After seeing the highly anticipated “Deadpool” last weekend, I was impressed not just by the movie alone but I was also impressed by this consistent streak of super fine films that Marvel has built. From the X-Men franchise to the Spiderman series (not you, “Spiderman 3)” to the Avengers to even the humor driven films series of Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool, Marvel has made sure that every film was done right. When thinking of these successful films, I always remember a time when I was a seven-year-old boy who had just watched his first superhero movie, Tim Burton’s “Batman.” After watching that film, I wanted to create my own superhero story. As I sat down with my pencil, crayons and paper to begin the story of “Tim-Man” (creative right?), I thought to myself, “What makes a good superhero? What will make everybody like this new hero?” I then realized that the reason I loved that Batman movie was because of its story. At that age, I thought that the part of the story that made these heroes so great was the action scenes where the hero fought the bad guys and saved the damsels in distress. Fourteen years and many superhero flicks later, I had a change of heart.
After walking out of “Deadpool,” I finally came to the conclusion that those action-packed scenes, despite their awesomeness and my love for violent cinema, were not what made the story of the movie so wonderful. What made the story of Deadpool (and all other fantastic super hero movies) was the origin of the superhero. It was how that hero came to be who he or she was. What made Bruce Wayne turn into Batman? What made Peter Parker go from a quirky teen photographer to a web-slinging fighter? Now the question that young Tim Zhang should have considered when he wanted to be the next Stan Lee was, “What makes a good superhero origin?”
Hours and hours of research and analyzing superhero origins allowed me to answer this question. I did not own any comics, so instead, I looked at the stories of films that soared into the sky as well as stories in the films that got thrown into Arkham. After close observation, I was able to find some key differences.
For instance, let’s look at a film I analyzed as a part of my research that was well-received by audiences and critics. In Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” Bruce started out as an orphan who begged his parents to leave a show about bats because he was scared of them. When leaving the theatre, he witnessed his parents killed in front of him. Afterwards he had to grow up facing the people responsible for his parents’ death as well as his fear of bats that he believed led to the tragedy. In the end, he decided to not run from his fear but rather to use it as his ally, allowing him to become the caped crusader of Gotham.
Such a tragic upbringing appeals to audiences emotionally, drawing them to the story. Audiences, who become sympathetic towards Bruce due to such emotion, wound up rooting for Batman and enjoying seeing him fight crime in Gotham.
Now let’s look at an origin film that ended up inside the five dollar movie bin at Wal-Mart (and is probably still there). Such a film is called “Green Lantern.” It was probably the worst origin movie ever, and this is from someone who loved Green Lantern in cartoons. Hal Jordan was an arrogant pilot who loved trying crazy and dangerous things. Yes, it was sad that his father died in a plane crash, but Hal’s reaction to his tragedy did not make him appear any better to audiences. He behaved so brashly, I was thinking to myself “Does he even deserve the power of the ring?” Overall, such an unmoving origin creates a terrible story. Audiences do not feel sympathetic to someone like Hal, and probably end up not rooting for him. In fact, even the villain of the film had a more appealing story than the hero. Let’s just say, thank god Ryan Reynolds found “Deadpool.”
If I could travel back in time, I would tell myself to give “Tim-Man” a backstory that will relate audiences. Such backstory would need not only a tragic event, but it would also need a response from the title character that will not drive away the audience but instead, will convince them that such a character is one that deserves their support.