Lesson Learned: Don’t Expect Perfection from Superhero Films

X-Men Origins: Wolverine clawed its way to an outstanding opening weekend, proving that fans love the X-Men franchise, and that it’s best to lower our expectations for comic book films.
By  · Published on May 5th, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine clawed its way to an outstanding opening weekend, proving that fans love the X-Men franchise, and that it’s best to lower our expectations for comic book films.

“It may sound absurd…but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed.”

“Superman”- Five for Fighting

When I first heard word that there was going to be a Wolverine origin film, I was thrilled, maybe even a bit giddy. Any comic book lover can tell you that Logan’s story is one of the true treasures of the fanboy. They’d also likely tell you that the X-Men films so far have been a mixed bag. How you go from Bryan Singer to Brett Ratner is beyond me, but then again some people would point out that Superman Returns wasn’t the second coming of The Usual Suspects, so I digress.

In spite of the fact that the original X-Men film already brought a sort of Wolverine origin tale, because you have to admit that the film centered around him, X-Men Origins still raked in $85.1 million this past weekend, good enough for the 5th best comic book opening ever. I’d like to credit a lot of that to Hugh Jackman, but most of the allure was in the adamantium laced character himself. If you have a character that people love, they’ll go see the film even if it has second-rate special effects. I submit Spawn as evidence that a character can overcome a horrible film. It had a 19 million dollar opening.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was ripped by critics for being cliche and overly complicated, the latter of which I would argue is a reason we love Wolverine to begin with, but maybe we should accept the fact that the Wolverine story is better the less we know about it. Wolverine’s story is kind of like that girl or guy at a party that stands in the corner of the room while everyone else parties and acts obnoxiously. You wonder what is so special to them. What makes them different? Then you take them on a date, find out that they live at home with their mother, they cut themselves and are almost religiously devoted to watching Friends episodes. At some point, you say, “Okay, I wish I didn’t know. Please go away and return to your My Chemical Romance/Lady Gaga led paradise.

But should some of the blame be placed on us, the fans, for our expectations of comic book adaptations? How many truly great comic book films have ever been made? I could probably name 10 to 15 that I would watch again. How may could you name, and be honest with yourself. Films like Spiderman 2 qualify as great, in my opinion, but the original Spiderman doesn’t. Were any of the X-Men films truly exceptional now that we have had time to digest them? I’m not so sure.

For every The Dark Knight, there is The Spirit, and that isn’t likely to change. It’d be great if the movie industry would take a lesson from Christopher Nolan or the depth of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in finally understanding that comic book films can actually transcend the genres and, gasp, just be flat out amazing films. Instead, it is more likely that Hollywood is going to suck the genre dry until it has bled it and us of our money and originality. Maybe I’m wrong, but the more times I see adaptations of my favorite characters botched, the less naive I become, but I don’t blame the characters. Part of me doesn’t even want to blame the comic book companies, though I should know better.

In a perfect world, I’d say that we should boycott bad comic films and only give our money to the cream of the crop. The Dark Knight nearly became the top grossing film of all-time, and I’d gladly give another 20 dollars to it if they re-released it…again. It’s just that good. But we have to be realistic. The majority of Americans are going to keep going to see films like The Fantastic Four because they don’t necessarily care about quality. They want to just see superheroes, the ones they have grown to love, even if they’re less than perfect. In the end, the characters on-screen are only as good as the imprerfect creators of them. Even with superpowers, they’re just human. That’s the main reason we gravitate to them. Maybe it should be the reason that we shouldn’t expect too much out of them.

Related Topics: , , ,

A very real writer.