After much debate, my sister and I decided on Spiderman as tonight’s movie. For once not possessed by Fruit Ninja as I watched, I started to think about superhero movies. Specifically, I started to think about why I don’t like them.
I thought, initially, that the reason is because I don’t like action movies (the genre superhero movies are consistently drawn to). Too much jerky camera work, too much violence, and not enough storytelling for my taste. There’s a difference, in my mind, between plot and storytelling. Plot is a thin string of events that fall into place almost formulaically. Storytelling is woven, storytelling is complex and dramatic and natural. Storytelling is people who live their lives, and who have things happen to them. Plot is buildings exploding and diamonds being stolen.
But really, why shouldn’t I enjoy superhero movies? Sure I was largely unaware of comic books growing up, and sure, I was mocked just a few weeks ago for asking why Batman isn’t one of the Avengers, but still. Aren’t superhero movies often about the struggle to become a hero? The building of an enigma, the man beneath the mask? That’s character development if nothing else is.
And then I thought about why Batman is my favorite superhero. And it’s not because I thought the Dark Knight was phenomenal (although it was). It’s because Batman isn’t super. He doesn’t have special powers. No spiders, no radioactivity. He’s just a man with some cool gadgets, courtesy of Morgan Freeman. And yes, his immense wealth is, arguably, a power of some sort. But overall, he’s just a man. Fallible and utterly mortal.
So mostly, to wrap up this potentially unpopular rant, what I miss when I watch superhero movies is the human element. No, romance doesn’t count. No, Peter Parker’s high school attendance doesn’t count. I miss thinking that somehow, because the hero is clearly not different from anyone else, such a story could be possible. I miss forgetting, while I watch, that I’m even watching a movie at all. It’s easy for me to step into the shoes of Jo March, of Elizabeth Bennet, of Holly Golightly . It’s difficult to be Spiderman.