With the flop of last week’s Fant4stic Four movie it may be time to start asking ourselves if superhero movies are starting to go more stale than that loaf of bread that has been sitting on top of our office refrigerator since April? -We’re not actually sure where the bread came from. It is actually a bit of concerning mystery.- Then again, maybe this new Fantastic Four movie was a fluke made by a lazy production company scrambling to keep the rights to Marvel’s first family, but what if it speak to a larger formulaic problem in the superhero genre itself? What if we are reaching critical mass of superhero movies? Well, much like the shadowy origins of that loaf of bread, we here at The NYRD can only speculate, but what we do know is that maybe it is time for our beloved movies to start shaking things up again, before we all get a little moldy.
The Thing About Movies
In all fairness, Marvel and other studios have begun branching out superhero films, to include elements from other genres. Ant-Man was a super-powered heist movie, Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera about the fat guy on Parks and Recreation, and with its upcoming release of Deadpool, Sony is going to give us a hyper-violent and comedic tale about Ryan Reynolds trying to prove he can be in a good superhero movie. However, studios can be fickle when it comes to these sorts of things. They will always try to stick to tried and true methods in a hope that they can get as many golden eggs from their goose as possible before it dies a slow, humiliating, and painful death, which they will then try to sell to us as the next big summer blockbuster. So how do we fix superhero movies? Maybe with another superhero movie, but not about any ordinary heroes.
For anyone who does not have our level of comic knowledge, charisma, or devastatingly good looks, you have probably never heard of The Great Lakes Avengers. They are a superhero team in the Marvel universe, but they are less Iron Man and more ironing board. Less Captain America and more Captain Kangaroo. They are less Thor the Marvel hero and more Thor the crappy SyFy original movie. You get the picture, but they might also just be what the world needs right now, a vehicle to really shake up the genre and remind everyone why they thought superheroes were so fun in the first place. With all the snark of Tony Stark, the snappy one-liners of Starlord, and all the wit and charm of Paul Rudd already enshrined in the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe, it could be the perfect place to introduce audiences to the first superhero comedy.
Obviously, all of this is hypothetical, and we are not talking about a comedy like Superhero Movie or some other terrible parody movie that may or may not involve the Wayans brothers. We would picture The Great Lakes Avengers, to be more clever than that, perhaps something in the line with 21 Jump Street, Ghostbusters, or Men in Black. It would be a comedy with heart, but still very much one that prioritizes the humor. For a real good idea of what we are talking about go watch the underrated by enjoyable superhero movie, Mystery Men. We can wait… Seriously, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, it is a classic, and like Mystery Men a movie involving the Great Lakes Avengers would have to rely on a subtle sort of humor that plays with and pokes fun at the conventions already established in comic books and the existing MCU.
In essence, this movie could offer Marvel a chance to hang a lantern on their own world and shake up the genre even more. Of course, we are not saying the comedy/superhero line would be an easy one to walk, but if anyone can do it would be Marvel. The time is right and the source material is rich with things that can really be turned into a smart and hilariously fresh take on the MCU.
The Fantastic Mister Immortal
The movie would start with Craig Hollis, who dubs himself Mr. Immortal, because he cannot die. That is his only power, and it would offer some great jokes for Marvel to poke fun at itself, as the MCU cannot seem to let even Phil Coulson stay dead. He starts a superhero team in Milwaukee, which is not exactly a hub of super-villain activity, but would make for an interesting and clever contrast to New York, DC, LA or any of the other major metropolitan areas where most superhero movies have taken place.
Through a series of events and Internet advertisements he would eventually recruit Dinah Soar, who is half woman and half pterodactyl. She cannot speak English and the only one who can understand her is Mr. Immortal. She would also be his love interest. Next is Ashley Crawford, known as Big Bertha who is a supermodel with the ability to become obese. When she does, she gains superhuman strength and durability. Even better Big Bertha prefers her obese form compared to her supermodel size and there could be some good comedy and moments about commenting on the unspoken standards of attractiveness of superheroes. Dr. Val Ventura or Flatman is most definitely a parody of Reed Richards, except that his doctorate is highly questionable. No one is really sure what he has a degree in and he is usually pretty cagey about it. His body is two-dimensional and can stretch and form to fit under doorways or be folded up like origami. He would also be the first openly gay superhero we get to see on the movie screen. The next member is DeMarr Davis. Doorman is one of the most powerful of the group. He can use his body to open an inter-dimensional door, but only to the next room. He is also the only African America in the group, and with a name like Doorman it is a pretty good chance for Marvel to make some pointed observations about how they have been treating superheroes of color.
Of course, the last and most popular member of the team is Doreen Green. Squirrel Girl, is somewhat of a cult favorite among comic nerds. She can talk and direct squirrels, similar to how Ant Man can control ants, only these are squirrels. She is also the most successful and well known of the group. In the comics, she has defeated Dr. Doom, Thanos, and even Wolverine. She even stops Galactus from destroying the world, through the power of friendship. Her cult status would offer some great moments of comedy, and maybe even a few reflective comments on geek culture itself. Basically she is Felicia Day with superpowers.
The point of the movie would be that you don’t need to be an Avenger to be a hero, and that you do not always need to take yourself too seriously. Some new threat would arise in Wisconsin and since it is not New York or Chicago or any other typical place, the Avengers would miss it. So it would fall to the newly formed and struggling Great Lake Avengers to take care of the problem, while still trying to fight low-level crime in the 31st most populated city in the continental United States. There can even be some great cameos. We can already see a stinger where Tony Stark walks into Great Lakes Avengers HQ, makes some quips, admires their work, and then hands them a cease and desist order to stop calling themselves Avengers.
The Human Torch and Disappearing Woman
Right now the superhero genre is burning bright, but if we are not careful that spark is going to diminish and vanish. A heartfelt, clever comedy could be the kind of movie that would offer Marvel and the genre, in general, a lot of opportunities to shake some of the dust off itself and laugh at its own flaws. It would not be about cheap humor or low-hanging jokes, though those things may not be off the table, entirely. Instead, it would be about bringing back some of the campy fun and self-parody that is missing from new superhero movies. After all, a world of superheroes offers more than enough weird, interesting, and funny opportunities to make for a good comedy.
Robert Frost once said, “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane,” and that is as true for our movies as it is for us. Look at the newest version of the Fantastic Four. The original movie from the 2000’s was deemed to be too campy and colorful. It tried to hard to be humorous, so they went dark and realistic. Well the original Fantastic Four was a commercial success. This new Fant4stic Four is heading toward financial ruin. There is a lesson to be learned there, and a funny one at that. Now with the arrival of DC’s grittier monotone universe we can look forward to even more seriousness from men and women who fly around in capes and hang out with bats all day. A Great Lake Avengers movie could go a long way to remind people why they fell in love with Marvel, Iron Man, and superheroes in the first place, while letting us all laugh at their flaws and our own.
The real truth of the matter is that if studios keep pumping out generic and senselessly “dark” superhero movies then the genre as a whole will move quickly from stale to moldy. If the formula for success in these movies does not have the room to expand than the genre will start collapsing in on themselves, quicker than the Fant4stic Four‘s plot did. Marvel has already proved they can blend comedy and action effectively, so we know they could certainly do justice to Squirrel Girl. After all, if they can get Rocket Racoon to become a box office success, than we would have high hopes for what they could do with a comedy about a team of superhero wannabes and rejects.