The action-packed trailer of Black Widow (she is white, mind you), the superhero flick scheduled for release on May 1, is only the beginning of a long haul of Hollywood movies featuring the suited saving the world this summer.
For the Avengers-innocent (or if you have been hibernating), Black Widow is Natasha Romanoff played by a deglamorised Scarlett Johansson. The ex-KGB operative is now a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and, though without superpowers, is one of the deadliest women the world has ever known. Black Widow explores a solo angle to the killer lady’s story.
Another film scheduled for release is Wonder Woman 1984. Clearly, neither Marvel Studios nor DC wants the juggernaut to stop anytime soon. But, the point is, do we need to keep watching such movies? Already, bad writing has alloyed the golden age of superhero films. What if, just if, the future is even bleaker?
Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorcese are just two among the major directors who have expressed dismay at pre-sold blockbusters dominating the box-office, preventing a broader market for a more serious fare. Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood and Scorcese’s The Irishman have each been nominated for 10 Oscars.
Let me clue you in further: The first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), collectively called the ‘Infiniti Saga’, began with 2008’s critical hit Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr., and concluded with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Black Widow will kick-off the fourth phase. Good luck figuring out the complicated plot and twisted timelines.
The DC Extended Universe is a little less snarled. Starting with 2013’s Man of Steel, the DCEU has seen seven films with the latest entry being last year’s Shazam!
Though superhero movies have existed since the dawn of filmmaking, the omnipresence of the current crop is traced to the special effects-laden X-Men made in 2000 by Bryan Singer. This film and its astounding B.O. success contributed significantly to the re-emergence of the superhero genre.
So, when will you say enough is enough? When will you tire of the increasingly tangled storylines? Will the computer-aided special effects ever stop dazzling you? When, indeed, will you call it quits? Can you ever go back to the place when Gladiator (2000) was the best movie you saw that year? What is the point in watching all four Avengers movies if you can’t tell one from the other?
In Superman Returns (Bryan Singer; 2006), starring Brandon Routh as Clark Kent/Superman and Kate Bosworth as Louis Lane, the reporter wins a Pulitzer for her piece “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman” that is published in ‘Daily Planet’. We are now asking: “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superhero Movies”. Perhaps, it is not only Superman we need to rid of.
Originally, the superhero movies were meant as nerd nirvana. Now, they have begun to edge out films that geeks and dorks everywhere once adored. Knowing that Loki, the god of mischief, is the villain of Avengers: Assemble isn’t privileged information anymore. It is just a conversation opener by the watercooler. You, and the whole world, has seen the movies. And, with the marketing blitzkrieg, there is no discovery process or serendipity anymore.
Critics mostly agree that these movies are trash
The Joker, based on characters in DC Comics, has dominated the conversation this year. The film has been nominated for 11 Oscars. We are keeping our fingers crossed over whether the film will take home the Best Picture Oscar in which case it will become the first film, based on a comic book character, to win.
Critics mostly agree that these movies are trash. They just have to come up with more inventive trashing. Despite the world-class crafting, the chiselled muscles and the lumbering plot, one really can’t get past the overarching good vs. evil theme woven into these movies.
I remember watching X-Men with mounting incredulity. Even all the computer imagery that preceded this tentpole movie did not prepare me for the mutants-amongst-us story. The special effects were awesome, but it did not come in the way of my instant hating of the flick. I had gone to the movie with a group of my friends in their early twenties, who felt they were all too old to see the movie.
In the summer of 2002, I caught Spider-Man, which made no bones about the fact that it was a love story. And, in the end, it was just that: A love story, albeit one featuring Tobey Maguire as the eponymous character, Peter Parker, and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson.
Since then, Spider-Man has been rebooted twice. If you include, the Oscar-winning Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse, there are eight movies featuring the manic, fast-talking, joke-cracking web-slinger. Do you really got the time to watch seven different versions -- let’s take the animated version off the roster -- of what is essentially the same movie?
Whenever a new Comic-book based character gets his or her own movie, Hollywood omits to look at a crucial factor: The law of diminishing returns.
And, none of these movies is simple in structure. They all feature heavy dialogue targeting intellectually inclined audiences, which when combined with breezy, inconsequential nature of the script can be irritatingly sickening. The law of cause and effect rarely if ever works against our superheroes. In many movies, they are the problem -- and the solution -- at the same time.
The confusion caused by the caped doesn’t end meekly either. Films can be as diverse as Watchmen and V For Vendetta, based on graphic novels, or Fantastic Four and Hulk, both of which are successful comic books, but not satisfying movies.
A recent dinner at a posh restaurant with friends became a demonstration of which demographic gets the superhero the most. My friends were happy to indulge in their teenager who was still glowing after watching Spider-Man: Far From Home. They themselves didn’t mind the trip to the theatre if it could make their son happy for a while, but their parents had refused to partake of the incomprehensible nonsense. The teen was aware of where MCU began and ended, but elders in the family had no clue.
There was a time when people queued up to watch The Godfather. With the arrival of the summer blockbuster, movies got a bit more trivial. The pre-sold franchise films then shook up the system one more time. Now, the caped crusaders are slowly but surely edging everything else out. Now, before the movies become dead as a doornail, we have to resuscitate them.
Nandhu Sundaram lives near the tiny town of Arumanai in Kanyakumari district. He writes mostly about films.
First Published: IST