Almost all of us, at least at one point of time during our childhood, have gone through some indispensable obsession with a fictional character who overcomes all oddities, with his or her unique and powerful talents, to ensure the prolonged survival of the human race. Bad guys fear them to their cores and they also get the prettiest of the girls in the scene. They are selfless masked protagonists in costumes, who don’t yearn for any recognition of their noble deeds but live just for their cause. Ultimately, these characters prove to be the last accurate pieces in every chaotic puzzle. We know them as Superheroes, who have been living in the realm of comic books and movies for almost a century now.
But as we slowly enter the practical world of adulthood, our minds start to lose the impressions and influences of these fictional characters, as their acts prove to be too unreal for the real world. But something intricate doesn’t leave us and stays in our subconscious for long, a common lesson that these characters taught us, the selfless motive to do well for this world
Movies for everyone
But, in time, superhero movies have stepped out of the geek’s closet and adolescent fantasies into the adult world. If we try to realize this change on a timeline, then I’d say that it happened in 2000, with the release of the mutant saga, X-Men. Before its blockbuster performance at the box-office, the Hollywood studios used to consider superhero movies only as a medium of attracting younger audiences. The scientific element in the evolution of these superhuman vigilantes gave a sharp sense of practicality to the world of superheroes that previously relied mostly on magic or extra-terrestrial prowess as the source of their skills. This brought them in close range of the adult imagination. Now, they stood much closer to reality. These mutants embraced their powers to give a ray of hope to people who are “different” and that too without using any mask! This milestone of a movie made people believe that what they used to read in comics for years isn’t much far from future, as science is always a constant evolving phenomenon.
In 2002, came out , my very own personal favourite, Spider-Man, that set the then record of maximum opening day collections of 114 million USD. Inspired from the Marvel comic character that went by the same name, this movie had all the key elements of a successful superhero movie viz. A protagonist in conflict with himself, a seemingly impossible love affair, a couple of ideal life-lesson giving guardians and a maniac nemesis who is went on to destroy and capture the world. This movie showed the deliverance of an ignorant teenager into the adult world and his idolization of the balance between power and responsibility.
Heroes with weakness
The next breakthrough was given by Christopher Nolan’s dark, fear instilled saga of the dark knight, Batman. The first installment of this series was called Batman Begins and was released in 2005. The film was a critical as well as a commercial success worldwide, unlike all other previous batman movies. There was something about this reboot of the life of the nocturnal detective that made it so different from all of its averagely-performing previous versions. This movie portrayed the human side of the batman by giving away his fears and setbacks, leaving him much more vulnerable to the judgments of the audience. It painted the character of the hero to be much more than a rich, gadgets-loving tool who used to do a few acts of good on the side. This batman had its own crisis in time and was left with a mundane choice between vanity and an unrecognised sacrifice for doing a better good. This movie proved the fact that the life of a superhero is no fairytale or something to be always wished for by the ordinary. For the first time, the viewer also appreciated and loved Bruce Wayne, the man behind the capped mask for his out-of-the-costume act.
The year 2008, proved out to be another great year for superhero movies, for both DC Comics and Marvel Universe. One such movie released in this year was Iron Man, a total scientific act as Tony Stark was performed by Robert Downey Jr. in this movie. Thankfully this movie was not overburdened with any excess of drama, but instead relied on a renewed sense of adventure and humor. This movie was the first step a of successful series of 3 parts, which went on to prove that Tony Stark isn’t the Iron Man for his highly advanced metal suit but because of his efficient mechanical skills and knowledge of engineering. Leave him in a supermarket and he will end up with some serious lethal weapons to stop the bad guys. His mental skills turned out to be his real power.
The other gem of a movie presented this year was the second instalment of the batman saga, The Dark Knight. The highlight of this movie was the wonderful act of Joker that was played by Heath Ledger and it won him a posthumous Oscar and multiple other accolades, from both audiences and critics. It was one of those rare moments, when the movie itself overtook all the hype that was generated around it from its marketing. Even though the protagonist ends up suppressing all the chaos in Gotham, yet he isn’t relieved from his inner turmoil as his personal life suffers. He proves that sometimes for the greater good, the world is compelled to be kept in dark as he himself takes up the blame of the later-turned-evil Harvey Dent’s death, to save people from going down the similar road. This crime epic was much more than a stereotype of a man with extra-ordinary ability as each one of us may have to face similar choices in all probability in life.
As the Dark Knight Series culminated in 2012, with The Dark Knight Rises, in 2013, Christopher Nolan came back with another story, of another loner attention-hating superhero, co-written with David S. Goyer under the direction of Zack Snyder. This was a superman movie, Man of Steel. For the first time, the makers of a Superman movie were not afraid to let go off the stereotypes and clichés (like wearing underwear on pants) that have been associated with the Kryptonian since the dawn of the Superman in comic books. This movie instead of the saving-the-day kind of acts of Superman focused more on his struggle with managing himself with his powers, since his childhood and hence well presented his back-story. This superman, when out of his costume, faces the normal crisis of finding an aim for himself, like all of us. He is scared too, of being different from the people around him and has got enough reasons to keep his true identity a secret. This much more humane act pleased as well as offended to some extent, a lot of the conservative Superman fans. Still it managed to come out of the pre-existing barriers to find wider acceptance.
It is so well justified that now the world has learned to appreciate this new dawn of superheroes, which in spite of possessing so many extraordinary powers, rely much more on their humane abilities to seek the major good in their lives. What is in the future of this newly formed genre is yet to be seen.
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