Analyzing the Characters of Superhero Films

The recent increase in the amount of films based on superheroes has led to a necessity to discuss the method by which they are presented. In order to determine the fundamental components for these films, rg3th I will examine Richard Donner’s 1978 version of Superman, Tim Burton’s 1989 interpretation of Batman, and Sam Raimi’s 2002 blockbuster, Spiderman. The success of these films depends on their characters and the relationships that connect them. These characters include: the superhero, his alternate identity, the woman he loves, and the villain he must face. While all three films present each character differently, there are common threads that unite them. But before we even can begin to understand how these people operate with the films, there is a necessity to make a clear distinction between the films and the comic books. While some may argue that any diversions from the comic book story takes away from the film, it is in fact a necessity for the filmmakers to compromise and consolidate in order to tell a complete story in the two hours that they are allotted. v9slot

The Alternate Identity

Clark Kent is described as an “odd ball,” Bruce Wayne as just plain “odd,” and Peter Parker as a “freak.” The three have something else in common – they are all orphans. Yet each has parental figures that play prominent roles in the film. For Clark, it is Jor-El, his father, and his foster parents, the Kent’s. For Bruce Wayne, there is Alfred. In Peter Parker’s case, he has Uncle Ben and Aunt May. These characters play crucial roles in establishing the future joker8899z superheroes that they raise.

Clark Kent has his father, Jor-El, who, although his physical form dies while Clark is an infant, continues to instruct his son while Clark travels to earth and then again when Clark becomes a man and journeys into the world. By Jor-El’s own words he has given his son every bit of knowledge he contains and his voice constantly reminds Clark that interfering with human destiny is “forbidden.” Clark is also lucky enough to have two foster parents who protect him as he grows up. When his foster father dies, Clark decides to leave his rural life behind, and to search for who he truly is. The upbringing provided by the Kent’s gives Clark a solid foundation upon which his character is seen as standing for only good. 123maxx

As a direct opposite to the upbringing that Clark Kent receives, Bruce Wayne, as a child, watches his parents murdered, and they are never replaced. While throughout the film Alfred, Wayne’s butler, does serve as an instructor and advice giver, his impact seems to be much more subtle and primarily concerned with Wayne’s involvement with Vicky Vale. The impact that the loss of his parents has on Wayne is presented throughout the film. ruay88

As the movie opens, Batman apprehends two criminals who attack a family in a scenario similar to the one in which Wayne’s parents were killed. Burton also shows us the emotional impact the death of his parents has on Wayne when he has him place two roses at the sight of the murder. By having Vale witness this private ceremony and then discuss it later on with reporter, Alexander Knox, we are given the question point blank, “What do you suppose something like this does to a kid?” Later on in the film, Wayne remembers the double murder as he recalls the words of the killer, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” thetechboy

In a world at the exact center of Kent’s and Wayne’s we find Peter Parker. His parents are never mentioned in the film, yet his Aunt and Uncle have provided a stable home life for him. This relationship is quickly constructed by Raimi and then destroyed. Uncle Ben is immediately painted as sympathetic because he has lost his job, and the reassurance that Aunt May provides presents them as an honest, loving couple. Add to this their interest in Peter’s day at school and the happy home is established.

What complicates Parker’s relationship with his Uncle becomes the foundation up which Spiderman is created. At the point when Parker could have prevented his Uncle’s death, we are shown a character whose sole concern is for himself. It is here that Uncle Ben’s advice, “With great power comes great responsibility” begins to echo throughout the film. Later in the film, the separation of Peter Parker from Spiderman becomes necessary when the Green Goblin attacks Aunt May and the problems that Spiderman encounters cross over into Parker’s life. It is here that Parker realizes that this separation is necessary to protect the ones he loves.

The Superhero

Each hero seems to be nothing more than a sum of the other characters that surround him. What is Superman, other than what Clark Kent can’t be and what Lois Lane and Lex Luther force him to be? Surely what Clark has learned as a child, instilled in him a sense of right and wrong and a desire to stand for what is good. In Superman, when Donner shows us Superman pulling a little girl’s cat out of a tree, we have no question as to how he wants us to see the hero.

In Batman, Burton begins by presenting the character Batman prior to Bruce Wayne. In fact, when we first meet Bruce Wayne eighteen minutes into the film, he does not identify himself when questioned by Vicky Vale. This postponement and encounter with Vale, helps to solidify the mystery behind Bruce Wayne and the dominance that Batman has in Wayne’s life.

Batman is a hero of few words. Burton seems content to blur Batman into the background of the dark cityscape of Gotham City. Throughout the film, Batman emerges from the shadows for only a moment, before disappearing back into them.

In Spiderman, as with the other films, more time is spent exploring the possibilities of special effects when it comes to the superhero. But just as Superman rescuing the cat, Raimi sends Spiderman into a burning building to save a woman. Sure, the woman turns out to be the Green Goblin and the scene a plot device, but we still get a sense of who Spiderman is and what he stands for.

The Woman

So why are women included in these superhero stories? Is it so that it will be easier for men to drag their girlfriends to such films? The real answer is that without these women, the superheroes would lack the quality that makes us fascinated with them. Without these women, they would cease to be human.

In Superman, Lois Lane is the object by which the character of Superman/Kent is completed. Like Spiderman to follow, Kent saves Lois from a purse-snatcher and her role as helpless female victim is established.

The bumbling, wet-behind-the-ears Clark Kent stands no chance with fast paced Lois Lane, but Superman does. In this way Donner uses Lois as way to reveal Superman’s vulnerabilities. After their eight o’clock date, Lois writes a report that describes Superman’s abilities and failings – a report that Lex Luthor uses to exploit Superman’s weaknesses. Lois is also used as a way of helping Superman find his true calling. It is not until he rescues Lois from the helicopter disaster that he begins his spree of heroic actions.

In Batman, Vicky Vale comes to Gotham City in search of “wildlife…like, bats.” When she first meets Bruce Wayne, he plays the mysterious role that begins her fascination with him, and he lets her into his world by inviting her to dinner. He could have easily kept his distance from her at dinner, but instead brings her into the kitchen where they have a more comfortable dinner and Alfred shares a story from Wayne’s youth. Alfred makes comments throughout the film, trying to get Wayne to allow Vale deeper into this life. In fact, it is Alfred who brings Vale into the Batcave to meet Bruce Wayne, thus revealing what Wayne himself could not.

The complication occurs when the Joker takes an interest in Vale. Now the worlds of Batman and Bruce Wayne are forced together. Batman must save Vale from the Joker at the museum, Bruce Wayne takes a bullet trying to protect Vale from the Joker, and Batman again, at the end of the film, must save Vale when the Joker tries to kidnap her. This complexity produces a connection that creates an understanding as to why Wayne allows Vale full access to his world.

For Peter Parker, Mary Jane is the ideal woman, an object that, like Lois to Superman, he is not able to attain until he becomes his super-self. Also like the relationship between Superman and Lois, Mary Jane first falls in love Spiderman, but then by the end of the film realizes that her true feelings are for Peter Parker.

The relationship between Mary Jane and Peter Parker is the first thing that Raimi establishes by way of Parker’s voice over at the beginning of the film. When Parker uses his Spider-senses to save Mary Jane from slipping in the cafeteria, the event foreshadows the role she will play throughout the film as the “damsel in distress.”

The Villain

In our discussion of the villain we encounter the same problem that we do when we try to separate the superhero from his alternate identity. Except for Lex Luthor, the Joker and the Green Goblin, originate from a normal man. But the core values that connects these characters are their excessive egos and ambitions.



Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *