If you watched Superbowl XLV, you probably saw the new trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger. Based on the comic from the 1940s, the film releases on July 22, 2011 and is the fifth independent production from Marvel Studios after Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Thor.
Personally, the trailer doesn’t inspire more than mild disinterest from me. Is anyone else getting tired of all of these comic book movies?
This 30-second spot has spawned nerdgasms all around the interwebs, particularly for the glimpse of Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull. But to me, it looks like the same old superhero stuff.
That’s the key word here – “old.” Some of these comics have been kicking around for 70 years or more. They often represent worn-out ideas and formulas that lost their thunder long ago. Or they have been rehashed so many times, with the same stuff dressed up in new costumes, that it’s just plain dull to see them again, like that weird uncle that shows up at reunions wearing a toupee and trying to be hip with words like “dawg” and “fresh” and “skillz.”
I’m not necessarily bashing comic books or suggesting that comic books can’t be a worthy form of entertainment. And you don’t have to look further than The Dark Knight for a great comic book movie. I’m just starting to wonder if every single comic book character really needs a movie adaptation. Somewhere between the first Fantastic Four and the second Hulk and the third Spider-Man movie, I stopped caring what cosmic rays or gamma bombs or radioactive spiders did what to whom.
One of the things that gets me is the superhero costume. The whole idea of a costume is a throwback. Superheroes tend to dress in costumes that are colorful, highly-themed and full of pointless flourishes. It’s like a TGI Fridays in human form running around fighting crime. In the case of Captain America, his superhero costume just goes over the top.
I can imagine Joe Simon designing Captain America’s costume back in 1940.
“Okay, this guy is a Super American, so he has to look like America. I’ve got the red, white and blue colors, but the costume needs more. How about I make him look exactly like the flag with red and white stripes and a star? Yes, that’s good, but it still needs more. Maybe little wings over his ears? That’s a nice flourish. But something’s still missing. Are people going to see this guy and KNOW that he is Captain America? Maybe it’s not clear enough. There’s got to be something else I can add that will really nail home the ‘America’ thing….
“I’ve got it! How about a big, fat “A” on his forehead!”
To bring these aging superheroes into the modern age, filmmakers tend to downplay the costume flourishes of the past. There’s a pretty reliable formula, actually. Get rid of the tight spandex, wash out all the bright colors and dress everyone in leather as if they just stepped out of a BDSM convention.
Sometimes it works. And sometimes – like in the case of Daredevil – they just look like somebody’s gimp. But as more and more comic book movies are announced, it gets increasingly difficult for me to get excited about them.
This year, in addition to Captain America: The First Avenger, we have Thor on May 6th, X-Men: First Class on June 3rd and Green Lantern on June 17th. In the next two years, we can also look forward to the Spider-Man reboot, the Superman reboot, the Fantastic Four reboot (sensing a pattern?), The Avengers, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Shazam!, Batman 3, Wanted 2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, Deadpool, Ant-Man, Iron Man 3, Kick Ass 2: Balls to the Wall and more.
That is a lot of superhero on screen.