The problem with superhero movies: superheroes are infantile

First, I like a few super hero movies. I actually tend to like the ones that are lighter, dumber, funner: The 60s Batman TV show, The Tobey McGuire Spider-Man movies (including 3), the Ben Affleck Daredevil, the 2005 Fantastic Four, Batman Begins, the first two X-Men movies are OK. The first Avengers was passable. Chronicle is a genuinely good movie but doesn’t fit the mold. Oh, Sky High is actually quite a fun/good movie. And so on.

“Fun” is the key thing here for a simple reason: superheroes are pretty stupid and are based on source material that is, for the most part, full-retard. Sure, I know that very serious and respectable graphic novels have been written. Dark Knight, Watchmen, I get it.

But have you ever read like old X-Men comics and shit? Pretty much any comic written before the 1990s? Really cheesy art and stories that are so dumb your brain will pour out of your ears and nose like a thin fluid. You have Superman fighting like, bank robbers, right? The Fantastic Four fighting intelligent gorillas and whatnot. Just absolutely ridiculous tripe.

And the idiocy is what’s good about those comics. They were written for kids, after all. They were dumb, throwaway fun, and in their lighthearted yet heavyhanded approach to reality, they managed to create a bunch of characters that are quite memorable. In the 70s, I’d watch the Spider-Man cartoon (insanely cheap and lazy animation), and he’d be fighting Rhino, Mysterio, Electro, the Green Goblin, Lizard, and so on, and it was all super dumb yet memorable.

But what’s embarrassing is when these characters are given the grown-up treatment and taken seriously. Sure, you know, there is room for a little of that, as with the early X-Men flicks: oh, OK, they’re wearing S&M gear and look badass instead of silly. I dig, I dig. That’s fine for a couple movies. But now with the whole “cinematic universe” bullshit, my god. Even watching the trailers is fatiguing, this shit is all worn out.

Superheroes are fundamentally wish fulfillment for very immature minds. I read about the origin of Superman: basically, the thesis was that he was created by two Jewish guys from an immigrant community who felt like outsiders and were projecting their desire to be in mainstream America onto the character. Makes sense. And pretty much all superheros are like that: What if I could fly! Beat up the bad guys and get the girl!

It’s childish but not without appeal if done right. Things like Batman v. Superman and Age of Apocalypse. Yeah, that’s not doing it right (though the latter, which I saw in the theater, at least has a camp factor, albeit still boring and fatigued overall).

And the fanboys/girls who are so into these childish characters that they are putting over these garbage movies through sheer force of will. That’s fucked up. I have a FB friend that I dearly love, a grown man in his 40s, and I do enjoy his postings. But it’s superheroes 75% of the time (the rest is beefcake–he’s super-gay, which is a genuine super power). It’s like dude, that ain’t reality, you know? It’s not even a simulacrum of reality.

So yeah, we are stuck with this terrible Hollywood diarrhea of superhero movies, and they’re not fun any more, and just hearing about them all the time wears me the fuck out.


As opposed to the deep thought and sophistication found in* other* action movies? Or horror movies? Or, well, movies in general?

If you throw out all the movies that are meant as “dumb, throwaway fun” or just plain bad, you don’t really have much left. It’s a medium that really lends itself more to spectacle than deep thought.

And ultimately, entertainment is about personal taste anyway.

True. I think there is a kind of universal “content fatigue” at work as the tropes get ground and ground down.

But super powers don’t exist. In most action movies, we are dealing with things that do exist, like guns and bombs. The baseline realism and maturity level of super hero movies thus is lower.

Just to build on what Der Trihs said: is that how you describe, say, Bond movies? That you like the ones that are lighter and dumber and funnier, and not dark and wordy and serious? What’s the difference between James Bond and Bruce Wayne?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m genuinely not sure where the dividing line is between ‘superhero’ movies and ‘non-superhero’ movies – that it seems hard to tell Thor from Hercules, Indiana Jones from Diego de la Vega, Doctor Strange from Harry Potter, the Scarlet Witch from a Jedi; does BLADE count? Or the MEN IN BLACK? TARZAN?

And who else is? Chris Pine as Captain Kirk? Tom Cruise as Fill In The Blank? How about a skateboarding rock-and-roller who knows a wild-eyed inventor with a flying DeLorean that doubles as a time machine, retroactively turning his parents cool on his way to getting the girl? I think he took that guy’s wallet.

But not as seen in the movies. Action heroes do things all the time that bend or ignore physics, and guns and bombs are portrayed highly unrealistically. For example, in real life nobody is going to outrun a fireball, or blow somebody backwards ten feet by shooting them with small arms. Or jump though a glass window without being shredded.

Superheroes are just more likely to explicitly have super powers.

Please excuse me if I misquote, but in the words of a very smart man who knew what are the truly important things in life,

“The best thing about being a grown-up is that you can have ice cream for dinner.”

I’m perfectly happy to get some ice cream for my eyes and brain now and then.

I’m not a fan of the James Bond movies. A couple are OK. I think the whole “spy” thing has become a world of its own with no reference to the real world. That said, I read and still own the book Thunderball, which is pretty dry and realistic and well-written.

Your point is taken. There is not a fundamental difference. There are some not-so-fundamental differences. Old school comics are definitely more infantile and unsophisticated (on average) than the Harry Potter books, which have pretty consistent and coherent world-building and a single plot arc across the series.

As characters, super heroes are, at the end of the day, heroes or protagonists and thus can be as sophisticated and mature as the writers care to make them, or are able. However, that sophistication doesn’t always square with the source material. One big problem is that some super heroes are “dumber” than others yet fight alongside those that make more sense. Thor is pretty frickin’ stupid, whereas Iron Man is less so (matter of opinion, of course). And then you have the congeries of power levels, which Hawkeye freely admits in the abominable Ultron movie, when he quips about being the guy with the bow and it doesn’t make sense. Right, it doesn’t. And not in a fun or funny way: it’s just dumb.

It’s easy to get behind truly excellent examples like Raiders or Back to the Future: we should have some fantasy, I think. It doesn’t all have to be War and Peace. But then these endless franchies get packed down our throats and ugh.

Yeah, I just saw a clip from the Prequel Trilogy (yes, that one) of Obi-Wan diving through a window to grab onto this flying thing. Sure, maybe he used the Force to accomplish this, but in that case maybe show the Force preceding him and pushing the window out? Instead of the window seeming to be made of glassy tissue paper? He doesn’t even slow down as he hits it. In reality, one would probably not even break the glass, maybe crack it, and land on the floor with some major head trauma.

Or all the movies showing someone getting thrown back 20 feet from an explosion and they just walk it off. In reality, that’s called you’re dead.

So yes, point taken. There can be spectrum of realism in action movies, but most is pretty cringey.

True, my friend. But these “cinematic universes” are like the Human Centipede being force-fed at the cheap Chinese buffet.

You are SO totally going to the wrong buffets, dude…

Why would you pick comics from the 80s and 90s when you’re talking about the Superhero movies of today? Superheroes are our versions of the Greek myths, and are not remotely designed for children.

Except Greek myths had origins in reality

Dude becomes swan, gets cuddles from woman and she produces two eggs, out of each of which twins are born has a basis in reality?

Some myths have a basis in reality (the Trojan war). Some make perfect sense if you think of the protagonists as personified concepts (Eros and Psyche). And some have a basis in very good imaginations.

To defend this position you need to present a clearer definition of “infantile” and “childish”, and how superhero movies fit that definition strongly (and, how they presumably differ from the rest of the escapist entertainment out there).

I’m not saying the OP is wrong, but you haven’t presented a strong argument for anything other than “I like superhero movies that are lighter and less brooding than most of the current crop. And people who get really excited about them, well, don’t they know they’re not even real!?!?

And not just the Greek myths: Every age in history has had some equivalent. In the Middle Ages, the stories told about saints were distinguishable from modern superhero stories only by the lack of capes. Before the Greek myths, Gilgamesh was a superhero. And there were probably equivalents back before Gilgamesh, too, that have been lost for lack of writing.

Heh. It just occurred to me: remember when Val Kilmer was Batman? Of course you do; an actor obligingly falls down as if overpowered by Kilmer’s hand-to-hand combat prowess, and Kilmer’s stunt driver pulls off the expected car-chase feats, and Kilmer otherwise spends the movie getting the win as if he’s a character the writer wants to be with and wants to be and et cetera. Oh, and he’s a masked man in a form-fitting black costume, of course.

And what did he follow that up with? The Saint, where – well, yes, an actor obligingly falls down as if overpowered by his hand-to-hand combat prowess, and a stunt driver does the car-chase stuff, and our hero otherwise has the full ‘superspy’ skillset: building plans around being able to bed women he hasn’t yet met, and making getaway after getaway by dint of having set up diversions ahead of time, because, hey, escapism plus writer equals plot device, right?

Anyhow, I mention that one because he’s got the other go-to superspy skill in that one: he briefly interacts with someone while playing cat burglar, and the description that guy provides does the authorities no good, as Kilmer has moved on to a wig and an accent and a pair of glasses – and the same cop who misses him later misses him again, as he’s on to another wig and another accent and another pair of glasses; and the guy who could ID him also misses him using yet another wig and another accent and another pair of glasses. And he later makes good use of yet another wig and another accent and another pair of glasses; but to do that justice I’d have to get into his way with fake beards, and we don’t really have the time for that.

But we do have time to cover how even a guy like that – one uniquely suited to being seen in action, sure as he’s of course later seen hiding behind yet another wig and yet another accent – pulls off that burglary as a masked man in a form-fitting black costume, because of course he does. What, like he’s going to rely on a disguise when he could simply dress up like a superhero? It is to laugh.

You’d think they’d be using some super-tough, shatterproof sci fi material too.

I do like the image of him dramatically leaping at a window and just bouncing off of it stunned by the impact with a loud BOING! or THUD! noise.
“That always works when the Jedi do it in the holovids!”

“This isn’t a holovid.”

I agree. That’s why mythic figures like Thor and Hercules fit right in on superhero teams.

In the OP’s defense: I’ve occasionally watched a movie or a TV show and thought, “I probably would have loved this if it had been around when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve sort of outgrown it.” And superhero movies/shows are a type that this is often true of.

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. – C.S. Lewis

75% superheroes sounds better to me than 75% political screeds or 75% glurgey inspirational quotes (usually in image form with a Minion in the corner) or 75% photos of your feet at the beach or most of whatever gets posted to Facebook.

I think superheroes (and sci-fi stuff like Star Trek/Star Wars) appeals to a lot of people partially for the wish fulfillment wow factor and partially because it’s a large universe that can simultaneously be debated about forever (Who would win between X and Y? How can X do Y when Z?) and yet also has a canonical body of data (Well, in Issue #47…) to draw from. It’s the perfect mixture of order and chaos to keep some people interested.

That’s what the Human Centipede wants, not me!