How to Prevent the Superhero Moviepocalypse

And here we go again.  Thanks to Green Lantern's mediocre $53.2 million initial weekend haul at the box office and excessively harsh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the comics and movie blogospheres are once again starting their doomsayer predictions of The End of Superhero Movies.  Yes, the same doomsayers who proclaimed that superhero movies were worm food after Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007, The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and Watchmen in 2009.

So I guess that means there's no point in seeing upcoming movies like Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises or The Man of Steel because all of them are destined to fail, right?  Well, even if the Superhero Moviepocalypse is upon us, I've been doing some thinking about all this (Uh-oh...) and have a few suggestions for any Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox or other studio executives who are starting to go into Panic Mode about the future for superhero film projects...
  1. Don't Panic -- As shown above, even when a superhero film doesn't perform big at the box office, it's not the end of the world despite what you read online.  I know this sounds crazy, but audiences will generally show up for superhero films that look to be a quality production from the start with trailers that look genuinely compelling and interesting, not cheesy and desperate.  Don't believe me?  Look at the trailers for The Dark Knight versus the trailers for Batman and Robin.  Which one would you see first?
  2. Don't be afraid to use lesser-known superheroes -- Okay, Green Lantern was a lesser-known character that didn't perform great, but is that actually the character's fault or the way the character was handled?  The character of Green Lantern is essentially a guy who becomes a cop in outer space and you're telling me that cop movie good, space movie good, but space cop movie bad?  Sorry, nobody's buying that one.  Meanwhile, look at Blade...Only old-school Marvel fans remembered the character and he still ended up with three movies.  Or Iron Man, who wasn't nearly as well-known as Spider-Man or The Hulk and still made solid box office on a weak sequel.
  3. Every first movie for a character doesn't have to be an origin story -- There seems to be this preconception that every superhero's first movie has to tell his origin in the first half to two-thirds of the movie before finally diving in and getting down to full-on superhero business in the final act.  As a result, superhero movies are locked into a storytelling formula that feels repetitive at times and audiences are responding accordingly.  Go ahead and change things up once in a while and try starting the first film off with the superhero already in action, like Tim Burton did in Batman (1989) when you only learned Batman's origin later on through a flashback scene.
  4. Make sure the supervillain is at least as interesting as the superhero -- Now, that doesn't mean make the hero less interesting, just that audiences seem to respond better to superhero movies where the villain practically overshadows the hero.  Heath Ledger's Joker, Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus and Jeff Bridges' Iron Monger are great examples of how a strong villain elevates the material and makes for a more entertaining movie.  As a moviegoer, you want to see the hero defeating a truly menacing Bad Guy, not some lightweight villain of no substance.  Just because they came from two-dimensional comic book pages doesn't mean they have to stay that way.
  5. Stop phoning in the orchestral music scores -- Remember John Williams' iconic Superman theme or Danny Elfman's Batman theme?  Of course you do, because they were arranged such in a fashion that you can hum them to yourself while waiting inside an elevator.  With the exception of Hans Zimmer's "Molossus" Batman Begins theme, music score composers have ironically forgotten how to make superhero themes that are actually memorable.  Go ahead and try to hum the theme to Thor or Green Lantern while you attempt to prove me wrong on this one.
Posted on June 21, 2011 .