The Superhero Movie Obsession

I’m a huge fan of superhero films. And recently, us fans of these particular films have been treated to a flurry of great (and terrible) adaptations of our favourite heroes. I guess my interest in this genre really began when I watched Batman Begins; it was the first superhero film where I saw a different side to the hero, the darker, the more complex, brooding hero that is the Dark Knight. Since then, Batman has become my favourite superhero (well, he was always kinda my favourite, I just rekindled interest in the DC character with Christopher Nolan’s brilliant rendition).

But with the recent torrent of these films, it’s got me wondering: how long will Hollywood’s obsession with the superhero genre remain?

Superhero films are the perfect money spinner. They have the perfect setups for high-octane action, in-your-face special effects, the easy ability to market them in Hollywood’s latest love affair – the 3D format – and their comic book roots make them the ideal merchandise spin-off tools that take the money beyond the movie house.

But as the universe (and our good old friend Mr Newton) have proved to us, there’s a limit to everything. And I fear that, with the conclusion of Nolan’s Dark Knight saga, we’re fast approaching that point, that singularity for want of a geekier phrase.

Let’s face it: the latest Iron Man was a flop. Weak story line (in fact, I saw a YouTube video that drew parallels between it and The Incredibles plot), over-the-top action sequences and a failed attempt at trying to make the franchise seem “serious and dark” like Nolan’s trilogy all contributed to my disappointment in this film. (I still maintain that the first Iron Man was the best on in this series).

Man of Steel was a great approach at rejuvenating the ultimate superhero, the Übermensch himself. However, it too fell into the trap of including more flash than substance in its extended and dubious action sequences. Sure, I get it: superhero films need the action to justify their genre, but as Nolan displayed in his interpretation of the Dark Knight tale, you can achieve a subtle balance that makes a trilogy a brilliant one.

Perhaps in questioning how long the superhero obsession will prevail, we should investigate why we revel in these films in the first place.

The surface answer is obvious: to see our favourite comic book heroes on the big screen. But then there’s the deeper aspect: the escapism, the retreat to a world vastly different than our own, the offering of entering another dimension where these heroes exist, and where the problems of our own world can, just for a few hours, fade into the background.

With Batman done, and now Superman entering the fold, and with Marvel’s heroes still chugging away at fighting crime and saving the world in generic CGI ways, I wonder if we’re reaching the point of these films becoming repetitive, mundane, and contrary to the mission they initially set out to achieve. I think that, if the studios are to continue their superhero fixation (and there’s no doubt they won’t – the box office takings certainly speak for themselves) then we need more innovative storylines, more engaging drama, and a return to the initial excitement that drew us to these films in the first place.


3DTV: Why It’s a Gamble (Yet Still Awesome)

The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) held recently in Las Vegas, Nevada, had one important and exciting thing coming out of it: the emergence of 3D television in the home-theatre set-up.

This means that we can watch big-budget, sheer-awesomness-exuding, and eye-watrering-it’s-so-beautifully-rendered films like James Cameron’s Avatar in all its 3D glory from the comfort of our living rooms. Sounds good, right? It sure is.

What’s even more exciting is that big-name broadcasters like ESPN and the Discovery Network are planning on broadcasting content in 3D. ESPN even went on to state that they’re planning on broadcasting the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 3D.

However, the slight snag with the onset of 3D technology – what some anticipate will be making its way onto store shelves by the end of this year – is that, like the introduction of Sony’s Blu-Ray HD technology, 3DTV will be lacking in the amount of 3D content available for consumption.

However, according to Nic Covey, director of cross-platform insights for The Nielsen Company, “In terms of where the consumer is, over the top is where the action is going to be in 2010,” he said. “That’s what they’re looking for.” So there is in fact consumer interest in this technology; it’s just that the creation of 3D content is expensive, and as such there is not enough available for this to be viable just yet.

ESPN, while showing interest in broadcasting in 3D, still maintains that the creation of such content for live events is going to be expensive. “We need to be able to get 2D and 3D [versions of live sporting events] produced in the same truck,” ESPN’s Chief Technology Officer Chuck Pagano said. “If we have to do side-by-side production, with two crews and two trucks, it could end up being a very long putt for us in terms of making this work economically.”

3DTV is certainly the future of home entertainment, in the same way DVD and surround sound revolutionised the home theatre. It just needs more time to develop. And when that time comes, I will certainly be in line with my 3D goggles in hand ready to get this awesome tech.