A short while ago, I posted an article someone wrote that talked about the idea of new and upcoming filmmakers taking on superhero films as a way of financing smaller projects and whether or not that’s a good thing. Many of the details of the article suggest that having filmmakers, up and coming or not, doing superhero movies is a problem. That they should use their success to fuel more independent projects then superhero films. One of the examples given is Darren Aronofsky going from the success of Black Swan into his ultimately canceled participation in The Wolverine, a loosely based sequel to the film X-men Origins: Wolverine.
But why should that matter? If Aronofsky or any other filmmaker who takes on a superhero project is doing so because they care about the material and want to use their independent success on a superhero film, then shouldn’t we let them? Of course, if the filmmakers are only taking on these projects because of the paycheck and don’t really care about the film then I can understand having a problem with it. But the Hollywood system which is creating all these films isn’t really at fault for letting someone take on a project of that magnitude if they believe the filmmaker can do the characters justice.
After all, a superhero project does have enormous potential for the filmmaker in question, and I am not just talking about the paycheck or the box office boom that comes with it if the filmmakers do it properly. In some of my recent blog posts I have spoken about the idea of superheroes as a modern mythology, the idea that there are all kinds of disparate elements to the superhero story that can cross genres and be relevant to even non superhero fans. This has never been more true than in what I am talking about now. Consider for a moment, the idea of Superman. Some look at a character like that and just see an alien with powers and outdated ideals, but I see the ultimate immigrant story.
Superman is the modern retelling of the story of Moses. A child set among the intergalactic river to live with a new family, who grows up and develops incredible powers to set people free from the pain and suffering they go through every day. Batman is the story of Hamlet, a man struck by tragedy that swears vengeance against the person or people who destroyed his father and ends up consumed by it. Spiderman in some ways is a combination of both. The stories of Moses and Hamlet are considered by many to be universal truths. Why not then their modern equivalents?
Many comic books have dealt with a story similar to that of Black Swan, yet Aronofsky should be praised for one and looked down upon for another? This goes back to the bias or stereotype which some filmmakers have about the potential for superheroes or comic books in modern storytelling, a problem which largely comes out of the fact that these films have to come from Hollywood because they are too big to be played out anywhere else. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. To point this out, I need only to paraphrase a quote from Joss Whedon, a man who not only created one of the biggest films of all time and a monster at the box office, but during his spare time in the filming of which he directed and self-financed a film in 12 days based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
“The film industry has become very much about the big budget blockbuster or the small indie film, there isn’t really an in between anymore. There is no real middle ground, and I’m cool with that. I love doing both.”And so I say, why not superhero movies for our up and coming filmmakers?