‘em up popcorn fest (Kramer Vs Kramer has a “Vs” in the title!)? Those that were expecting the second coming were bitterly disappointed, but come on! At the end of the day, the genre will always have these two camps, but the fact of the matter is that while Marvel is flying high, is it because they’re treading the line between entertainment and the canon carefully? The DC movies are slumping somewhat (apart from Wonder Woman, bravo!). But that’s the thing about the canon, it only pleases a “small” amount of people from the perspective of the producers. As we’re almost into another decade of Marvel movies, and DC have movies lined up until the end of time, it might be time to sit back and not take the superhero genre so seriously. So, really, where’s the popcorn?