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In Defense of Superhero Films: A Response to Steven Spielberg

Comic Books

In Defense of Superhero Films: A Response to Steven Spielberg

Have Ryan Reynolds’ zany marketing antics got you pumped to see Deadpool? Are you ready to finally see two comic book legends face off in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? And oh my God – Captain America: Civil War – featuring Black Panther AND Spider-Man is just months away!

If you’re excited about any one of these upcoming superhero films, you really better enjoy them, because they could be some of the last – according to director Steven Spielberg. Yes, the visionary director behind such cinema classics as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List believes that the superhero flick’s days are numbered.

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Well, after seeing the amazing new trailer for Suicide Squad, I’m here to explain why Spielberg is wrong and comic book movie fans have nothing to fear for many years to come.

In Defense of Superhero Films: A Response to Steven Spielberg

From the Executive Producer of 4 Transformers Films…

Look, I hate to discredit a man who’s contributed so much to the filmmaking art form, but Spielberg did executive produce all of Michael Bay’s atrocious Transformers movies. Like, if he was just involved with the first one and then ran as far away as he could from the franchise, I might feel a little guilty about dismantling his theory. But, he openly backs what appears to be a never-ending butchering of the Transformers mythology at the hands of Bay.

In fact, in 2011, Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly “I certainly can’t imagine anybody other than Michael being equipped to make another Transformers. He’s invented a genre and he’s got the secret formula.”

If the secret formula is the same one used at those Chipotles that made people sick, then yes, Bay’s got the formula down pat.

In Defense of Superhero Films: A Response to Steven Spielberg

Sorry, my bitter Transformer fanboy side is hijacking this article. Anyway, the man who introduced us to the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull believes superhero movies’ time in the sun is coming to a close. Here’s what Spielberg told The Associated Press in September 2015:

We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns. Of course, right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I’m only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.

I could maybe get behind this statement if superhero movies were beginning to feel repetitive or stale, but they’re not. While not every film Marvel Studios releases is perfect, the majority of them remain fresh. From Thor and Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, Marvel continuously mines rich source material to wow audiences with something they haven’t seen before.

I’m just not sure why we’re predicting the time of death for superhero films. Why can’t we just enjoy them? As I pointed out in a past article, this is the golden age of comic book cinema. Dedicated fans are seeing things they never dreamed they would in their lifetime.

And again, Spielberg continues to produce Transformers movies – which are by no means as well made as Marvel films. What makes the Autobots so different from superheroes in Spielberg’s eyes?

Suicide Squad to the Rescue

It’s been a rocky road to the movies for Suicide Squad, and DC Comics film properties in general. From Batfleck to Jared Leto’s Joker tattoos, every move Warner Bros. made seemed to infuriate loyal comic book fans. However, as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice approaches, public opinion seems to have turned from skepticism to excitement (at least for me).

Following the release of Suicide Squad’s first official trailer, I may be even more excited to see this film than the dawn of the Justice League.

From the first lines of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and the neon DC Comics logo to the humor Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang bring to the table, Suicide Squad looks like it’s in a world all its own. By no means does this film look like just another comic book movie.

I feel like my reaction to this trailer was on par with what non-comic fans must have felt when they first saw the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer.

Anyway, I have my ticket for the Suicide Squad hype train, and I sincerely hope Spielberg does as well. The trailer is so masterfully cut to Bohemian Rhapsody that you can’t help but have fun viewing it over and over. I feel sorry for anyone who watches it through jaded eyes and thinks, “Ugh, dumb.”

So Much Left to Explore

Ultimately, I just find it hard to say superhero films – and really, movies based on comic books in general – could go away with so much material left to explore. That’s like saying movies based on novels or real people (like Abraham Lincoln) are a flash in the pan. There will always be new novels and people on which to base films.

Doesn’t Spielberg – and women of all ages around the world – want to see a series of films starring Wonder Woman? Say what you will about Aquaman, but the idea of a superhero film set underwater is definitely something we’ve never seen before. And on the Marvel side, we’ve got Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Inhumans all waiting in the wings. There’s just so much potential for great stories, characters and visuals moviegoers are sure to fall in love with.

In Defense of Superhero Films: A Response to Steven Spielberg

Sometimes it can seem like the only films playing star costumed heroes, but that’s really not the case. I think about the last few movies I’ve seen in theaters – Carol, The Big Short, The Revenant – not a cape to be seen (unless you count that fur Leo wears). Films small and large can coexist peacefully at the cinema or on Netflix.

If you don’t like superhero films, just don’t go to see them. Personally, I don’t care for horror movies, so I tend to avoid them. It doesn’t mean I’m not open to seeing one that people are buzzing about. Everyone needs to agree that not every superhero film is created equal (Iron Man good, Fantastic Four bad); the same way two superhero comic books might explore entirely different themes. It’s certainly true of horror flicks, and romances, and dramas, and biopics, and so on.

So let’s all keep an open mind about the movies in theaters. If we judge each film for what it is, and not let it represent an entire genre, not just superhero flicks, but all types of movies should be safe from going the way of the Western.

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