This past Easter weekend, I saw Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice – it wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t what I really hoped for, making me understand why many movie critics panned it. Not that the critics prevented the film itself from becoming #1 at the box office this past weekend – but then, film critics are a minority compared to the audiences who ultimately decides if any film becomes a hit or a failure. Of course, this isn’t a slam at any critics – and especially since they always expect quality to play a deciding factor in any of the lively arts, including the movies.
I’m as much a fan of superhero movies as the comic books that inspired them – with the first two of Christopher Reeve’s four films as Superman, Tim Burton’s first two Batman movies from 1989 and 1992, the first two of Tobey Maguire’s three films as Spider-Man from the last decade, and Christopher Nolan’s trio of Batman films in 2005, 2008, and 2011 being prime examples of the genre at their best. But other feature films based on comic book super-heroes haven’t done well with both critics and audiences – partly because the films are pale imitations of the source materials that inspired them.
It’s important to remember that the comic book – not to mention the motion picture and TV — as a whole isn’t just an art form, but also a business – and many times, eyeing potential profits partly lessens the overall quality of any art form, as well as its visionaries (from both a personal and creative perspective), which explains in part why feature films based on comic book properties like the Fantastic Four and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t become tremendous successes, and why they’re hardly worth remembering today. (You can also say the same thing about other movies as well as a significant number of TV shows which were popular in their time, but haven’t aged well for various reasons – including the few future films produced during World War II which praised our then-ally the Soviet Union, while much of the world at that time was unaware of the atrocities that Joseph Stalin committed in order to hold on to power.)
But will the current boom resulting from the success of superhero movies end up becoming a bust (and it has happened before) – this time, for good? I don’t know if I’m really qualified to answer that question, despite my knowledge of almost all things comic books – then again, I don’t have the power to actually peer into the future. But I do know that an overall increase in quality is and still remains essential to mass media’s future – and not just comic books and movies (including those featuring super-heroes). And while creating a better mass media product (including a movie, TV show, etc.) isn’t always easy – and the risks associated with them are always present and unavoidable – the end result is something that the creative talents behind it can be justly proud of and will rightfully stand the test of time, while earning the respect of critics, audiences, and historians who’ve long recognized the best and most enduring that mass media has produced throughout its long history. And that includes superhero movies.
John Lavernoich is the author of five books (including not only the first two Chameleons, Inc. novels, but also his most recent, Memories Of My Youth), as well as various non-fiction articles and short stories that have been published in print and on the Internet. To learn more about Mr. Lavernoich and his various creative accomplishments, please check out the following websites listed below:
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