Superhero Movies: How to Build a Better Film
The Avengers: We can do better.
It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a buff white man in tights and a cape flying through the sky.
Like every other self-respecting film geek, I'm excited about all the superhero films that are making their way onto the big screen this summer. It kicked off today with The Avengers (otherwise known as the superhero smorgasbord) and will peak with July's release of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises.
Undoubtedly, 2012 will be an epic year for us geeks. But frankly, as much as I love the Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman franchises, I can't help but feel like there's room for improvement with comic book-to-film adaptations as a whole.
Tim Burton has probably gotten the closest to perfection with 1989's Batman -- a story and cast that was so perfectly complimentary to Burton's gothic aesthetic that the film still remains a riveting, emotional, and fresh watch over two decades later. If we only knew then that nearly all of Burton's other films to follow would have a similar look, we might have been less impressed, but this original hasn't lost its steam.
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Still, as big of a fan as I am, I think we can do better. And being the selfless cinephile that I am, I'm putting the ingredients out there for a buddy filmmaker (or a gigantic media conglomerate who'd like to option the idea) to run with.
Someone get on the phone with Andre Leon Talley, because there is a famine of beauty in the costume department. For starters, it's time to lose the cape. Let's face it, they don't make you aerodynamic, and this isn't the ren fair. The only imposing figures that need swaths of cloth hanging from their necks are the santos at the Hialeah botanicas.
We need a post-modern, deconstructionist outfit that is inspired and inspiring -- think Rei Kawakubo meets Alexander McQueen. Let's not merely hint at the chiseled chest and pecs; lets show them babies off. If you really want to intimidate your foes, wear anything Abba did in the 70's. Nothing is scarier than a gigantic bicep wrapped in metallic polyester.
The Love Interest
While Lois Lane and Vicky Vale make for fine main squeezes, it's high time we brought our superheroes' romantic lives up to date. Why couldn't our crime fighter be of the homosexual persuasion? After all, superheroes are muscular, wear tight clothing, and know how to make an entrance -- doesn't that just scream gay to you?
A gay caped crusader might be a tough pill to swallow for fanboys in America, so if "going gay" is too far, maybe it's time that our crusaders' love interests aren't always fair-skinned patrician beauties. Why not a sexy Latina, or gorgeous African American or -- better yet -- a mix of the two! I don't know about you, but I think Zoë Saldaña would make most men -- with or without superhuman powers -- pretty lustful and is definitely worth fighting over.
If comic-inspired movies have gotten one thing right, it's casting the nemesis. Jack Nicholson, Alfred Molina, Heath Ledger, Gene Hackman, and Terrence Stamp all made for admirable foes.
But it's time for our superhero to face a threat so horrifying that even they are truly afraid. The next great enemy shouldn't be human or monster -- it should be a super-computer, a machine with the knowledge of Wikipedia, the sleekness of an Apple design, and the voice of Stephen Hawkings. It wouldn't be motivated by greed or power; this would be pure intellectual combat, a modern day man-versus-machine battle that, deep inside, I think we all fear. If the machine does need a face, I say we call up Al Gore. He's not so busy these days, he did invent the Internet (just ask him), and his personality is magnificently mechanical.
Maybe I'm biased. But if anywhere would make a perfect home base for the next great superhero, it's Miami. On the list of cities just begging to be saved, we're at the top. More importantly, it's time we had a superhero that lives in a colorful setting, someplace practically lifted directly from the comic book pages. With Miami's palm trees, blue water, and neon-lit art deco architecture, I'd argue that we're the ideal contender. Doesn't Lincoln Road or Little Havana sound like a welcome change from the drab cityscapes of Gotham and Metropolis?
Plus, a superhero could live a more relaxed life here. Would any true Miamian blink if they saw a muscled, bulged-out man in über-tight clothing dashing across town in a ridiculous sports car? Hell, those things are practically required upon moving here. No bad guy would ever find him amidst all the look-alikes, and hell, if our hero's more Bruce Wayne than Clark Kent, his secret lair could be one of those big houses on Old Cutler that no one's ever been to. Or better yet, an underground hideout beneath the hideous home plate monument at Marlins Stadium. People don't even want to look at that thing, so slipping in and out unnoticed would be a snap!
I've described the look, the love interest, the enemy and the home base -- the roadwork has been set. But we still need the centerpiece of our story. With Miami's diverse, colorful range of personalities, the possibilities are endless. So, fellow film geeks, it's up to you. What is our superhero's name? What's his special power? Who would play him in the movie?
Share your thoughts in the comments. In the meantime, I'm going to try and get Stan Lee on the phone. I've got some ideas I think he'd like.
--Kareem Tabsch, co-founder and co-director of O Cinema
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