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Are superhero movies becoming more respected by critics?

Written by Film

The popularity of comic book movies has attracted a lot of attention from elitists in the industry, who accuse these movies of being shallow, silly and shameless cash grabs. Even the critics that did praise these movies, felt the need to emphasize the fact that they are good despite being about super heroes. After all, it is no secret that Hollywood rarely awards the ‘prestige’ label to movies that are not dramas.

Good super hero movies have never been outright rejected by critics: for example, Superman (1978) was widely regarded as one of the best movies of the year. However, the genre has been condescendingly viewed as something that needs to be transcended. This is evident in how the films that were being recognized: Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight not only because it was an enchanting performance, but also because, due to its grounded style, it is much closer to what critics feel comfortable with labelling ‘prestige’.

increasing need for super hero movies to distinguish themselves, and redefine the genre

We have seen this type of trend in recent years, with an increasing need for super hero movies to distinguish themselves, and redefine the genre. From an empowering social commentary like Black Panther, to an irreverent comedy like Deadpool, these movies succeed by embracing the super hero story, while masterfully combining it with already existing tropes to create a new invigorated type of experience. As the attitude of filmmakers breaking boundaries and creating new innovative styles has grown, critics have begun to respond to that. Logan, Wonder Woman and Iron Man are all examples of movies that have been embraced by critics.

As a genre, comic book movies were still being looked down onked down on. With people in the industry talking about ‘Avengers fatigue’ and saturation, it is undeniable that we have seen an almost overwhelming surge of superhero stories being adapted to the screen. However, with the recent release of Avengers: Endgame, a lot of critics have started to recognize the intrinsic value of super hero movies, without having to justify their liking the movie by explaining that the film ‘transcends’ the genre. For example, successful universe building is unique to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The idea of different stories being juggled within the same universe is resembling of comic books, and had never been successfully translated to the screen before. With a run of 22 movies, some better than the others, president of the Marvel Studios Kevin Feige has changed how super hero movies are perceived by critics. They are not only good movies because they rely on other more ‘serious’ genres, but they are a contribution to cinema in their own right.

the MCU has single handedly changed the landscape of blockbuster cinema

Not for once does Endgame pander to their audience, or fall within easy tropes: it does right by the characters and complete arcs that have matured over the course of years of movie making. In a way, the appeal of these characters might be compared to Greek mythology: larger than life characters embodying very humane flaws and afflictions in other worldly settings. With incredible performances, thrilling directing, and visionary planning, the MCU has single handedly changed the landscape of blockbuster cinema, in a way that will make it much harder for anyone to utter the phrase “It is good… for a super hero movie”.

Last modified: 8th May 2019

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