Growing up in the 90's, it was only natural for me to acquire a mild taste for superheroes. I had the Batman: The Animated Series VHS tapes and played with my Spiderman 2 Lego set and enjoyed every second.
Yet, while it was a blissful time for me, it was also the continuation of the downfall in quality of the superhero oeuvre. What once were long-awaited and well-made epics now were being churned out by the dozen, with little care as to practicable story-lines and believable actors. The franchises started to one-up their competition by being the most sleek, well-designed, and fastest-produced films imaginable. We were unwillingly being indoctrinated into the "Quantity vs. Quality" paradox.
The recent outpouring of crap superhero movies, including the overblown Hot Topic ad that was Suicide Squad, has proven my thoughts that have been brewing for years on this subject regarding the philosophy of the superhero franchises. Marketability has always been an integral part of the superhero equation. If you can create a movie, than in itself can earn millions of dollars, the merchandising opportunities are just as advantageous. As a result, the movies have been decidedly fixed towards creating characters and plots that are as marketable as possible.
Yet, in my opinion, the quality of the film is directly linked to its merchandise. Take the Batman movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson: the film departed from the campy children's show by injecting real pathos and motivation to Batman's actions, as well as delving into the psychology of his enemies. The film innovated and the merchandise that was released for the film have become collectors items because of their attention to detail and craftsmanship. Now, for example, you go to the store and see a Batman figure that is of lesser quality, doubly expensive, and retaining none of the charm and verve of his past incarnations.
These figures are a personification of the superhero film industry at present. We are barraged by these movies, as the number of them made per year have risen. Take 1989, the year the Keaton Batman was made: there were three "mainstream" superhero movies that were released that year - Batman, The Punisher, and The Trial of The Incredible Hulk. Compare that to this year, where we were (and will be) bombarded by seven superhero movies: Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Suicide Squad, and Doctor Strange. Considering that all of the movies released so far this year, save Deadpool, were critical failures, the over-saturation of these films is not an indication of quality.
You can think of it as a comparison akin to McDonald's: if you want cheap, low quality food, you most certainly know where to go. And, every now and then, a low quality outing is perfectly acceptable. But when the mediocre becomes the majority on a level of 6 to 1, the mediocre is now nearly the only option for consumption.
I most certainly don't begrudge anyone liking superhero movies, though they are not my favorite genre by far. That fact aside, I think I would be able to stomach them more if the quality was increased, as I don't have the patience to sit through six superhero films a year that end up putting a whole in both my wallet and mind.
We should not have to accept lower standards in any part of our lives, including aesthetics. Some fans devote their lives to these heroes, because they embody the will to achieve, protect, and irradiate evil ideologies. We should care about the plight of the superhero industry, because we have a right to stand up for the decline of something we vastly enjoy.
You need only walk into a Hot Topic and see pictures of Harley Quinn slathered all over the walls, in her "Daddy's Lil Monster" t-shirt and fishnets to know something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Suicide Squad had the opportunity to present a feminist character in an integrated way in the person of Harley Quinn, yet they opted for a sex bomb with limited backstory and girlish pigtails. Whether it is feminism, human rights, or ethnicity, these movies have proven again and again that their creators are inept in presenting these ideologies in a way that furthers the cause and embodies an idea, preferring to give them lip service instead.
The only way for the situation to improve is for fans of the superhero genre to protest these "cash-in" movies and demand better quality story-lines instead of two-and-a-half hours of explosion porn. As in Politics, if you are willing to be silent in the face of tyranny, you are doomed to endure it. Rational, well-reasoned reviews are the proper venue for this as well, laying out one's thoughts clearly and with passion, explaining why the movie in question is disappointing in specific terms.
I believe, and I hope the mega-fans out there will agree with me, that it is time to put the SUPER back in superhero!
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