With all of the superhero movies we’ve seen, we’ve still got more misses than hits. So argue with me later. If they knew what they were doing I wouldn’t have to write this list, now would I?
1. Assemble a production team that knows the source material.
Don’t put people together that have no idea about the backstory. Or no respect for the mythology, or the motivations of the character. *cough* “I never read the comic as a kid” *cough* is NOT the guy to hire. You need writers, directors, producers and crew that have a clear idea of exactly who they’re writing, lighting, and costuming.
And, the big thing…respect. The genre, when translated to live action, is clearly not reality based. When treated with the proper respect however, it can still be a powerful and moving presentation. BUT the creators themselves must take it seriously. Not, “let’s wink at the silliness of it all,” but rather, “If such a thing could actually exist, what would it look like?” The second approach always works.
2. KNOW. WHICH THINGS. TO TWEAK.
Yes, comics and movies are two different mediums. Everything won’t translate directly, the audience knows that. But you have to know which elements to tweak. Some need to be non-negotiable, and some can be modified. Some can be eliminated entirely while still maintaining the core of the character. Otherwise you get a CINO. *cough* Catwoman *cough*
3. Cast it right.
Famous names don’t make us want to see the movie more. I can’t get over the profound blindness when it comes to this one. Comic books are a visual medium. Audiences want to see an actor made up to look like the character walked right off the pages of the book. Not actors who are waaaay too young to be who they’re portraying. Nor a race/ethnicity change that makes no sense OR DIFFERENCE (click HERE for more on that). They should not be ignoring fundamental characteristics of the physicality of the hero. HINT: WONDER WOMAN IS NOT BLACK. OR BLONDE. And casting Beyonce as Diana will not make us want to see the movie more.
Jessica Alba is not Sue Storm. Casting her didn’t make us want to see the movie more. They didn’t even TRY to make Jennifer Garner look like Elektra(hint: Ms. Natchios has jet black curly hair). Unknowns are better. But when you do cast a big name, make sure they are a dead ringer for the role. RDJ as Tony Stark or Patrick Stewart as Professor X. NOT HALLE BERRY AS STORM.
4. Who are they?
There are REASONS that popular characters ARE POPULAR. Sure their costumes, origins, and powers have evolved over time, that’s to be expected. There are however some core elements that people identify with the character. Even non-comics readers know the core elements. That means it won’t feel like the hero without them. Superman is not dark in tone. His costume colors are not maroon and dirty blue. He’s not a stalker, or a peeping tom, or a deadbeat dad. Batman doesn’t have nipples on his suit. Wonder Woman is not black, and she doesn’t wear a jumpsuit. (She did at one point, but they fixed that pretty quickly.) Dr. Doom WAS NOT IN THE SHIP WITH THE FANTASTIC FOUR. Nor was Doom a businessschmuck in an Armani suit. Ever. And did I mention that Jessica Alba is not Sue Storm and she didn’t make us want to see the movie more?
5. Stop making the movie BE ABOUT THE VILLAIN.
Every single movie that the Joker is in, the movie ends up being about him. I am SICK of seeing my favorite heroes trumped at every possible turn by the villain. Also very tired of feeling like the hero is a guest star in his own movie. I want to see the hero finding ways to overcome, and being competent. NOT a reality show about every nook and cranny that the villain is doing. Nor do I want to see how “brilliantly evil” he or she is at the expense of the hero’s intelligence. Is that too much to ask?
Balance the CGI, the action, and the character development. One movie that did this almost flawlessly was The Matrix. Even though it wasn’t a superhero movie. We cared about the characters, the action was top notch. The CGI was brilliantly incorporated into the plot and made the movie what it was. It didn’t detract from anything that was going on.
7. People want A COMPELLING STORY.
All of the flash and the hype doesn’t mean anything if there’s no story underneath. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you want people to emotionally invest into this world for two hours, give them a payoff. People want to have a satisfying emotional conclusion to the journey, even if there’s a set up for a sequel.
If you give people what they want, they’ll give you what you want. Audiences aren’t stupid. Take us on a profound emotional journey. Make a film that has repeat playability, Then we’ll pay money to experience it, over and over again.
And one more thing…
Us “angry fanboys” have been here since the beginning. We were here before superheroes became mainstream. We’ll be here long after the superhero craze has gone away.