When classic characters are brought into the modern era
Comic book superheroes have been one of the Hollywood movie scene’s staple attractions for decades now, from the 1970s Superman and 1980s Batman films to the Batman vs. Superman movie that was released earlier this year. This popularity has meant that the major characters from Marvel and DC comic books have modernized and rehashed fairly constantly, to enable the studios to reboot franchises, re-sell old films and produce action figures for sale, and this article will examine that process in more detail.
Of course, it should be noted that – however, much people complain about the seeming glut of remakes and reboots – Hollywood remaking popular franchise has always happened. An example of this is Robin Hood, which has undergone no less than 11 remakes since first hitting the screen back in 1912. However, there is little question that these remakes are happening more and more frequently – and with less time between them than ever before – with an example being The Amazing Spider-Man from 2012 that told the same Spider-Man origin story depicted only a decade before by Sam Raimi. It is also notable that many of the remakes produced in more recent years are opting to take these heroic characters in an altogether darker direction – with Batman vs. Superman being a key example of this – almost making them indistinguishable from the super villains at times. This trend was almost certainly inspired by the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Batman trilogy, which made Batman a more morally ambiguous character than he had been in previous film versions, to great box office success and critical acclaim. It has almost become a cliché now, though, reflected in the negative response to Batman vs. Superman.
One of the current waves of Hollywood leading men, James Franco, has speculated that it is the desire to reach audiences of different ages that has helped make movie Superheroes darker, but it is also likely a desire to capture some of the artistic legitimacy accorded to Nolan’s trilogy that is behind it. However, when the motivations are cynical, this can become very apparent to people watching the films, which is why this movie failed to win the same degree of acclaim.
One benefit of teaming up superheroes in movies is that it avoids the need to repeat origin stories that have been told a number of times before, just because it restructures the fictional universes that the characters exist in – thus DC has the potential to avoid Spider-Man style origin story fatigue. There are some indications that domestic audiences are growing restless with superhero remakes, but these films remain hugely popular in non-English speaking countries such as China – which are key to Hollywood revenues – so it unlikely that their numbers will decrease anytime soon. They also allow for further profits through tie-in merchandising, which ranges from action figures to online slots and similar games based on them. Thus, even if domestic audiences are wearying a little of the films themselves, they are still enjoying products inspired by them.
The indications are clear that some movie fans are growing tired of the repetitious nature of remakes and reboots, but these films are still drawing in vast international audiences so will continue to be made.