“With great power comes great responsibility.”
When Superheroes Fail
Lately we have seen stories where our favorite hero fails in his task, fails in the story and fails the audience. We’ve seen Spiderman drop his girlfriend down an elevator shaft. We have even seen Superman kill. This is the ultimate betrayal of our trust.
How can this happen?
Superhero falls into genre work like Detective, Spy, Romance, Cowboy and Kung Fu, Romantic Comedy and Horror. Each genre has, if not a set of rules, a set of expectations. This is why we plunk down our ten bucks for a book or a movie. We want satisfaction. We would never accept James Bond dying to the bad guy and the nuclear bombs going off in London and then seeing the credits roll; the writers would have been unfaithful and cheated on us.
When a detective ends his run it is because the author has quit writing his story. Sure some brave writer may have tried to write another Sherlock Holmes but it isn’t the same. This isn’t the case with Superheroes. Most were invented almost 100 years ago and the story has passed from author to author to author; typically in the comic books.
Rabid fans are accepting of twists and turns. They might like a dark plot-line for a while of their otherwise sunny and optimistic hero. After all, they are buying a new comic every month and have eagerly soaked up the creativity of the writers imagination. Those dark turns go unnoticed by the general population who have loved their heroes since childhood and expect little change in the fundamental character.
David S. Goyer, the writer for Man of Steel justified Superman killing this way:
You have to do what’s right for the story. In that instance, this was a Superman who had only been Superman for like, a week. He wasn’t Superman as we think of him in the DC Comics… If you take Superman out of it, what’s the right way to tell that story?… [T]he moral, horrible situation to be in is to actually be forced to kill, not wanting to, the only other person from your race. Take Superman aside, I think that’s the right way to tell that story”
Clearly this man had no business writing a Superman story. His rationale was that if Superman out of it, then this is the story. Kind of makes you ill, doesn’t it? Our Superman would have out-smarted Zod and used Zod’s strength against himself.
But, he got the job and the movie was made. A sort of treachery, if you ask me; almost evil. There are places for that kind of story-telling outside of the genre work. Seriously, what are they teaching at the USC School of Cinema. Something more than how to get a job, I hope.
I want the loving craftsmanship of a Rob Reiner making Princess Bride or a Kenneth Branagh making Cinderella. These movies had very strong expectations, strong fans and they were met with a resounding satisfaction. These movies will be on cable forever.
Both Marvel and DC can blow it and the audience is soundly disappointed. How many times can they “reboot” Spiderman and still get it wrong? Clearly, they need to hire someone who understands the expectations of the audience and not a director who decides to “make it his own”.
I can tell you where to start. The best Superhero stories are also love stories.