Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Superhero Sequels

This past weekend, Spiderman 2 was on and I stopped in to watch it.  This is my all time favorite superhero movie.  It got me to thinking that a lot of other franchises seem to falter in the sequel.  I looked at Spiderman 2 and found where it was different than most superhero movies.

The first movie of any franchise is dedicated to the character's origin.  Spiderman was bitten by a spider, batman was scared by a bat, and superman was super.  Through the revelation of the origin, the character develops depth as we see what events in that characters life helped shape them. 

In contrast, the sequel generally ignores the hero for a large part of the movie and focuses on the creation of a villian.   I don't think anyone would argue that The Dark Knight was actually a joker movie.  This is obviously not the death knell for a movie in and of itself.  Spiderman 2 has a villian introced and works fine.  Why Spiderman 2 is better than The Dark Knight in my book is that the Spiderman movie is still about Spiderman.  The character is still developing and growing.  Batman emerges full Batman and is giving a cursory love story, but does not develop.

A second issue is the multiple villian angle.  Screen writers are under the illusion that the arch nemesis is the only villian that can carry a movie on their own.  Their solution is to put multiple villians in the same story.  Now, the hero is giving up screen time to two villian's origin stories.  The story feels rushed as you bring all these characters together.  The 1990's Batman films are a shining example.  Heck, Batman and Robin was focusing on two villians and their origins, while focusing on the origin of a new hero and incorporating in the two existing heroes.  This is done in 125min.

Superhero movies are as much about the secret identities as they are bout the hero personas.  As much as you love what the mask does, it is the person behind it that pulls the audience in.  Spiderman 2 realizes that and actually has Spidey remove his mask several times.  It hammers it home on the train as someone says, "He is only a kid."  The movie never lets you forget that Spiderman is Peter Parker. 

It is amazing that a movie that did everything right, would ultimately get everything wrong the next time around.  I think Iron Man 2 was able to learn these lessons and does a pretty good job implementing them.  Fantastic Four fails partly because the characters are the mask, it is hard to identify with them. 

Waht is your favorite comic book movie?  Why
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SteveB said...

Good post, Budd. Yes, I always really liked Spiderman-2. I thought they approached Peter and Doc-Oc well and told a good story that moved everything forward. I liked it more than the first one.

I liked "Watchmen" too -- almost for the way it DIDN'T get into the whole "origin" story for most of the characters. I thought it handled the original material pretty well.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd have to say the new Batman movies and Iron Man. And while Watchmen wasn't my favorite, I have the graphic novel and I was impressed how well they followed the story - sometimes frame for frame.

Nick said...

Good post. I hadn't thought about the villain focus weakening the movie, but it rings true to my ears.

I enjoyed the 1st 2 Supermans, the Spideys and the newer Batmans. I enjoyed the Tim Burton Batmans although flawed.

But I have to say the only superhero movie I rewatch at all is The Incredibles. So I guess that's my fave.

Nick said...

Oh, I forgot, I dug X-Men 2 as well. X-men 1 was ehh to me. X3 sucked.

Budd said...

Steve- Watchman was pretty enjoyable-I watched Spidey 2 again last night and it just has a flow and the actors become the characters and stay human while doing so.

Alex- I think Iron Man did a pretty good job as well. Downey owns the role. Batman TDK was amazing.

Nick- The incredibles-I mean it had Jason Lee, so of course it was awesome. It was a lot of fun. X2 was good. Established hero plus established villian. New villian introduced in short time with easy to understand motivations. X3 was horrendous.