Why are superhero movies so popular? From the moment that the first ‘somewhat’ realistic portrayal of these larger than life comic book characters first graced the silver screen, it is clear why superhero movies have entranced audiences all over the world.
According to critic and film scholar, Lilly Wood, “Superheroes are appealing for two reasons: first, they resonate with deeply held human needs to feel safe and powerful framed respectively by notions of protection from outside danger and having the ability to change one’s circumstances for the better”. This best sums up its appeal as superheroes are no longer just about fighting with evil. They are platforms for honest, emotion-charged stories that explore the deeper aspects of human connections, relationships and identity, in the midst of a technologically advancing world which often feel disconnected.
In a time when the world is going through so much social, economic and political uncertainty, the idea of a ‘superhero’ appears like an empowered symbol of hope and justice. Particularly amongst teenagers and young adults, who are already in the midst of an identity crisis and have a need to connect with a figure that offers something reassuring and inspiring. Not to mention, superheroes aren’t just white males, as it is so often depicted in the comic books. They come in all shapes, sizes, genders and races, and are especially inspiring to the minority community – allowing for a wider representation and recognition in Hollywood.
From Iron Man to Wonder Woman, the diversity of superheroes expands by the minute with each new movie, accompanied by some spectacular special effects and digitally enhanced visuals. Plus, each superhero movie contains elements of classic Hollywood cinema, such as action and adventure, romance, comedy and suspense — something that appeals to a wider range of movie-goers. Add to this the personal connections the actors have with their respective characters and the various story arcs, and you have a guarantee for box office success.
The advent of streaming services and the gratification for immediate entertainment has made doing a movie marathon featuring some of the popular superhero movies a highly appealing prospect. While some people may find it hard to save up for a movie ticket and other associated expenses, movies appear on streaming services shortly after its theatrical release. This has been a great factor which has driven up viewership.
Finally, the marketing of these movies by the studios is truly impressive. Good or bad, it almost doesn’t matter for superhero movies — with the right kind of promotional material, the positive hype reaches beyond the film itself and is talked about by almost everyone. There is something so alluring that people continue to come back expecting to have a great time and they aren’t disappointed.
One of the primary reasons why superhero movies are so popular is because of the very engaging stories they tell. Thanks to the ever-deepening universe Marvel has crafted over the last decade, along with some groundbreaking comicbook adaptations, superheroes movies have become a key player in Hollywood and have allowed filmmakers to explore new and unique ways when it comes to storytelling.
The carefully crafted universe of Marvel Comics is as complex and full of interconnecting elements as our world. From recurring characters to the link between different storyline actors, it’s no wonder that viewers feel part of something grander than a two-hour event. The scripts, the characters, and the plotting engage people in a way that’s rarely seen with other genres. It’s no surprise then why some fans feel so emotionally invested that they take it upon themselves to become experts in the craft.
The build-up before each movie helps create a way to introduce characters and create anticipation. Drawing knowledge from the comics, filmmakers can create and provide a different experience every time. Thanos’ backstory in Avengers: Endgame is a snapshot at how filmmakers can use storytelling to impact entire franchises and franchises in turn to recharge enough energy to power up the tales.
The introduction of new characters, various other interconnecting arcs and elements, alongside extended universe content (in the form of apps, comics, and video games) ensure that people can invest in stories that take years to develop.
Lastly, the biggest appeal of superhero movies lies in the escapism they provide. Amidst a world where everything from war to economic instability seems perpetual, there’s a need for escapism another world, another culture with superheroes being at the center of it. Every movie gives its audience a chance to plunge into a different world, and explore the lives of these characters, the culture, and the fate of the universe for a few hours.
Visuals and Effects
Movie history and visual effects have grown together in sync. Production companies hire increasing numbers of talented special effect technicians every year, and they provide more than just enhancements to the visual experience. Apart from giving filmmakers a great canvas to draw out their stories, visual effects also allow them to transform outlandish and extraordinary concepts into a form that can engage audiences.
For example, films like the Avengers trilogy have given us breathtaking action sequences that not only look more realistic than ever, but have also used capturing methods like motion capture to bring alive characters like Thanos — something that seemed unbelievable until a few years ago.
In addition, filmmakers have also been able to utilize these effects to tell better stories, since they not only provide vivid imagery, but also make storytelling easier for them. Take for instance, the Hulk’s transformation into his human form in Avengers: Age of Ultron — a powerful moment that’s enhanced because of how humanely we can see the transformation take place.
Apart from this, movies like Wonder Woman and The Dark Knight have also demonstrated how visual effects can help add an extra layer of atmosphere and authenticity to the story. In addition to the visual effects, the genuine and gripping performances of these superheroes make these films a treat for the eyes and ears alike.
An integral part of creating a successful superhero movie is in having a cast of characters that its audiences can get behind. A mix of established actors, rising stars and unknown individuals provides the films with a major boost in creating an impression. Take for example Robert Downey Jr., who initially wasn’t the top choice for the role of Iron Man, but turned out to become an audience favorite.
The casting process also plays a crucial role in ensuring that the superheroes are accurately portrayed as in the comics. But more importantly, having unknown performers to perform the action feats provides a realistic touch to the movie. Finally, the work of various stunt coordinators in coordinating fight scenes and stunts, in order to provide more realistic scenes is commendable.
Costumes play a major role in selling the idea of a superhero to its audiences. A costume is used to create a visual identity for a superhero, and to provide them with distinction and character. Costumes are designed to make comic book characters look like iconic figures, which ultimately gives them a visibility that helps draw in more viewers.
Carefully crafted costumes also give a sense of realism and believability to the action scenes. Over the years, filmmakers have created iconic costumes for superheroes. Take for example, the Batman suit from The Dark Knight trilogy, the Iron Man suit from the Avengers series or the Captain America suit from Captain America: The First Avenger. Not only do these costumes elevate the superhero experience for fans, but they also make the action sequences more intense and gripping.
The same goes for the costumes used for the villains, like the Joker and Lex Luthor from The Dark Knight and Superman respectively. These costumes help establish the characters as clear antagonists, while at the same time providing a memorable visual image to audiences.
Production & Technology
Finally, production companies have made continual investments in technology, which have enabled them to craft highly cinematic experiences. Take for example, the technology used to craft the scenes in Avengers: Infinity War. Even though it was difficult to shoot a movie of such scope, the production team figured out a way to make it happen through the use of motion capture technology and visual effects.
3D technology has also been used in the production of superhero movies, with the latest movies integrating the technology to allow for dynamic and interesting camera angles, in order to draw out the tension in particular scenes. Motion capture, another way of creating better visuals, has allowed for the accurate digital recreation of Spiderman or Iron Man in order to provide a more realistic experience overall.
Production companies have also started to utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to make the production of superhero movies more efficient. AI tech can also reduce costs for production and make it easier for filmmakers to automate certain tasks. For instance, AI-powered algorithms can be used to create storyboards, manage various 3D assets and develop clever marketing strategies.