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Realism in Comic Book Movies as the Ultimate Oxymoron

I was having a conversation the other day with a Nerd Herders Radio listener about Jamie Foxx’s role as Electro in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, and how the producers decided to go with the Ultimate Comics Universe version of Electro instead of the original concept for Electro via the Amazing Spider-Man comic books we‘ve all come to know and love(?). He said, “…do you think his original outfit would translate well [on the big screen]? Maybe if they toned the color down a bit, but I don’t think the star would work. I like how some of it translates into the ‘real world’.”

Which got me thinking, if Electro’s original outfit wouldn’t translate well in the ‘real world’, then neither would Electro in general and most definitely not a teenager who gains super powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider.

Realism for comic book movies worked well with The Dark KnighTrilogy using the villains The Joker, Catwoman, Bane, even Two-Face. BUT it is a good thing that it ended with the trilogy using the villains that they did, because if it continued, how would the writers and producers crossover some of the rest of Batman’s rogues gallery into realism? While most of his villains are simply human, others not so much. How would Clayface be explained? How would Killer Croc or Man-Bat turn out? The fact that Nolan only wanted to explore so much of the DC Comics created Batman franchise would’ve stunted the overall story growth of the Batman movie franchise had it continued.

One thing that Batman does have over most comic book movies franchises is that in the end, he is just human. He doesn’t have super-powers, and while in the real world a vigilante dressing like a bat would secure a padded room residency, it is still feasible. But in the same rite, the Batman movie franchise was based so much on realism that it doesn’t even pass for a comic book movie anymore, it’s more a story about a vigilante.

However, when we look at The Amazing Spider-Manhow can it be a movie completely based on realism if the hero isn’t realistic? Human, yes, but a human with super powers. Is it an unspoken rule with this film that everything else is based on realism/the real world, except the main character? A comic book is escapism, it is the ultimate amazing fantasy (pun intended). How does that amazing fantasy keep it’s escapism elements if they are being thrust into realism?

The Marvel franchise of movies like
 Iron Man, The Incredible HulkCaptain America, The Avengers, even down to the Fantastic Four, did a great job of incorporating both realism and fantasy, finding a balance between our universe and its own created Marvel Universe, done well enough that it kept its escapism element of “yeah this could never happen”, but had enough realism in it to make you THINK that maybe, just maybe it could. Why wouldn’t there be a secret organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. that helps protect the world from creatures and villains beyond our control? We would be none the wiser, I mean have we been attacked by a horde of space creatures bought into our world by an evil villain from another galaxy? No, we haven’t, so thank you S.H.I.E.L.D.!

I stand firm in my opinion that movies are meant to suspend belief, and if they are then why must we constantly be shown the real world? I want to escape reality in the fiction of a movie because more times than not, reality sucks. I don’t want to imagine what the real world would be like if I went to Queens and bumped into Spider-Man.

When it comes to comic book movies, the one that works really well with realism, because its comic book source material IS supposed to be set in the real world, is Kick-Ass. Let’s face it, in the real world, stopping/catching a criminal and turning them in to the cops wouldn’t stop said criminal from getting out and not only doing it again but exacting revenge on his captor, so Kick-Ass goes a step further in killing them. Is it morally correct? Absolutely not. Is it what a superhero would do? Definitely not. Luckily, these characters aren’t superheroes, they’re masked vigilantes, though that still doesn’t make it right. But this is the real world, and unfortunately in the real world it is something that would be done. It is the means to the end in the philosophical rule of “kill one to save many”. In killing one’s victims, the superhero or vigilante in question is morally no better than the villain, but in the eyes of the society that they are protecting the superhero/vigilante did the right thing.

Kick-Ass aside though, am I the only one who feels that Marvel is making comic book movies, whereas DC is making movies with comic book characters in it? Like the widely spread tweet that’s appeared all over social media from Brett WhiteDC/WB is all like “Wonder Woman’s too confusing for a movie” and Marvel/Disney is all like “Here’s a raccoon with a machine gun.”

Comic book movies nowadays are hit and miss, fanboy’s and fangirl’s biggest complaint regarding comic book movies are: they [Hollywood] didn’t follow the source material. Which is in fact true, a comic book does go through script form, has visuals as to what the characters look like, and with the internet there are multiple means of getting further information on the characters/origins/plots/etc., so there is no excuse to stray from origins/appearance so drastically for the big screen (*cough, cough* Wolverine Origins Deadpool).

But, isn’t putting these characters/superheroes in OUR real world environment straying from the source material?

What do you think about realism in superhero movies? Does Marvel have the right idea with everything from Thor to “a raccoon with a machine gun” or are DC and Sony doing the right thing by placing extraordinary characters in our own, ordinary world? Sound off below or hit us up on Twitter!

About the author

Veronica Foxy-Foxxy

Married, mother, writer, gamer, radio show host, blogger, vlogger, cosplay model, dreamer, Veronica Foxy-Foxxy is the co-host of Blog Talk Radio: Nerd Herders every Friday night at 9PM EST on www.blogtalkradio.com/dreamelite and www.facebook.com/NerdHerdersRadio.

Read her blog: www.vivafoxyfoxxy.blogspot.com Follow on Twitter: @ViVaFoxyFoxxy
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FoxyFoxxy or www.facebook.com/vivafoxyfoxxy

1 Comment

  • I think there’s nothing wrong with gritty, real-world superheroes but on some level I also agree with Brett White’s tweet. Sometimes there absolutely needs to be some sort of balance. I feel like DC is trying to hard to be serious most of the time and they completely miss out on the fact that hey, they’re superheroes! That’s supposed to be at least A LITTLE FUN. And sometimes that means sticking to the fantastical elements of the comics over roughing things up. 🙂