If you look back at the main franchises of superhero movies over the last three decades, they have changed dramatically. This is especially true with the Marvel and DC Comics studios universes (and we’ll keep a keen eye on what happens with the Valiant universe with DMG Entertainment – who produced Iron Man 3 – at the wheel). We look at five substantial changes to these fun and exciting movies since their inception here.
In the early days of these movies, they hallmark was that there was a single hero or the hero and his or her sidekick (ala Batman and Robin) driving the movie storyline and fighting the villain or villains. Captain America did not need anyone else’s help to defeat the Red Skull, and Superman did not need Batman to overcome Lex Luther back in the golden age of superhero movies. By the arrival of the first Avengers movie, this had totally changed.
In the first two Avengers movies, you had half a dozen superheroes working in concert against a single main villain like Loki or Ultron and his crew. By the time the third installment of the Avengers arrived, you were up to well over a dozen of the superheroes. Even Thor could no longer keep up with who was “on the team” when he talked about the Avengers to the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the final scenes of the last Avengers: End Game film, there were so many superheroes fighting Thanos on the last battlefield that you could not even count or keep up with them all any longer. Can you say larger than life gone overboard?
Remember the good old days when it was just Loki against Thor, Hulk, Ironman, Captain America, and agents Barton (aka Hawkeye) and Romanoff (Black Widow)? By Avengers: The Age of Ultron, the bad guys were becoming more dangerous. Honestly, Wanda Witch was far more powerful realistically than Ultron ever dreamed of becoming thanks to her abilities to bewitch even mighty superheroes and crush anything that got near her like a tin can by simply using her mind and twitching her fingers. Thankfully she had switched teams by the end of that movie!
Fast forward to Avengers 3 and 4. Thanos is now so powerful a villain that even the so-called “Children of Thanos” who work for him give the superheroes a serious run for their money. Consider in the opening scenes of the Avengers: Infinity War. Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and his fellow wizard, and Spiderman all four of them could not even stop the two children of Thanos from taking Dr. Strange away on their intergalactic space ship. Thanos was so invincible that the most powerful of the Avengers in the persons of Thor, Captain Marvel, and Scarlet Witch could not stop him, nor could a consortium of a dozen different superheroes including Ironman fighting him together all at the same time. In the words of Ironman reminiscing this memorable struggle against Thanos on the alien world, “I didn’t fight Thanos, he mopped the planet with my face!” That is what you call a vastly more powerful villain.
At least in the Marvel universe, the villains were able to win in the ending of the Avengers: Infinity War. The scene of Thor walking away heartbroken at having lost can bring tears to your eyes. These guys are not supposed to lose ever (even if they do get beat up or thrown down for a few scenes)! Now though, the villains are supremely powerful, even sometimes more powerful than the Justice League heroes or Avengers team of dozens of heroes combined.
The original great superheroes like Superman, Captain America, and Spiderman were beacons of goodness. Ultron affectionately refers to Cap. as “God’s Righteous Man” in an effort to put him down (that was all he could come up with as an insult for Captain America?).
Batman too was a bit strange but still all good in the end. Not in the last two decades of Batman and Superman movies though. Batman is almost a bad guy anymore, a real “dark knight.” Superman, they are not quite sure about. He is an alien, and maybe he is only pretending to be a good guy while it suits his purpose.
Loki is a bad guy in one movie, a good superhero in the next, and then goes back and forth in several of the later ones as if even he is no longer sure where he stands on the side of justice. How is one to believe in a hero that has such fatal flaws nowadays?
They are many of them conflicted, even Thor almighty does not want to rise up and be the king that he was born to be and succeed his legendary father Odin anymore (“It’s time for me to be who I am instead of who I’m supposed to be!” from the end of the Avengers: End Game is so telling.
Up and coming movies set to be produced by Dan Mintz from DMG and Valiant Entertainment are set to bring us more raw, real, and relatable darkness in their comic characters. There’s more revealed about DMG Entertainment over on the Valiant Entertainment site.
When we were kids growing up, Superman and Batman were fun, uplifting, feel-good movies. The last Batman movie I saw in theaters made me leave feeling sick to my stomach, not because of the villains, but because of Batman! Superman movies used to be full of innocent goodness, but that is old school now.
The first Dr. Strange movie was a little bit dark, but it is nothing compared to what we have heard about the horror genre-themed sequel soon to be hitting theaters in the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” They are innocent and light no longer, but instead are darker and grittier pictures of our ideal heroes, for better or for worse.