Superhero movies have exploded in popularity in recent years, with Marvel and DC dominating the cinematic landscape. But while these movies have become some of the most successful in history, they have largely been passed over by the Academy Awards, the pinnacle of recognition in the film industry. So why do superhero movies rarely get Oscars?
The biggest challenge for superhero movies is that their stories are often fantastical, based on out-there concepts and set in fantastical worlds. Even if the performances by the actors are top notch, it’s hard for them to be taken seriously by the Academy, especially when as a genre, superhero movies tend to be seen as ‘lowbrow’ entertainment, lacking in sophistication and artistic ambition.
Interesting then, that critically acclaimed superhero movies often get nominated for the Oscars. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight is one well-known example, and in 2019, Black Panther became the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture.
The director of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler, argued that this nomination marked a culture shift for the Academy, one which could eventually lead to more superhero movies getting Oscar recognition. Coogler believes that superhero movies should be taken seriously, because in many ways they embody a deep understanding of human nature and probe important cultural themes.
The biggest obstacle for superhero movies may well be the voters themselves. It has long been argued that the Academy Awards are out of touch with popular tastes, and while this won’t necessarily change anytime soon, perhaps the success of Black Panther can pave the way for other superhero movies to be taken more seriously in the future.
Spectacle vs. Storytelling
For all their commercial success, Hollywood studios are still working out how to turn spectacle into Oscar-worthy storytelling. Technology has enabled studios to create increasingly realistic and thrilling action scenes that blow audiences away. But while these scenes look great on the big screen, they’re not especially valuable from an Oscar perspective, as truly great stories are what tends to win Academy Awards.
This is something that is beginning to be understood more and more in the industry. Filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan and James Gunn have pushed the genre beyond special effects-driven spectacle, and into character-driven stories that dig deep into their protagonists’ motivations and arcs. These stories are much more likely to be taken seriously by the Academy, as they hit on deeper universal truths about the human condition.
Modern superhero movies strive to combine popular entertainment with thought-provoking storytelling. These movies might exist in a heightened world, but they still touch on themes that all audiences can relate to, such as identity, family and justice.The goal of these movies is to entertain but also to make people think, and this is something that the Academy Awards should consider when they are evaluating potential nominees.
The Challenge of Genre Bias
Another major obstacle superhero movies have to overcome is genre bias. Despite the success of superhero movies, they are still seen by some as being too ‘popcorn-y’, and not particularly demanding for actors, which limits their chances of Oscar recognition. Furthermore, many Academy members still view superhero movies as juvenile, an attitude that may be down to the fact that these movies have traditionally been aimed at younger audiences.
That said, recent superhero movies have tried to challenge this genre bias by delving into deeper more complex themes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for example, has been praised for launching both a culturally and commercially successful franchise. By taking on social issues such as inequality and injustice, the MCU has become much more than just a series of action-packed blockbusters – it has become an exploration of what it means to be human.
The sheer scope of the MCU is remarkable, and its ambition is something that the Academy Awards should take note of. these movies have proven to be incredibly popular with fans, but they also have the potential to be critically acclaimed, with actors giving powerful performances that deserve to be recognised.
Superhero movies have come to dominate the box office, and this has had a knock-on effect on the types of movies that studios are willing to green-light. studios love superhero movies because they know they will make money, and so they are reluctant to make original stories that may not be as commercially successful. This could be one reason why superhero movies don’t get Oscars, as the Academy tends to favour original stories and independent movies over big budget blockbusters.
That said, this trend is starting to shift, with superhero movies becoming more ambitious and more willing to tackle serious themes that can make them more attractive to the Academy. The success of Black Panther is proof of this, and it shows that it is possible for superhero movies to be taken seriously, despite the genre bias and audience expectations.
It’s clear then, that there are still challenges to be overcome if superhero movies are to get Oscars. But there is also potential, and it is encouraging to see that superhero movies are now being recognised for their storytelling as well as their spectacle. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before superhero movies become regular contenders in the Academy Awards.
Superhero Movies and Modern Culture
Over the past few decades, the themes explored in superhero movies have become increasingly complex. Superheroes no longer exist in a bubble, with their stories now intertwined with a much larger cultural landscape. In recent years, these movies have tackled issues such as race, class, gender and sexuality head-on, and become an important part of the pop culture conversation.
To properly assess these movies, the Academy Awards should take into account the political and social context in which they exist. While superhero movies may not be everyone’s cup of tea – they are often seen as derivative or unoriginal – they deserve recognition for the ideas they explore and the messages they convey. This should be taken into account when evaluating any potential Oscar nominations.
The success of superhero movies lies in their ability to reflect modern culture. These movies are both an expression of their creators’ values and the values of current audiences, and the Academy should recognise this when considering them for awards.
How Technology is changing Superhero Movies
Our ever-evolving relationship with technology has made it possible for studios to create more breathtaking action set pieces than ever before. This technology has enabled filmmakers to bring to screen stories that are bigger, bolder and more ambitious than before, making for thrilling cinematic experiences.
But this technology also allows creators to take a different approach to cinematic storytelling, one that focuses on character-driven stories and arcs, rather than spectacle. This is important, as it allows the audience to invest more deeply in the characters and their journeys, which ultimately makes for a richer, more satisfying viewing experience.
Technology is an incredibly powerful tool, and its potential should not be underestimated. The evidence is there – with its combination of spectacle, story and character-driven action, contemporary superhero movies offer something truly unique. It’s time for the Academy to see them for what they are – great works of art.
The Promise of Inclusion
The diversity of the current crop of superhero movies is encouraging, with actors from all backgrounds and walks of life getting their chance to shine on the big screen. This is something that the Academy Awards should take into account when considering superhero movies for awards.
These movies offer us a chance to see different stories, different perspectives, and a different type of heroism, one that is often ignored in other genres. In other words, superhero movies offer us a chance to see the world through the eyes of someone who isn’t the usual ‘white male hero.’
This is something that is becoming increasingly important in an age where representation matters, and where people are demanding to be seen and heard. The Academy should therefore recognise these movies for the promise they offer as well as their entertainment value.
Superhero movies have become one of the cornerstones of cinema. While they may not always be taken seriously by the Academy Awards, they are nonetheless an important part of modern cinema, and can offer us insight into our culture, our values and our world. Ultimately then, it may be only a matter of time before superhero movies become regular contenders in the Oscars.