The last ten years have seen the meteoric rise of the superhero film. The grand, big-budget Hollywood flicks that see larger-than-life characters doing battle with the epitome of evil, and – speaking as a huge fan of comic-book heroes – it’s been fantastic. What once was for nerds alone is now for the masses; what once was marginalised is now mainstream, and people can’t seem to get enough. 2012’s ‘Avengers Assemble’ raked in over $1 billion, and Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ franchise injected a much-needed dose of awesome to an uninteresting and dying film franchise. Marvel Studios and DC are thriving, as is the resurgence of the physical comic book. But why?
Well, for one, with CGI being integrated in to seemingly every film there has never been a better time to see a superhero film. The stunts, the breathtaking action sequences and the mystical nature that pervades every frame of a superhero film really benefit from this, and as a result of this not only can studios and directors can begin to take on bold, epic, more visually adventurous projects, but actually do them justice.
Now, this isn’t a study. There’s no science or psychology at work here, but I honestly believe that the real reason for the rise of the comic-book hero is just that – the heroes themselves. The vast majority of us are part of the machine – working nine-to-five every day, five days a week. Our lives are, for the most part, dictated for us. When we eat, when we sleep, and when we relax – it’s all decided for us, and there’s not a lot we can do about it. We’re ordinary people, and we’re fine with that.
But in comes the superhero film, and we think to ourselves ‘if only that was me’. Don’t pretend like you haven’t wanted to be Superman or Batman, fighting for good and punishing evil, and making the kind of difference in the world that it’s just not possible to do from behind a desk. The kind of difference that gets noticed, the kind of difference that gets you recognition and respect and admiration. Fighting for the kind of change and justice that everybody talks about, but nobody seems to be able to figure out.
Batman is the best example of this, simply because he doesn’t have any special powers. He’s just a man. He eats, sleeps, and bleeds with the rest of us. Yes, he’s a billionaire ninja genius, but that’s besides the point. He’s human. He’s relatable. And Bruce Wayne makes us think that maybe, just maybe, an ordinary person can make a difference. It’s inspiring. I hate to be so cheesy as to quote a film, but superheroes like Batman are symbols. Symbols of justice at all costs, and symbols that one person can make a significant difference with enough drive, resources and talent. Superheroes are what we wish we could be, and they do everything that we aspire to do. Superheroes are a testament to the highest form of humanity, even if they aren’t human, dealing in human concerns. It is this that makes heroes so relatable and so popular, and so I say bring on the comic-book heroes, in the hope that they can inspire us all.