Sewing for Superheroes

Sewing for Superheroes

More superhero movies means less time spent explaining them.

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Anything that stops me having to turn to someone and explain the plot when I'm still trying to work it out is a great thing.

Now if someone could only explain how the "I was abused as a child" books are a form of entertainment, we'd be set. Actually, make that celebrity biogs as well. I never could understand why someone would want to read a ghost-written story about someone too dull to write it themselves.

But, we've had Superheroes for 50 years now...ish... People are just starting to get zombies, so who knows? Maybe even Luchadores next :)

All I'm hoping for is that they skip that part for the Deadpool movie. Try explaining why Deadpool acts the way he does is going to be pretty damn hard.

But Bob, the Superhero Story is just a modernized version of The Hero's Journey. Why do people really need to become comfortable with something they've already been familiar with for thousands of years? Look at Gilgamesh - possibly the first recorded superhero. Even though it's best film adaptation to date has been the CG-fest of recent years, it still fell short of legendary.

I do agree about the mix of good and bad superhero flicks though. Iron Man + Hulk are all kinds of win, even for the fans of the comics. Some day we'll get a Spidey fighting Green Goblin in an elf costume. Some day.

while I can imagine enjoying a take more like the comics, I also like the movies that try to exaplain things.

I think the "begins" batman, for example, explains a lot more than the old batman movies. And I think that all the justifying lead to a deeper backstory and a character that was more easy to feel connected to. I felt like I knew what was going on behind the mask.

For example, they explained the "never kill, only capture" philosophy of batman. They could have relied instead on a trope (everyone knows batman doesn't kill his enemies) but I'm glad that they took the time instead to persuade the audience to get on board with the idea.

Thank you for putting the term "trope" in what is essentially an internet essay. No sarcasm.

As an English major, I always get people asking me, "Why the hell did you decide to do that?" My answer never suffices.

I'd say it's so I can explain complex ideas like tropes, semiology (which doesn't pass as a word on Firefox), and an utterly untold number of other ideas that are quite ubiquitous (if yet unrecognized) in society.

On topic: I don't know if I quite agree that more super hero movies will help solidify the ideas found in comic books in a good way. In other words, the downside is that creating tropes/categories could be a way for quite complex characterizations to be boiled down to "that's just what they do." Essentially, explanation would turn into "natural" language. We all know, however, that there is nothing really natural or inevitable about being evil or good (in fact those terms hardly exist alone), and people often do have complex story lines. However, this idea of "troping" might make it, as you said, a more stream-lined and efficient approach so that the movie-makers *can* focus on the actual backstories of the more interesting characters and don't have to focus on the "why" of their actions, but focus more on the "who" and let the audience fill in the characters with their own understandings. After all, I think that process would allow for far more familiarity and also allow movie-goers to get something more out of the movie than just entertainment. It has its ups and downs, but I'm hoping the positive prevails.

In short, it may help the movie to transcend time and truly become about humanity. Another good side is then I might be able to critique a super hero movie and come up with a good thesis and some A-rated writing. And who wouldn't want that?

Didn't they already do this with Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin? The movie was terrible, but I don't remember any back story or costume creation, other than the motivation with his sick wife.

I apologize for being part of the problem and not the solution. While I 'get' it, I like a good back-story and better appreciate characters when they have reasons for becoming what they are rather than donning a ridiculous outfit and committing/preventing crime. People with my mentality are getting in the way of your dream and even though I apologize for it, I'm not going to change.

such a nice article, and i can relate to this... recently in the x-men origins movie, the "deadpool" character and where he got his name was so lame and ... not something worth of this guy!

AvsJoe:
I apologize for being part of the problem and not the solution. While I 'get' it, I like a good back-story and better appreciate characters when they have reasons for becoming what they are rather than donning a ridiculous outfit and committing/preventing crime. People with my mentality are getting in the way of your dream and even though I apologize for it, I'm not going to change.

I have but one question for you and your ilk:
Why do you want a guy to be more realistic, when he can fly and shoot lightning bolts from his ass?

Superheroes can certainly live inside a realistic world (ex: The Boys), just not the well-established ones we all know and love.

Goddammit, why does everyone think Mr. Freeze is too far-fetched for the Nolan Batman movies? Wayne industries already produced a microwave beam that can vaporize the water supply of an entire city and also secretly put sonar emitters in EVERY CELL PHONE EVER.

after that, is a gun that shoots cold really that far-fetched?

CaptainCrunch:
But Bob, the Superhero Story is just a modernized version of The Hero's Journey.

Yeah, but there's a lot of people who don't believe in the Hero's Journey, or want to know where the Heroine's story is.

Entering the Belly of the Whale is easy to see in normal movies, but unless you know the genre you're going to ask questions like "How come they don't recognise him with the glasses on?", "Why doesn't he just tell them he has powers?" or "What's wrong with removing the mask?"

In a similar way, when Kirk/Picard/Sisko rocks back from a punch and wipes the blood from their lip, we know that they're about to have a CMOA and deck the villain; as we've just gone from Apotheosis to Ultimate Boon. But this scene in superhero films tends to consist of the hero holding their mask in their hand while their Mentor's voice repeats in their head. Unless you know the significance of the mask, the movie falls apart, so it has to be emphasised (taking up time) earlier on in the Crossing the First Threshold, and repeated in Rescue from Without.

That's why Peter Parker inventing a polymer web is "unrealistic" but producing it in his body and then firing it from his wrists is fine; because you can have only one McGuffin and the radioactive spider is his.

TL:DR There are elements to the Monomyth that are specific to the Superhero genre; and Beowulf didn't have great responsibility.

Great read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

One day I too hope to see all sorts of obscure villains in a superhero movie.

Bring on Carnage. He has no back story, other than loving to kill people. Spiderman should stop him, so he does. Simple, no need to muddle it up with over explaining things or making shit up to appease an audience that needs a gentle hand holding.

CaptainCrunch:

AvsJoe:
I apologize for being part of the problem and not the solution. While I 'get' it, I like a good back-story and better appreciate characters when they have reasons for becoming what they are rather than donning a ridiculous outfit and committing/preventing crime. People with my mentality are getting in the way of your dream and even though I apologize for it, I'm not going to change.

I have but one question for you and your ilk:
Why do you want a guy to be more realistic, when he can fly and shoot lightning bolts from his ass?

Because I want to find out how he can shoot lightning from his ass. That would be an interesting back-story, as well as his first failed attempts at crime fighting with his new ability would make for some entertaining scenes.

But how about a compromise: half of the supermovies will feature back-stories and have motives for the character's actions and half won't. This will appease both sides of the supermovie-watching audience after a little while of both sides complaining.

I think the problem is the 1% of people who don't get it, and will never get it.

The kids can accept it, so can the fans, but there will always be a small portion of the audience who doesn't. Movie companies have been obsessively searching for ways to make everyone like their movies - but what company doesn't anymore. Until they give up on 'everyone' loving the movie they wont make a really awsome movie..well they did in Watchmen but that was more of a one time deal.

Quick question: why do we ever want "just because" to be the reason? How is that compelling in the slightest?

AvsJoe:

CaptainCrunch:

AvsJoe:
I apologize for being part of the problem and not the solution. While I 'get' it, I like a good back-story and better appreciate characters when they have reasons for becoming what they are rather than donning a ridiculous outfit and committing/preventing crime. People with my mentality are getting in the way of your dream and even though I apologize for it, I'm not going to change.

I have but one question for you and your ilk:
Why do you want a guy to be more realistic, when he can fly and shoot lightning bolts from his ass?

Because I want to find out how he can shoot lightning from his ass. That would be an interesting back-story, as well as his first failed attempts at crime fighting with his new ability would make for some entertaining scenes.

But how about a compromise: half of the supermovies will feature back-stories and have motives for the character's actions and half won't. This will appease both sides of the supermovie-watching audience after a little while of both sides complaining.

I find your compromise agreeable, but we both know that the movie industry is about turning entertainment into big stacks of cash. That's why we have prequels and needless* character back-story elements. I think it's fair to state that entertainment is an entirely different thing than story quality.
*(just my opinion)

I mean to suggest that the addition of such realism (why he shoots lightning from his ass) only serves to distract the audience from what the character really represents. Batman is looking for revenge because his parents died, Spiderman is an awkward teenage nerd, and Superman is a messiah allegory written by Jewish-American immigrants. That's everything you really need to know about them. By putting these core archetypes in spandex and masks, and making them fight other ridiculous-looking people, you don't lose a bit of what they stand for, and it's still flashy and entertaining.

On the other hand, providing explanation and back-story (especially the "re-imagined" ones that appear in movies) turns Batman into a rich guy with impotent rage, Spiderman into an Emo kid, and Superman into a deadbeat dad. Maybe it is more entertaining, and maybe more people can relate to the characters on a personal level. That's when someone (often me) has to stop everyone and say "Dude, they're friggin' superheroes. They aren't supposed to be exactly like you - you're supposed to try to be like them, but without super powers."

orannis62:
Quick question: why do we ever want "just because" to be the reason? How is that compelling in the slightest?

As above, "just because" is sometimes better translated as "because it's not important." The thing about superheroes that makes them compelling is the idealism, not how they got that way.

cobra_ky:
Goddammit, why does everyone think Mr. Freeze is too far-fetched for the Nolan Batman movies? Wayne industries already produced a microwave beam that can vaporize the water supply of an entire city and also secretly put sonar emitters in EVERY CELL PHONE EVER.

after that, is a gun that shoots cold really that far-fetched?

No, but a guy wearing a bubble-headed suit of mechanical armor because he'll die if his body temperature rises above freezing probably is. Now, you can do it without all that and just have, say, a guy with a big spray-gun full of liquid nitrogen and a biohazard-type suit so he doesn't get any on him... but at that point is it "really" Mr. Freeze, or even all that interesting? Without the science-fiction origin story, there isn't much reason for him to be giving himself the cute nickname or embarking on a life of super-crime, since there's no logical reason for someone to rob banks by freezing stuff when he could just use dynamite.

Same thing goes for someone like Poison Ivy: You can DO it, but given that this is a series that used Ras Al Ghul but nixed the Lazarus Pits you're probably NOT going to get a gorgeous redhead in a green one-piece attacking the city with giant prehensile vines or sentient venus-flytraps. Instead, she'd probably be an ordinary looking woman who's an "eco-terrorist." And maybe they'd do the poison-lipstick thing.

I have to agree, but also feel there is a double-edged sword to this. As long as the powers that be feel the need to "dumb down" origin stories for the masses and add useless material to the plot for general acceptance, we may still have the problem of needless material added for pointless reasons. Example-a flashback of wolverine as a kid with bone claws-wtf

The Captain is right about one thing, comic book heroes are usually paragons of justice and whatnot and this is all fine and well in the comic book medium. However individual comic books are much shorter than movies (Duh) wile whole series are much longer. A movie, that has to last at least an hour and no more than 3, must find a way to fill-out one comic book with back story and emotion (eg. Batman) or try to cram an entire series down our throats in one sitting (eg. watchman). Not to mention in live action the actors (understandably) want to do more with their characters than simply be good/evil in bright costumes.My point is I think most people get superhero tropes it's just that the medium of film is not hospitable to them.

Also I don't see anything wrong with more human and understandable characters. I happen to be a fan of Heroes and Smallville, both shows seem to go out of their way to avoid superhero tropes and find themselves in new and interesting places because of it.

they actually never really putted that much time into explaining dr. crane in the batman movie, which is a shame since him and harley quinn have the most interesting back story.

but i agree whit bob, it would be wonderful if the comic book movies didn't need to explain themselves, also you can say many things about the adam west batman show but they where able to explain they're take on a villain in 30 sec (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjXAAS3VpeY)and then focus on the story.

CaptainCrunch:

AvsJoe:
I apologize for being part of the problem and not the solution. While I 'get' it, I like a good back-story and better appreciate characters when they have reasons for becoming what they are rather than donning a ridiculous outfit and committing/preventing crime. People with my mentality are getting in the way of your dream and even though I apologize for it, I'm not going to change.

I have but one question for you and your ilk:
Why do you want a guy to be more realistic, when he can fly and shoot lightning bolts from his ass?

Superheroes can certainly live inside a realistic world (ex: The Boys), just not the well-established ones we all know and love.

I hate this question. No offense, but it's a silly one. People always pull this crap up when speaking about video games too (you want HALO to be realistic?! it's about space aliens! lol), and it's annoying as hell.

Why do I want things to be realistic? It's very simple: I'm much more willing to accept something if it's realistic. How the hell can I immerse myself in a story if I'm questioning every aspect of it?

MovieBob:
And you can probably forget seeing folks like Mad Hatter or Mr. Freeze in Christopher Nolan's ultra-realistic re-imagining of Batman.

I dunno, the Joker wasn't explained in alot of detail himself in the movies - aside from his own conflicting versions just before he stabs somebody.

The Bandit:

CaptainCrunch:

Why do you want a guy to be more realistic, when he can fly and shoot lightning bolts from his ass?

I hate this question. No offense, but it's a silly one. People always pull this crap up when speaking about video games too (you want HALO to be realistic?! it's about space aliens! lol), and it's annoying as hell.

Why do I want things to be realistic? It's very simple: I'm much more willing to accept something if it's realistic. How the hell can I immerse myself in a story if I'm questioning every aspect of it?

No offense taken - I really don't have any problem with superheroes being portrayed in a more realistic, human light. I do, however, have a big problem with compromising morals to achieve such realism. Superheroes, by their very nature, are not like us. They are bastions of hope that the world might just be all right to live in, so long as they exist. Chipping away at the unquestionable "good-ness" of a superhero is counterproductive - it attracts more people, but gives them no sense of hope or empowerment.

Superimposing "realness" onto hero archetypes isn't a writing technique - it's a publishing technique. The superhero as we know it may have died if it weren't for the constant renovation they undergo by the publishing companies. I'm just saying that maybe Superman should have stayed dead, Batman didn't need ninja training to kick ass, and Spiderman was socially outcast and smart enough to come up with polymer webbing. More importantly, they would be more powerful as social icons than the realistic versions.

We can get deeper into faith allegory another time, but that's really what lives at the root of the old-school vs new-school superhero debate. The fact that unasked questions must be answered in order for someone to accept a hero archetype is as much a matter of faith as Catholic vs Protestant, Fundamentalist vs Secular, or Nathan's vs Hebrew National (hotdog brands, if you don't know). We all like the idea of superheroes, but not all of us need to live beside them to understand what they're all about.

It might work in a few years.

Funny story, during that scene in the hospital with Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent, Dent asked Gordon to tell him what they called him back in Internal Affairs.

Despite the film showing half his face burning off before and only showing half his face in that scene.

The guy next to me went through the entire Batman's Rogue gallery (Mr Freeze, Penguin, Joker) before Gary Oldman said the name.

Insane.

General Store:
A movie, that has to last at least an hour and no more than 3.

Wasn't one of the LoTR movies 4 hours long or something? Or did it just feel that way.

Anyway sometimes an origin story is a good thing because it can go somewhere that the comic books didn't (actually i'm fairly clueless about that because i've never read a comic book in my life), but I agree that a Spider-man movie that starts with some crime-punding action instead of all this backstory would be awesome. Would also work for Superman, Hulk (please).. i'd keep going but i'd list every superhero I've ever heard of.. haha

Spend any small amount of time with the same person trying to force-feed you sharpened metal and you start to learn how they attack, it's like knowing which of your mates will run for the sniper rifle. Trust me, it doesn't take a Ninja to go "Hmmm, he made me use THAT block, could it be!?"
Sorry, needed to get that out, feel better now... Suppose I should say something comic related... If spiderman's palms are hairy does that make him mad?

Reading this article, I couldn't help be be reminded of this:

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/10915-captaina

For those who don't know, the Nostalgia Critic reviews old, typically bad, movies and TV shows. Here he reviews an old Captain America movie, and in it, he laughs at Captain America's costume, seeing as the movie gave little-to-know explain of it. I was really pissed off about that, and seeing this makes me feel like I was right to be a little mad. It's like you said, he's a superhero, he doesn't need an explanation of it, that's just what superheroes do.

Actually, of all Spiderman's villains, Rhino would be reletively easy to adapt to fit the movie. Just have his suit be a stolen experimental exoskeleton called the Rhino MKII or something. Voila! A villain that requires little backstory or explaination, who can provide a decent secondary threat to the protaganist. Simple, basic, cut, print.

This article is why I'm kind of anxious about the whole The Avengers movie project.

Simply put, if they pull it off, it's official, what Bob requests is done: comic book superhero tropes are now movie tropes, period.

But it's a tall order. They need to somehow make us believe that after whatever happens in Thor, Captain America and Iron Man 2, Samuel L. Jackson in an eyepatch is gonna convince a multibillionaire riding a robot armor to fund a black ops mission with a recently thawed supersoldier from World War II and a norse god travelling through time and space (if the synopsis of Brannagh's Thor is to be believed) in order to stop a scientist turned into a green monster.

I don't know how you write THAT into a movie when Sam Raimi spent literally half of a two and a half hour movie setting up why his two main characters would dress up in bright colours and kick the tar out of each other and, let's be honest, kind of failed to pull it off for at least one of the two (seriously, Bob seems to hate the Transformers writing team, but David Koepp is responsible for more wasted hype than anybody in my book).

So yeah, if the origin story for the Avengers is ever efficiently portrayed in movie form, superhero movies are a thing, they have genre conventions, it's done.

Which is, as somebody pointed out above, a different thing from "making it realistic".

Let's clear up something, here. "Realistic", when it comes to fiction, means "conducive to suspension of disbelief". "The Ultimates"? Not realistic. Just gritty. It failed to make me believe that Sam Jackson in an eyepatch would so on and so forth. Classic Stan Lee Spider-man? Yup, realistic. It may be corny, but a guy with superpowers trying to get into wrestling is a pretty decent reason for the campy costume.

Which is why I had far less problems believing Iron Man the movie than the last two Batman films. I get the guy having the wrong idea about what his job was doing to people and wanting to fix it. I get him having this life support thing that gives him superpowers and dealing with the choice of whether or not it should be made into a weapon. I get him wanting to keep it for himself.

Nolan's Batman? This is a guy who inherits billions, somehow decides learning kung fu is a better way of fixing the world than putting that money to work, comes back from an unexplained exile and casually tells his butler, who has apparently been running his financial affairs uncontested in the meantime, that he's gonna dress up like a bat and kick mobsters in the face. And the butler just rolls with it and ponders how to deal with the logistics. Sure, I liked both movies, but when it comes to the purely mechanical task of justifying nolan in the bat suit doing the sore throat voice, they did a much worse job than other, less "realistic" takes on superheroes.

Well, to each their own, but I've always found the human elements of the story more interesting than the action elements. One of my only real complaints against the Watchmen movie was that when it had a choice between skimping on the character development or the ass-kicking action, it prioritized the action every time, even though the thing that set Watchmen apart from the pack wasn't the action, it was that it was more about the characters than the action.

I think that WHY someone would dress up in tights is interesting, even though it doesn't have to be set in the real world. Like Noelvelga, I define believability as "conducive to suspension of disbelief," not "plausibility," so it doesn't have to be something that could actually happen, but saying "because that's just the way things ARE in superhero stories" is not only uninteresting, but a severe limitation on your storytelling potential.

Personally, I HATE it when writers feel they need to throw in genre conventions for no other reason than that they ARE genre conventions. Oh, don't get me wrong, I think Tropes can definitely be used WELL, but when they're thrown in just for the sake of "the audience expects it," there's something wrong.

Actually, I think the Mad Hatter COULD be done well in a Christopher Nolan movie. I could easily envision him as someone who is so twisted and obsessed by "Alice in Wonderland" that he constructs a Saw-style nightmare land to throw Batman off-guard while he's trying to rescue hostages.

Could the Mad Hatter carry a whole film himself, I doubt it. But obviously somebody gave him all the money he needed to build a death-trap capable of keeping Batman busy. My vote for "man behind the curtain" in this scenario would be Black Mask.

 

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