Comic book superhero movies have been around for a very long time now and with this people have began to question them. They seem to be on the up and up and after a select few in recent years have been met badly by critics it feels safe to assume that they have become formulaic… otherwise boring. So will they go the way of the western? Meaning that they dominate the film landscape for so long they get criticised and eventually become unoriginal and uninteresting.
If you had asked most people that question a few years ago, they would say yes… However it seems the men and women behind superheroes biggest studios, these being Marvel, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros have found unique ways to reinvent the formula as those behinds westerns did. Meaning they’ll stick around for a bit longer.
A very interesting article (linked below) calls the Western in the 1970s a “generic paradigm” and it’s safe to assume that comic superheroes play the same role in modern society. As they aren’t their own genre anymore, they set out to define sun-genres. Comic movies are no longer a genre in themselves, they are an umbrella term for incredibly different movies
For example fox have branched out from generic A to B defeat the villain superhero movies, a concept that dominates their X-men franchise. They did this when tackling Deadpool, a 4th wall breaking comedy. The status it holds as the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time is a testament to the success of its deviance as hyper violent and witty. Then earlier this year they came out with Logan. a movie that really stretched its R rating and is even questioned as a superhero movie, as its main claim to this is starring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Even so its dark, gritty and downright depressing tone was fresh for the superhero genre. For them at least this seems to be working, as their next ‘New Mutants’ movie is set to be a horror superhero film.
As the article tells, Westerns may have fallen due to their genre becoming heavily associated with an iconography, this being outfits, landscapes and decor. It is safe to say that for the longest time heroes in spandex (or leather) had fallen into this trap, you knew one of these films when a poster propped up, and often the iconography was associated with plot points. These being origins, one time villains, and funny costumes.
However in 2012 Marvel set out to change all that, they had planned something huge… the Avengers. Suddenly Superheroes didn’t need to be secluded anymore. The huge intellectual properties owned by these companies realised they could be brought together. So we have movies where the heroes fight, where they work together and more, this created a new and incredibly successful dynamic. It even lead to the biggest showdown in history just last year, between Superman and Batman. This change can be seen rippling through in the last few years and in the near future. With multiple Avengers films, a Justice League on the way and the successful reinvention Captain America Civil War.
This is even set to change further, with the advent of Captain Marvel and black panther hopefully bringing to an end the heavily present ‘white male’ superhero that seems to dominate the silver screen. And even then when Thor Ragnarok lands later this year we are promised to see a Thor/Hulk road trip come buddy cop film. So no, Superhero movies aren’t all the same anymore, they are incredibly different.
Much like Westerns were back in the day, superhero movies are hybrids and multi generic now. Setting the bar for genres while they’re at it. Now will they go the way of the Western? Probably as all things must come to an end (sorry to get existential), but then again they keep proving with the critical acclaim and money they are making that they are only going up.
So only time will tell if Superheroes will go Western.
http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/michaelwalford/entry/the_western_creating/ — The Western: Creating and Re-creating the concept of Genre