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The Popularity of Superhero Movies - Unmasking the Superhero

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The Popularity of Superhero Movies - Unmasking the Superhero  Empty The Popularity of Superhero Movies - Unmasking the Superhero

Post by Admin on Sun Feb 20, 2011 5:17 pm

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Look, it's a's a plane, no it's another superhero movie coming to a cinema near you.

Over the past decade, the American film industry has been churning out superhero movies at a rapid and frequent pace. In between the years of 2011-2012, we can expect at least ten mainstream superhero films to hit the big silver screen. Such titles include the latest Spiderman reboot (yes, again) as well as the much anticipated Dark Knight sequel (third in the series and counting). Since these movies are often massively profitable and generate high market demand, it is unsurprising that filmmakers turn to these projects as a reliable investment. They all want a slice of the market share, thus resulting in countless feature movies about a superhero of every variety.

As the mass production of superhero movies continues, this prompts an obvious question: how many superheroes do we need in our lives anyway? It is fascinating that the same character trope has sustained throughout the years, without a drastic decline in the market demand or supply. This essay analyzes the timeless marketability of the superhero films, and we'll also look at the hottest superhero blockbusters in the upcoming seasons - what makes these superheroes trendy?


The classic superhero archetype originated in comic books, but their prominence in popular culture has extended to television, film, and even Halloween costumes. These superheroes were originally just narrative devices used to reflect the contemporary need for a protector of public justice. Since then, the superhero has evolved into a timeless and versatile entertainment icon. The television industry often integrates these characters into serialized dramas (such as Smallville, Heroes, and most recently No Ordinary Family). Similarly, the film industry has marked countless remakes of superhero films. In fact, The Dark Knight is one of the highest grossing movies of all-time.

The popularity behind the superhero films rests in their predictability and their reliability. For instance, the superhero trope is easily recognizable among moviegoers. They walk into the cinema with a fairly decent understanding of the general storyline: meet the superhero, see their flashy powers; meet the villains, fear their sinister plans of evil. The plot often involves a rescue mission, which ultimately culminate to the climax of an epic showdown between good versus evil. There could be variations among the different narratives, but our expectations will mostly remain the same; we know what we're getting from these superhero movies.

However, the archetype is also diverse enough to provide many different interpretations in its characterization. From the straight-laced defender of justice like Captain America to a morally ambiguous antihero like Catwoman, these characters are fluid and may fall under varying points of ethical spectrum. Thus, the storytelling potential could have endless possibilities. While the plots might be similar, the differences in the characters, the cinematography, and the directorial approaches distinguish each film from one another.

What defines a superhero anyway? Their physical appearance is often a clear indicator, because the superheroes tend to be masked, caped, or wear some elaborate disguise that conceals his or her true identity. Part of their appeal is the mystery that any ordinary person can have a hidden extraordinary ability. Behind that mask could be your best friend, your next door neighbour, or your childhood sweetheart who is secretly saving the world every night. It creates an interesting effect: we are in awe of the superheroes because they seem so unlike us, yet we also relate to them because they share the same struggles as us. The prospect of an identifiable and likable protagonist is crucial to the success behind superhero movies.

The superhero has transformed from a pure representation of goodness in the 1930s to a more nuanced symbol of morality in the recent eras. However, its marketing potential remains consistently strong throughout the decades. What is the social and economic appeal behind these masked vigilantes? One possible theory is that the popularity of the superheroes reflect our society's growing insecurities regarding public safety. After all, it is not a mere coincidence that the upsurge in superhero movies commenced after the 9/11 attacks. We want to feel safe, we want to feel protected, and we want to feel like there is a higher power shielding us from harm's way. Superheroes epitomize security, stability, and the inherent goodness in human beings. We look up to these fictional heroes to protect us from peril.

But who will protect us from the invasion of superhero movies in our local cinemas?

Top 10 Upcoming Superhero Movies in 2011-2012 Season

1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Starring Chris Evans (not his first superhero role, by the way) in 3-D! The All-American superhero serves as a military weapon to fight the Nazis in World War II. How will our beloved freedom fighter fare against Hitler's ultimate weapon, the Red Skull?

2. Green Lantern
Starring Ryan Reynolds in 3-D! The Green Lantern Corps is a brotherhood of superhero warriors who serve to protect and defend justice across the universe. They are powered by magical rings (better than it sounds, no really), which gives them the extraordinary abilities to fight the galatic supervillain Parallax.

3. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengenance
Starring Nicolas Cage in a sequel! He reprises his role as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, who gains his phantom identity through making an unholy pact with the devil. The sequel brings out Ghost Rider from his self-imposed isolation, as he reaches out to protect a 10-year-old boy from demon possession.

4. Super
Starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page in this independent dark comedy film. The low-budget indie features an everday superhero duo, Crimson Bolt and Boltie, who work together to fight the drug dealing overlord Jacques.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man
Starring Andrew Garfield in 3-D! The originally planned Spiderman-4 project is scrapped and replaced by a reboot of the franchise. It is said that this version will have a grittier and more contemporary tone, with a focus on Peter Parker developing his capabilities during high school.

6. The Avengers
Featuring an all-star cast with all your favourite superheroes in one massive ensemble film. It's a crossover film that will gather The Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America in one setting. Joss Whedon is writing and directing the script, by the way.

7. The Dark Knight Rises
Starring Christian Bale in the third and final series of the Batman triology. Christopher Nolan is directing this again, and most of the ensemble cast is expected to return as well.

8. The Green Hornet
Starring Seth Rogen in this action-comedy film. Since the lead character is Seth Rogen, you can pretty much expect the same storyline to play out as his other films. The protagonist is a twentysomething slacker who finds himself in many compromising situations; hlarity and occasionally poignant moments ensues.

9. Thor
Starring Chris Hemsworth in 3-D! Based on the Norse mythologic hero, Thor can summon a variety of weather elements (lightning, wind, rain, or snow) with his mighty hammer. Thor is not so much a superhuman as he is a god.

10. X-Men: First Class
Starring James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in the X-Men prequel. This is the fifth film installment of the franchise. The film focuses on how Professor X and Magneto came together to form the X-Men and the Brotherhood of the Mutants. Professor X and Magneto used to be friends until a difference in moral opinions caused an eternal divisive war between them.

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