Marvel-ous! Issue #13: How Superheroes killed Action Heroes

Hello True Believers!

In my neck of the woods, it is the week leading up to the release of Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron, the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm sure it comes as no suprise that I am a huge fan of superhero films. But this isn't true for everyone.

Shaun Bolen, ScrewAttack's Community Manager and co-host of ScrewAttack Live, is a huge movie fan. A few weeks ago, he sent out this tweet:

I reached out to Shaun, and managed to get him on Facebook to discuss this, and his views on the genre.

I figured we would just talk about superhero films, since you seem to have a strong opinion on them. So first, are you a comic book fan, or are you coming at this from more of a movie junkie/general audience point of view?

I'm a cinefile - majorly. I come from a long line of action film fanaticism. John Woo, Jimmy Cameron, Arnold, Sly, Van Damme, Bruce WIllis, Robert Rodriguez, Renny Harlin, Joel Silver, Shane Black (writer for just about every fuckin' badass action movie of the 80's - These are the first names that come to mind when I hear "Action Movie" I also love other genres, but Action Movies are definitely my jam. And now they're dead.

Awesome. Seem like you have a have a definite bracket. So what sparked this conversation was a tweet you made a few weeks ago, regarding the upcoming Ant-Man movie, and your feelings on the superhero genre. Care to elaborate?

There's a really good quote from Stallone on what killed the action hero. You can find it somewhere, but he basically says that Tim Burtons O.G. Batman from '88 or '89 is what killed the action hero. Michael Keaton, who's not even in good shape, can put on rubber muscles, and instantly be an action man. As we know, actors actually work hard for their physiques today, and that's not the point of his quote per se, but the "Action Hero" became something that ANYONE could be. We didn't need Terminators, Rambo's, or John McClane's after that . . . we just needed some dude in a mask. Sorry - I didn't quite answer your question yet - just giving you some perspective.

I see where he's coming from, but I'm not sure I agree. Granted, I am coming from a comic book-based perspective, but I think this is much the same. The every day man doesn't have superpowers. And what really separates Joe Blow from John McClane? Just a normal guy who works through abnormal situations.

Yes. Overcoming adversity - and we see the residuals of that in say, the Nolan Batmans, or even Netflix's Daredevil (which are great IMO), and one could argue that those 80's action stars WERE superheroes. The cast of Fast and Furious, for example, do everything that Hawkeye or Black Widow do - but it's special because they are (supposed) to be normal people. That's hard to type, because I realize the hypocrisy. I really do. I mean, super hero movies can be very grounded as well. Nolan, again. The Winter Soldier, (again), more of a spy thriller/action movie than a "Super Hero" film. I think most would agree with me on that. Gimme your thoughts so far. I've not gotten to my main point yet.

I totally understand where you are coming from. Superheroes seem to be more about every day people having greatness thrust upon them, while action movies strike me as more of every day people striving for that greatness.

Returning to the tweet on Ant-Man and superhero movies, you seem to be fed up with the superhero market as a whole. Am I on track with that?

Yes. Here's why. It's not a problem with the Super Hero Genre. It's a problem (sorry comics' fans) with the very idea that the pool of superheroes to pull from is INFINITE. THINK about the 80's and 90's before the superhero renaissance. You had screenwriters (like before-mentioned Shane Black) who wrote movies from IDEAS IN THEIR FUCKING HEAD. lol

They didn't read somebody else's work, transcribe the archs into a screenplay, and shit out sequel after sequel, after character after character, after universe after universe.

Lethal Weapon.
Die Hard.
True Lies
The Long Kiss Goodnight.

OH, and Point Break.

Lol. Sorry.

But these classics were born out of creativity, and just being a hardass. Now we have a THIRD reboot of Spider-Man within the past 15 years. Gimme a fuckin break. And there it is-

We've got 19 trailers a year with an old, almost-dead and formerly famous actor like Michael Douglas talking to yet ANOTHER funny guy that worked out, and telling him to put on a stupid mask and "become the man you were born to be . . . and remember you should be responsible with your power, and while you do that, wear this helmet!"

Alright. So, and I'm paraphrasing here, your issue seems to be that ideas being put forward aren't original. They are rehashing the same themes and concepts over and over. And I think comic fans will agree with that. Spider-man continually gets bad reboots, Hugh Jackman continues to be a great Wolverine in bad movies, and Fantastic Four... well that goes without saying.

However, it seems that films are trying harder to explore new ground with each entry. Winter Soldier was more of a spy movie. Nolan's Batman Trilogy was more gritty and dark. Guardians of the Galaxy was a space comedy.

Maybe I am just letting my fanboy come through, but for me it seems like certain movies are falling flat, but as a whole the genre is trying to branch out more. Guardians of the Galaxy, Inhumans, and Captain Marvel are getting films, and the regular movie goer has never heard of them.

Yeah, and let's be real, of COURSE there are great films to come out of this apparent issue I I have. But sure, Guardians is greatThere's GOT to be some creativity because let's be REAL here, just like action movies of the 80's, the themes in both genres is stagnant. When they got Nolan to make the new Batman, everyone was like "what the fuck is a director like Nolan doing with Batman?" Same thing with Sam Mendes and Craig's Bond films it was a change that made those concepts/characters feel original again. but that was around 10 years ago. The cycle has begun again.

Those movies wouldn't be grossing 1 BILLION bucks if they were bad. lol

But when I see Ant Man, a hero, that, IMO, is without a doubt a move of Disney/Marvel thinking "How far can we branch out into our roster to still make money" and Mikey Douglas saying the same shit, and even Paul Rudd himself saying "This is stupid" IN the trailer . . . and then turning ominously with his new abs in PERFECT lighting to show off his new torso to an audience that embraces the page-to-screen transition of ANY hero there is . . . OOOFFF. It just gets to me. I have about five minutes, so I'll wrap this up. John Wick is my case-in-point. That's an ORIGINAL STORY*Poof* Somebody made that up. Before you say "well somebody made up Superman," I'd say yeah. They did. almost EIGHTY YEARS ago. But yeah. John Wick. Awesome universe, awesome character. PERFECT direction . . . and it's refreshing - and we'd get more and more action films like that if writers weren't hog-tied to the big studios' obligation (or not) to shelling out 9 superhero movies a year.
Its JUST like the CoD's, and AssCreed's of the gaming industry.

These studios have to pay the bills with titles like that . . . and sure, every couple of years there's a gem in those series i.e. Black Flag, Black Ops 2, just like every 3rd or 4th movie you'll get a Guardians, or Winter Soldier, and I'm sure Avengers 2 will be a blast. But when I look back at my (admittedly nostalgic childhood), I ask myself "what the hell happened to actors that played action heroes?"

"Well, they're tied up. In a 35-year contract with a future of throwing hammers and bouncy shields, in situations that we already read about in comics 4 decades ago."
That's all. Lol. Sorry I never gave you a chance to speak.

Seems to me like it comes down to the same issues gamers have with CoD, like you said: Over-saturation. Its tough to fix though, since comic book fans will keep going back to see their beloved characters on the big screen, and movie goers will keep going back to anything with "Marvel" attached. Only time will tell if this ends up biting the genre in the ass or not.
It won't. They'll keep pushing out both quality (like Daredevil), while experimenting with characters like Ant Man. Which isn't a problem. I'm just sad that there used to be a time when all screenplays were original. That time is gone, and it makes me sad. Thanks for hearing me out - hope you do some thing with it!

Well, I know you have to go, so I just want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about this!
Goin on live.

As I'm sure you can tell, we were short on time, and could probably talk about this for hours.

What do you think? Is Shaun right about the market being over-saturated, or is he missing something? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,