Tag Archives: X-Men

Genre Blending

Remember when superhero movies were just becoming a thing? They usually fell into the same pattern: someone gets powers and saves the world. Fairly straight forward, right? Sure, there were different approaches to the idea: X-Men drew on themes of discrimination and Spider-Man was about a hero trying to balance life and superheroing. The Dark Knight, Watchmen, and The Incredibles deconstructed several tropes associated with the genre, and Iron Man and The Incredibles reconstructed a deal of them (yep, The Incredibles did both). But at the end of the day, all of them were, for the most part, variations on a theme.

Then Thor rolled around. While, yes, it was still about a superhero saving the world, the film and character were approached like a fantasy film in the vein of The Lord of the Rings rather than an out-and-out ‘superhero film.’ The result was a movie that felt very different from, say, Iron Man. Suddenly the superhero genre had expanded. Thor wasn’t just about a normal guy getting powers; it was about a fantastical superhuman progressing through the hero’s journey in a blend of fantasy and reality.

A few months later Captain America: The First Avenger came out, transplanting a superhero movie into a period piece (like The Incredibles!). Unlike The Incredibles, though, The First Avenger fully embraced its time period: World War II. Just as Thor crossed into fantasy, this film blended the a war movie with superhero tropes. Yes, The First Avenger still has all the hallmarks of the superhero film, but it’s hardly a strict superhero movie. We have a superhero who’s more like a commando (or is it the other way round?). Similarly, X-Men: First Class (also released in the Summer of 2011) took place in the ‘60s, keeping its discrimination subtext and mixing it with Cold War imagery.

Which brings me to The Winter Soldier, the trailer of which just dropped (if you haven’t seen it, go now!). The new Captain America movie seems to be, like The First Avenger before it, dispensing with a lot of ‘classic’ superhero tropes. If anything, The Winter Soldier is shaping up to be more like a political thriller in the vein of Patriot Games or The Bourne Identity rather than Iron Man. Yes, it’s still a movie about Captain America and there is an evil looking villain; but Blade Runner has androids and it’s not Star Wars. It’s not solely a film of one genre.

As a genre, superhero movies, like science fiction and fantasy before it, are rapidly becoming far more diverse with their subject matter. The Avengers drew some aspects from war movies, Man Of Steel focused its central theme not on Superman vs Zod but on the question of Superman’s identity. Of course, this doesn’t always go so well; Green Lantern tried to create a space opera and, well, failed miserably. So what did Green Lantern do wrong? Does space opera simply not work with superheroes? No, Green Lantern was a reminder that blending genres isn’t enough: you always need a good story.

Fun thing is, this trend shows no sign of stopping. Upcoming Thor: The Dark World is still a fantasy (directed by some Game of Thrones alum, no less), Guardians of the Galaxy is looking to be Marvel’s attempt at a space opera, and Ant-Man is gonna be an Edgar Wright film. Why is this so important? Folks, we’re watching a genre develop.

 

Short post? Yes. Why? I’m working on a short film this weekend. I’m busy. Heck, I hardly have time to go out and watch movies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Old Made New

So y’know how Les Misérables came out over Christmas? Of course you do: your neighbor’s been singing it incessantly since (which song? All of them, duh). While musicals are nothing new, Les Misérables was special because they recorded the actors singing live on set and added the orchestration in post-production. Usually, the songs are recorded beforehand and lip-synched to during filming. The route Les Mis took allowed them to try the songs several different ways on set. The result is a fantastic musical and a radical breakthrough in the production process.

Only, well, it’s been done before. Several times, in fact. A quick wikipedia check reveals that some early talkies as well as a couple movies I’ve never seen used it. So why the hullabaloo?

Well, when was the last time a massive musical people were this excited about came out? It seems almost as if musicals fell out of fashion a while back and suddenly we have this daringly massive new one (based on a stage production based on a book) coming out. People are excited. And rightfully so, it’s a great movie, one that might remind us that musicals are viable films. Even though Les Mis really didn’t revolutionize anything, the film has an impact and will now be the one people think of with regards to recording the songs live.

Quick! Think of a comicbook/superhero movie before X-Men came out in 2000! Besides Tim Burton’s Batman and Superman and the sequels. Unless you cheated and used wikipedia, none should really come to mind. Sure, there were quite a handful of rather crappy b-movies that came out, but no one really cared about them. Then along came X-Men and Spider-Man and suddenly superhero movies mattered. Well, not immediately, but look at the movies coming out now.

Within the span of a little over a decade superhero movies went from being absolute rubbish (Batman & Robin) to a viable economic investment (Spider-Man 2) to a legitimate dramatic form of storytelling (The Dark Knight) to an incredibly enjoyable piece of cinema (The Avengers). Was superhero movies a new idea? Nope: the first Captain America serial came out in 1944. But it took proof that it was worth it to give us this new slew of movies. Which I’m certainly not complaining about.

We like to clamber over movies as being new and revolutionary for pioneering old techniques. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, and I’m not saying it isn’t revolutionary. Just because something’s been done to death and cast off as being a waste of time (see: Batman & Robin) doesn’t mean it can’t be done differently (Batman Begins). Good reboots are this: old things made new, done right. We can complain all we want about a lack of originality, but Star Trek and Captain America: The First Avenger are the movies we want to see.

So go see Les Misérables, go enjoy a superhero movie. Never mind it’s not entirely new or revolutionary; they’re trying on old hats, enjoying something new.

And who knows; maybe Les Mis will spark a new offering of cinematic musicals.

Writer’s Note: Apologies for the shorter/lackluster post; I’m in Spain on a school trip. Yes. That is my excuse. Now let me go get tapas.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized