21st Century Brontë #14 by Brontë Bettencourt

Overhyped Heroes

Last Thursday was the premiere of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’ve been asked by numerous friends my thoughts on the movie, as if I obviously led the charge on opening night. I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I intend to. The instant that the DC Cinematic Universe announced this movie, I was skeptical since Versus felt like a rush to establish key Justice League heroes in a film series that mimicked the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s buildup. Considering the many negative reviews of too many heroes, plot lines, and allusions for the story to breathe, my speculations were on point.

I’m not saying that the MCU is without fault.

In my junior year of college, I was obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And since my close friends were also obsessed, we fed each others’ superhero addiction. I’ve seen The Avengers a total of eleven times in theaters. Once was with my grandpa, once was at a drive-in theater with seven police cars speeding down the closest street in hot pursuit of someone. Regardless of the peril, or the number of views, or the state of my bank account, the experience of watching the camera slow pan around the heroes circled up and weapons at the ready, coupled with the valiant background music, rose the hairs on my arms every time.

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Now, I really wish something would puncture the bloated franchise because keeping up is exhausting. Not only is there a constant flux of heroes and movies streaming to theaters, but now there’s mimics attempting to ride off the coattails of all the seller hype.

The problem that I have with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the steady increase of superheroes and characters that aren’t given room to breathe, due to the sheer number of them crammed into a single film. On top of fleshing out these characters in movie-length segments, there has to be a plot driving the story forward, as well as alluding to the ultimate end goal of the much anticipated Infinity Wars, while paying homage to the heroes established in the movies prior, and sprinkling the film with Easter Eggs hinting at other heroes or events to come.

There will also be a Stan Lee cameo, which has become more of a game of Where’s Waldo than a clever surprise.

I wish the end goal of the Infinity Wars hadn’t been foreshadowed at the end of the The Avengers movie, since twelve movies later we will finally see Thanos wreak havoc on the big screen. The story feels less centered on the characters, and more on the predestined events that are to come.

I’ve stopped feeling any form of heightened engagement. How can we have the Infinity Wars if another villain seizes Earth, Asgard, or any of the other defined realms? And any villain introduced ultimately falls short due to the looming threat of Thanos. This is a being who courts death, who controls space, time, energy, and a series of other catastrophic abilities thanks to the Infinity Gauntlet. So what if Ultron nearly created incited an age (which hardly spanned a week in real time)? What is an army of one-hit KO bots to the might of the endgame villain?

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But despite all of the drawbacks, maybe the superhero franchises prevail because we’re in a time that these characters can prevail on a mainstream platform. As a child I’ve seen the geek stereotype exist in cartoons and sitcoms. These stereotypes clung to their comic books, and played Dungeons and Dragons in mothers’ basements, when not engaged in online MMORPGS like World of Warcraft.

I used to think, “Well, I may go to anime conventions, but at least I don’t play WoW.” Then I leveled a human warlock all the way to endgame, before the final dungeon with the Lich King was released.

My thinking evolved to, “Well, at least I’m not into the comic book scene.” Then I ended up driving down south with two friends in a naive quest to meet Robert Downey Jr., who was in south Florida filming for Iron Man 3.

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The set of Iron Man 3, in the distance.

And well, I’ve already elaborated in my dabbling with D&D. My point is, with all of these interests I’ve bonded with people bearing similar interests, both in person and online. Technology today provides more avenues for social connection, making it harder to isolate someone for having different interests. And even so, this “other” is given more opportunity for acceptance in an age where so many at least in my generation, find value in the unique.

I wonder if characters such as Peter Parker can be portrayed correctly, considering that the draw of his personality – this awkward otherness – would be embraced today. I’ve been told that while Andrew Garfield as Spider Man was on point, his rendition of Parker in The Amazing Spiderman movies fell short. He was either too likeable, or not awkward enough, which an unlikable personality carrying a mainstream movie critique aside, he seemed plenty awkward without catering to a nerd stereotype.

Well, despite my dismay at the constant influx of movies, I am excited to see Black Panther and Captain Marvel appear on the big screen. I’d be even more ecstatic if Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel take on the mainstream mantle. But the executives at Marvel and DC should know that I’ll need a reason to try to keep up.

Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes aside, 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool was an incredibly refreshing. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a character who breaks the fourth wall to bludgeon his enemies with his own health meter in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom® 3.

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Naturally, there was violence, nudity, and vulgarity. But the humor did not center on a meme-centric asshole, but a fully fleshed out personality who wasn’t striving to be a hero. Instead, Deadpool strove to slaughter every individual who fucked up his life.

Although this is another origin story, Deadpool’s ability to break the fourth wall parodied this cliché. Because this character’s star power outshines any allusion to future happenings or characters, the driving focus remained on him. And because of the R rating, the character remained true to the comic books, even subtly nodding at the character’s fluctuating sexuality.

I wish the cinematic universes would push the envelope in this aspect. Yes, they’ve established that they can bring these characters to life on the big screen. Implementing Phase One of the MCU, from Nick Fury reaching out to Tony Stark at the end of the Iron Man, to the pay off in the first Avengers was a major risk that had not been done before. Since then, the thrill has waned. Maybe now what is needed is not yet another Peter Parker, but a Miles Morales.

What we maybe need now are characters that are representative of the fan base who buys the tickets.

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21st Cen Bronté

Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.

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