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If we were stuck in the origin/reboot cycle of the bad old days of
superhero movies (I’m looking at you, Spiderman), I’d say they were
right. But things have changed a lot in the last couple of years.
Firstly, movies like Chronicle and even Birdman have
shown just how flexible the genre is and how talented directors can use
it to tell very different stories. Marvel in particular have consciously
made superhero movies that play with tone and setting and feel, like Captain America: TWS as 70s political thriller and Ant Man as caper movie.
And secondly we’re seeing a joining together of different media streams
that enable stories to be told and built on across multiple platforms.
Story no longer needs to end. It evolves. It has peaks and quieter
moments. It bifurcates and grows together again. Video games have been
doing this for years with add-on mission packs that extend the
narrative, but now story is going truly cross-platform.
Done right, this kind of storytelling has longevity built in. Look at Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.
Marvel demonstrated early mastery of this approach, shepherding a
shared universe that allows stories to cross from movies to TV shows
like Agents of Shield, comics and video games, and that’s just
the beginning when you consider the next crop of Netflix/ Marvel
collaborations and how Netflix in particular is approaching
storytelling. By comparison DC, eager for a piece of the action, seem
hobbled by studio partners that create barriers to this type of
storytelling. So the Warner Brothers movies and the CW TV shows won’t be
allowed to cross-fertilise.
Time will tell. Superheroes never really die. Maybe the same will be true for superhero movies.
You can read more about the new approach to longform story telling from Netflix here.