It is a great time to be a fan of superheroes, especially if you’re more inclined toward the heroes over at Marvel. From movies, to television, to books, to squeaky toys, and so forth, we are inundated with the super-powered culture. It’s pretty darn awesome.
But there’s also some major downfalls. There’s the all-too-familiar issue with the new rendition of your favorite character just being plain horrible (Superman Returns, we’re looking at you). There’s also the constant battle between folks that a particular rendition wasn’t honest enough to the original, which then means a fight between the concept of character-truthfulness and just enjoying a damned good flick.
But the one that bothers me the most is the one that is most prevalent….the origin story. Every time we get one of these characters to hit the screens, we’re sure to see how they became who they are. Even worse…this happens every time they reboot a series as well, which is happening all too often nowadays as well.
Now, I get it, people want to know why someone would make the decision to get suited up and fight bad guys. But the thing is…no matter what the specific circumstances are, the story always ends up being basically the same thing, especially when you’re looking at reboots. Okay, we get it, Spiderman’s all sad because he had the opportunity to stop the guy who ended up killing Uncle Ben. Batman is emotionally scarred because his parents were killed in front of him as a child. Wolverine is…well..he’s just pissed at everything, isn’t he? Superman fights because, well, he had a good upbringing, I guess.
There’s differences, but these tales always come down to one basic thing…they fight because there’s a bad guy.
Now there are origin stories that can be actually useful. For instance, in Man of Steel, we get an origin story, but it really takes us through the emotional journey Clark has to experience in order to get to the point where he’d don the cape. And it doesn’t stop there. This origin story is all about the character, all about letting us know who he is. And it’s a story that will have to continue in the following flicks, as it’s all about what actually motivates him as a person.
This isn’t a tale that comes from anywhere else. It’s a fresh look at what actually makes Superman. And, in my opinion, it works. It’s still faithful to the character, but gives us more of a detailed look into what makes him tick, as opposed to really focusing on how he got his powers or whatever.
Where as with other stories, such as Batman, for instance, most movie renditions get through the whole parents being killed thing and then are mostly done with it. He trains to be awesome in everything, but really just reacts to the fact that bad things are going on. We don’t continue to see how his “origin” motivates him further, just that it gives him that initial push.
Spiderman…well, he’s just a dude who got bit by the wrong spider. But the same basic thing goes there. We quickly forget about Uncle Ben’s death, because Green Goblin, or The Lizard, appear and, well, Peter’s gotta get to work.
It’s almost like these little pieces of how things started are required to tack onto the beginning, but end up being ultimately unimportant to the story. They are important in the original stories, of course, but the movies seem to believe they are a requisite addition, taking up time, muddling plot points, and ultimately, being nothing more than a long unimportant expositional piece.
I know I’ll have people disagree with me. First of all, Man of Steel isn’t the only one that got it right. Iron Man did a great job of rebooting the series with a tale that seemed to actually include the origin story instead of just tacking it on. Thor did alright, Captain America seemed like little more than an origin story altogether. One can easily go down the list and see ones that worked and ones that didn’t.
My issue is that when going down the list of superhero flicks (at least firsts in a series), you’re hard pressed to find ones that don’t deal with the origin story for a fair portion of the flick. Some characters may require them due to a lack of popular knowledge of the character. I mean, Iron Man and Thor I don’t believe had quite as wide-spread of a knowledge about where they came from, so there’s a worthwhile need there, especially considering how crazed of a background Thor really has (in fact, I think there could have been more background here). Daredevil, on the other hand, is one that I don’t think many people know about, but really is unimportant… And I’m not completely against having an origin story there. It just needs to actually be a part of the story instead of something tacked on because of some belief that people need it.
We can tell stories without knowing everything about the start. The 1966 Batman flick didn’t even mention dead parents or long history of training. Of course, that movie was based on a long running television series (which I don’t believe touched on the origin subject, but can’t say for certain). It was also a comedy, but still, it’s a fun flick, even amid the stupidity. Hancock, if memory serves, didn’t really care too much about his origin…although I think it played into the ending sequence a bit. The Watchmen is a series that all but ignores origin, except in explanation of Dr. Manhattan and his phallus. Of course, DC has now decided to capitalize of the films success by releasing a bunch of origin stories…
And I’m not coming up with much more… I just went through the wikipedia list of American superhero flicks and I found those three. And two of the three definitely touch on origin, although barely.
I’ve had this discussion with many people and many seem to be okay with the origin story, feeling that it’s important. Perhaps you’re one of them. However, if you’re not (warning: sales pitch coming)…perhaps you should give my book a look. It’s a completely different look at the origin story, in that the origin story involves finding out that there was another origin story that is lost… sorta. It takes on the tropes of the current superhero trends and throws them on their head. And…it’s a lot of fun, if I do say so myself.
(sales pitch over)
Anyways… who else is ready for the Batman/Superman flick coming out in 2015? They start shooting the new origin story for Batman this weekend!
Have fun out there!