The super hero-genre film has grown into its own over the last decade and even before thanks to some strong infusion from the Matrix, Blade, X-Men and Spider-man. However, over the years, a new crop of films that borrow much from the super hero genre have begun their taking over theatres and audiences with themes that seem very super heroic. To be fair this trend probably started in television with super hero friendly series like Buffy the Vampire Hunter. A lot of it felt very much like standard super hero fair, although there were no real masks, costumes and secret identities. The setups and adventures were often quite similar.
The basic premise of series like Buffy or movies series franchise like Twilight and I Am Number Four are powers and people who wields them in a world where few other people have such powers. Heroes played with the concept quite strongly. Meanwhile a slew of films have exposed the meaning of powers and potentially super heroes. For example, M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable explored the duality of the hero and the villain. Twilight deals with a world where some few individuals have super powers – linked to their vampire and werewolves. The difference between Twilight and say, something like Underworld is the focus on powers and the attempt of the characters to live in a normal human world, much like the struggling super hero often attempts to fit in in a world where he should be a god.
Speaking of gods, one thing which is interesting and common to both super heroes and all these movies with creatures, aliens and freaks of natures with powers, like in Jumper and its clone Push is how the powers of these beings, are beyond human, yet the individuals with these powers are still human in personality, aspirations and understandings. Whereas some people claim that the advent of the zombie movies of the last decade has something to do with society’s fear of epidemics and contamination and that vampire movies are about those outsiders on the fringe of society that organize themselves in selective clubs, the super powered people in many movies are just supposedly common humans, like Percy Jackson that somehow are human gods. Is the rise of the super hero an attempt for humans, common folks like Harry Potter to take back control over the world. All of these movies ape the themes of DC Comics’ Captain Marvel. At the core, it’s about a fantasy about a weak boy becoming a god among men.
Comic book readers are probably more used to these themes than the general public. A whole section of the comic book world is based on the popularity of the super hero. Yet, it seems that this same wish to overcome one’s human limits is shared by many other people. Super heroes are not about fear of diseases or the unknown and wild, like zombies, vampires and werewolves. They are about the breaking the limits of the regular human. And that’s why films like Twilight seem so poor as full-fledged vampire flicks but resonate so well with an audience that wishes it could go beyond its limits in society.
Some of those new films aping super heroes do it so well, that they completely espouse the theme of the super hero. One such film Hancock still stands as almost completely unique in how it borrowed so much from the genre. Only a comedy like My Super Ex-Girlfriend comes close to portraying the world of the super hero in a recent movie not adapted from a comic book.