How Marvel Made Us Forget Just How Dark A Superhero's Life Really Is

Illustration for article titled How Marvel Made Us Forget Just How Dark A Superheros Life Really Is

Whether you prefer your superheroes consumed with despair (yeah, we see you over there in the shadows, Batman) or you prefer your superheroes a little more cheery (and we see you in the shadows right behind him, Lego Batman), it can be a pretty gloomy life — even if we miss it the first time around.


While discussing the new spate of superhero movies headed our way, commenter falconflyer1 wondered if — despite the tilt away towards superheroes who could easily list brooding as one of their super-skills — we weren't still seeing some of the darkest superhero movies yet. Obscured by the jokes, they noted was a move towards endings that were less about good triumphing over evil and more about fighting it to a draw:

You know, Marvel movies have always had a lot of lightness and humor and definitely not as dark as some of the darkness obsessed films from other studios. They seem to be going a little bit darker now though. That could be good or bad. One of the best things about the Avengers was how the humors was in it regardless of the bad things that were happening. Everyone in the theater laughed at the "puny god" moment even though at that point the disaster was still going on and if this was a Chris Nolan or Zack Snyder movie it would have seemed like the biggest moment of despair.

I think Avengers: Age of Ultron got me more excited and gave me more goosebumps than any film in recent memory. However I'm seeing a little bit of a trend here. Superhero movies generally end with things being generally better off than they were before. The hero is stronger, more mature, learned a valuable lesson, etc. The villain is weaker, deader, more underground, etc. However, starting I think with The Winter Soldier, we're seeing a different trend. Half the movie was basically taking down the organization we had been rooting for throughout Phase 1. Their triumph was making things not as bad as they could have been. Age of Ultron looks so exciting but ultimately depressing and dark. Iron Man 3 was the least hopeful of all of them. If you had asked me in advance I would have said I wouldn't like them, but I loved them in the moment.


But other commenters pointed out that the more ambiguous wins that we were seeing our heroes able to chalk up could just as easily be chalked up to the rise of the superhero movie series — and the increased number of loose ends that it encouraged:

Hands of Orlok

I would dare to say that all Phase 2 movies were part of this trend ... Tony Stark was sent on his path to search a final solution for his Iron-Man career. S.H.I.E.L.D. was destroyed and Hydra is now back in action. Asgard was conquered, unnoticed. The Phase 2 heroes were able to deal with the current threat, but it was always just the tip of the Infinityiceberg


Think of it like this: Just as an individual film needs to vary the tone within the story in order to have an emotional arc, so too does a film series. Winter Soldier itself got very dark right around the whole "Nick Fury is dead" section but lightened up a fair bit from there. So think bigger, I suspect the studio is. The most recent song is over but the concert's not done.

What do you think? Are we seeing fewer and fewer superheroes that can triumph and more and more that are just doing their best to stay afloat? And, if so, why? Give us your take in the comments.

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