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Superhero movie stories, on the other hand, have only become a (seemingly) permanent fixture of film and TV within the last decade, so the tropes haven't quite caught on with everybody. As such, whenever a costumed character turns up whose "thing" isn't self-explanatory (see: The Joker, Sandman) you're almost guaranteed that the film is going to take time out to explain via background detail and plot-contortion exactly why they've opted to dress up.
Consider Catwoman. In the comics, there's never really been a lot of time spent explaining why she dresses up like a cat. She's a cat burglar, she's a lady and she's an antagonist in a superhero story, thusly she puts on a cat suit. Simple, basic, cut, print. In the movies? No such luck: "Batman Returns" piles heaps of cats and cat iconography onto everything surrounding poor Selina Kyle's life until it becomes frankly ridiculous - all to make absolutely sure that no one in the audience can possibly ask "Where'd she get the idea for the outfit?" Oh, and despite being a frumpy cat-lady, she happens to own a stylish coat of reflective black rubber and possesses concussion-defying sewing skills so that no one wonders "where'd she buy that thing," another question no one asks in comics.
And never mind just slowing down the movies, this need to over-explain these things means that some superhero stories just flat-out cannot be told: I'll probably never see the current cinematic Spider-Man battle one of my favorite villains, The Rhino, because there's simply no matter-of-fact reason for a man to dress up like a rhinoceros other than he's a supervillain, and that's what they do. And you can probably forget seeing folks like Mad Hatter or Mr. Freeze in Christopher Nolan's ultra-realistic re-imagining of Batman.
But, slowly yet surely, things on this front seem to be changing. As superheroes spread themselves out over more and more of the action-movie landscape, you can see more films telling their stories confident that most of the audience will "get" that certain offbeat things happen in superhero movies just because: A cursory glance from his own stitched-up face to a billboard displaying puzzle-pieces is all it takes for "Punisher: Warzone's" Billy Russoti to rechristen himself Jigsaw. Dr. Jonathan Crane is The Scarecrow because... well, he's a weirdo and likes to do things in a scarecrow mask. Tony Stark paints his Iron Man armor "hot-rod red" because it'll look more cool that way. "The Incredible Hulk" doesn't know a lot of things, but he knows his name is The Hulk. This is why I'll take stinkers like "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" or the Fantastic Four movies on-balance if it means that superheroes and their respective formulas become as ubiquitous to the modern moviegoer as Mismatched Buddy Cops or Hookers With Hearts of Gold.
Maybe it'll never happen, but I've got a dream that one day I'll sit down to watch a Spider-Man (or whoever) movie that opens with a big ol' bank robbery carried off by guys like The Rhino, Scorpion, The Beetle, Shocker, Vulture... those kinda guys - and maybe The Ringmaster & His Circus of Crime for good measure - and after this brief in media res introduction we jump immediately into the kind of big, sprawling story we saw in "The Dark Knight"(not-coincidentally featuring the no-explanation-necessary Joker.) And everyone will be cool with that, because nobody will be wondering what traumatic event in Rhino's early life involved an actual rhino, or where Shocker picked up his fabric samples.
Because they're supervillains and it's a Spider-Man movie and that's just how things work in those.
And it will be awesome.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.