Pursuit of a happy superhero 04.18.2007

The Guardian film blog has an article out about the trend of quality actors taking on superhero roles.

What seems to be happening is that the actors themselves are being duped into thinking that these are roles of Shakespearean complexity.

Or, perhaps, they like money. Or they like the role. Not every role an actor takes has to be Hamlet wallowing in self-pity. Something about the role must have interested the actors in question — it doesn’t have to be Shakespearean complexity.

Blame the unstoppable rise of the modern graphic novel. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen opened up comic books to a wider audience by adding a dash of realism to the fantasy world.

Comics experience a resurgence due to the addition of a more dark and gritty atmosphere.

Directors have taken this as a green light to slap large helpings of human suffering and emotional torment on top of any comic book material that comes along, to the delight of a succession of quality actors.

Comic movies experience a resurgence due to the additional of a more dark and gritty atmosphere.

Sadly for everyone else, the only people who want to see a miserable superhero are the actors and directors > themselves.

Everyone decides to watch and enjoy Batman Begins, Sin City, and V for Vendetta.

I don’t see it. It seems to be audiences have, as always, gravitated towards those movies that are well made with interesting characters and plot.

Spiderman, for all its talk of “responsibility” takes itself no more or less seriously than a soap opera. The lightness of touch and humanity that Tobey Maguire brings to the title role are as essential as Sam Raimi’s ability to marshal both domestic scenes and big set pieces effectively. Maguire may never win an Oscar for Spiderman, but he’s not trying to, and that’s why he’s such a great Peter Parker. Hugh Jackman, to his credit, managed a similar feat as Wolverine, and I harbour some hope that Robert Downey Jnr, currently filming Iron Man, might remember to hold on to his sense of humour throughout the shoot.

Spiderman projects a jovial and flippant exterior, but any reader of Spiderman comics will know that as a character, Peter Parker experiences a huge amount of dark angst, personal depression and gritty realism. Just because he’s clad in red tights doesn’t mean he has to be chipper twenty-four hours a day.

Likewise, Wolverine is the darkest, most angst-ridden character ever. Ever.

Ironman has the weak body of a man trapped in a mechanical construction. Not as dark as Wolverine, but you’d be fooling yourself if you pretend Ironman is all rainbows and roses. There’s a central angst ridden foil in Ironman.

The main problem with the blog post is that a superhero film can and sometimes should rise above the line of standard popcorn fare.

If Moore did it with Watchmen and Gaiman did it with Sandman and Miller did it with Dark Knight Returns, then Hollywood can sure as hell do it with their film analogues.