July 16, 2017

3 Problems with Modern Superhero Storytelling

If you're left feeling underwhelmed after watching a superhero movie, these might be the reasons.

Full disclosure here—I am not a big fan of superhero movies, but it's not due to my lack of trying. In my younger days, films like Batman ReturnsX-MenThe Dark Knight, and Iron Man actually got me excited about watching superpeople defending the world from impending doom, while films like Kick Ass, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deadpool give me hope that there is more to be seen from an action sub-genre that has become rather stale. 

But what is it that makes some superhero flicks flop and others not? It seems as though they've all got the signature elements of the brand: action, explosions, epic fight sequences, and the battle between good and evil, but perhaps there's more to it. In fact, I know there's more to it, and in this video essay from Simon Cade of DSLRguide, we get to learn about three areas in particular that seem to cause the biggest problems for these high-budget CBMs.

Whether or not you enjoy watching individuals with superhuman strength and ability (or at least wonderful toys) go toe to toe with all types of malevolent forces, I think it's safe to say that, at the end of the day, people love good stories. I probably dislike romantic comedies more than superhero flicks, but guess what my #2 all-time favorite movie is—Annie Hall. (And I definitely wouldn't mind watching When Harry Met Sally on any given Sunday afternoon.)

Story is king, always. Story wins over genre, style, or age-old universal rivalry. That's why it's so important to put story above everything else when working on a project, especially when working within a genre that has been putting it in the corner in order to put action-packed CGI set pieces and expertly choreographed fight scenes in the spotlight. Sure, it's a spectacle, but spectacle isn't story.

So, if you're working on a film, even if it's not a superhero film (but especially if it is), take some time to think about Cade's observations about the genre and what he thinks is lacking. Is your story a regurgitation of what we've already seen, or are you adding something new? Are you allowing your audience to feel empathy toward the characters you're putting in harm's way—even the faceless ones presumably inside the buildings you're demolishing? Are you putting your hero through the emotional hell that you viewers have likely gone through, because I doubt many of them have ever had to muster up enough courage to save the world from the cybernetic shapeshifting aliens of a murderous Asgardian prince.      

Your Comment

13 Comments

Superhero trash and now the new live action disney reboot trash are zero risk money makers. As long as morons around the world keep supporting this trash, Hollywood will keep cranking this cheap easy shit out. The superhero fad has got at least another 5 years before your mainstream morons start to question the need for another Spiderman reboot origin story every year.

July 16, 2017 at 4:36PM

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Jake
67

Buddy, you're way out of line. People watched these films because they love the comic book films and what Marvel does done with it. Are they perfect films? No. But people will watch not because they dumb, they just watch to be entertained. If you don't them, that's fine. Just don't a dick about it nor try to take away someone's appeal from it.

July 16, 2017 at 5:17PM

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Jwalker
184

Hey, it's his opinion ... and uh, he kinda has a point. Many fans take their nostalgia and past associations with a character/franchise and have a hard time judging a film based off it's actual stand alone merits. Most super hero films these days, even the "good" ones are terribly cheesy and have bland characters and repetitive plots. I look forward to the super hero phase dying out so we can get back to original creative blockbusters where filmmakers have to build their audience off of their stories instead of relying on established franchises.

July 16, 2017 at 9:59PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1151

I know it's his opinion and I'm not trying to attack him for it. I'm just saying he's in the wrong for looking down on the audience who watch these films. I'm able to judge these films as films and not as spot on representations of the comic books. The superhero genre aren't the worst thing to happen in modern cinema and people need to stop thinking that it is. If you don't like it, fine. Just try to understand why others do like it. The superhero phase will die soon but until then, either enjoy while it last or ignore it entirely. On a side note, The MCU films aren't masterpieces but they're trying. They have talented people in the cast and crew working their butts off to deliver a solid product and I would rather see the MCU put in effort in their films than just be lazy and not even care.

July 16, 2017 at 11:42PM, Edited July 16, 11:57PM

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Jwalker
184

I do too. While we wait, audience (I mean us) should go to the superhero movies which have at least character development, or the ones that try to shake cages. I went to see Deadpool; I felt it was too hyped, but it never tries to be an epic tale. When I went to see Suicide Squad, it was the opposite. It tries so hard to be relatable with music and bright colours and some supposed laugh and then finding a generic villain to fight. Everything was a mess.

Maybe that's the real problem: superheroes have fought enough external villains.

August 21, 2017 at 9:38AM, Edited August 21, 9:38AM

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Abi Stricker
Student
296

Wow, you must be one of those "serious" film fans who likes Citizen Kane and stuff... -_________-

Marvel movies are inconsequential fluff, yes, but they have their place. That doesn't mean they're all good films (I'd say only half of them are really worth watching), but cinema without big budget blockbusters is an incomplete form. There's always someone lamenting the death of "art" in cinema and yet here we still are, with tons of incredible, truly worthwhile films being made every year.

July 16, 2017 at 7:55PM, Edited July 16, 7:55PM

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Daniel King
Videographer, Editor
202

I'm not a serious film fan but trying to get back into it. And I have yet to see Citizen Kane but I'm in no hurry to see it. I will soon.

July 16, 2017 at 11:45PM

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Jwalker
184

Wow that was an ugly comment, I mean, feel free to have your opinion but do you need to be so vocally abusive to the fans? I happen to like the Marvel movies, and (some of) the DC films as well - I know they're not groundbreaking and they're not trying to be, It's important for cinema to have popcorn blockbusters as well as intricate indie films.

At the end of the day, the Marvel films make me laugh, cry, and I generally have a great time watching them, therefore I'm glad there are so many, otherwise we'd have more independence day, jurassic park and indiana jones reboots

July 18, 2017 at 4:08AM

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connor
20

Once again, don't be a dick about disliking superhero films.

July 18, 2017 at 7:43PM

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Jwalker
184

Feel free to knock superhero films but don't throw romantic comedies under the bus to make your point. Yeesh. Romantic comedies are the basis of relatable stakes- can two people overcome their obstacles to make a connection? This is why a love interest is shoehorned into almost every super hero film made. In fact, I would argue that Deadpool is actually more of a romantic comedy than a superhero film.

July 17, 2017 at 12:20AM

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Casey Preston
Videographer
182

Lol.. This makes some sense.
Yet, super hero movies are booming like mushrooms.

July 17, 2017 at 2:24AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
689

The studios know exactly whats wrong with the bad Superhero movies and know exactly what's right about the good ones. Often its too late to fix it once the train can't be stopped with massive studiohead egos bumping heads. The only surprise is when one gets universally panned, yet still does extremely well like Batman vs Superman. To apply "art" film sensibilities to a superhero movie gets you Hulk by an over-rated director who has no right making superhero movies and we know how well THAT turned out. !!ack!!

Simple. Get the right property plus a good script plus the right actors that can pull it off and it works. Shove a crappy script down our throats and try to cover it up with FX and you get Fantastic Four or the last Spiderman with Electro. Not exactly simple to get that together but the formula is there and it literally applies to any movie.

July 17, 2017 at 9:10AM, Edited July 17, 9:12AM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
690

wow good movie this i have seen this http://freegiftcardgenrator.com/xbox.php

October 23, 2017 at 1:45PM

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