3 Film Genres That Would Pair Perfectly With Superhero Movies
There's more than just all-out action!
There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of action. I have no doubt that superhero movies, as long as they remain well-written and expertly directed, will continue to fly off the shelves. However, just because people aren’t crying out for something a little different yet, doesn’t mean filmmakers can’t start experimenting early. After all, there were superhero movies before Iron Man (2008), and even before X-Men (2000), we just don’t talk about them much anymore.
Besides that, genre diversity has been proven to work already with the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, each of which brought an extra dash of comedy, and with Joker, which substituted action for a dramatic, almost biographical style. These three genres haven’t been fully utilised yet, but someday they will be – and it will be amazing.
Marvel have promised us two horror-themed superhero films; Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, which has already had difficulties with ‘creative differences’, and New Mutants which has had its release pushed back due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Of the two, New Mutants looks the most promising as a horror-themed film as it was developed by 20th Century Studios before the Disney acquisition, and did not go for reshoots afterwards. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Disney used New Mutants to ‘feel out’ the mature market, as they can disregard any failures as being the fault of 20th Century Studios.
That being said, if done correctly the horror sub-genre could hold many successes, not just for Marvel but for the Superhero genre as a whole. As well as opening an avenue for a Marvel Zombies movie, it would enable DC to create Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On A Serious earth.
A work by Grant Morrison, Arkham Asylum is a story about Batman having to venture into the Gotham asylum to help suppress a riot among the prisoners. As Batman enters the insane asylum, his own sanity is called into question as he's accused of being little more than a masked psychopath who inflicts violence on others as an expression of his own psychopathy.
This comic is a brilliant psychological thriller, but also has a truly unnerving secondary story that follows Dr. Jeremiah Arkham as he founds the psychiatric hospital. Dave McKean's surrealist art reinforces the loss of sanity as Batman struggles to stay grounded in reality. Consequently, this would also be an interesting way to introduce a new Batman should we get another Batman movie reboot – a way to explore the psyche of a character who is often criticised for ‘beating up the mentally ill’.
Going in the complete opposite direction, why not have a Superhero musical? Granted, it would be hard to have a serious action movie, but there are plenty of other serious action movies one could watch. This would work best as either an origin story, parody, or simply a musical film that happens to feature people with superpowers. Not all movies have to feature the well-known comic franchise powerhouses.
Musicals are one of those genres that some people adore, and others would rather carve out their eardrums with toothpicks. Regardless, it would make a change from the straightforward action film we’ve come to expect, and I’m sure a director could have a lot of fun making it.
For an example of how this could be a success, I recommend looking up Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. This masterpiece, directed by Joss Whedon, may be short but it is an emotional rollercoaster. It follows the exploits of villain Dr Horrible (played by Neil Patrick-Harris) as he strives to join the Evil League of Evil and defeat his nemesis, the narcissistic hero Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). Meanwhile, Dr Horrible must deal with his growing feelings for the virtuous Penny (Felicia Day). I don’t want to give too much away as I highly recommend you watch it, even if you’re not the biggest musical fan.
Subsequently, Mr Whedon, if you fancy doing another musical superhero/villain project we would love to see it, 100%.
I’m sure you all knew this was coming. It’s great seeing so much fun, thrilling superhero action but what about a good old fashioned crime caper? Many of DC’s heroes are considered ‘super sleuths’ (Martian Manhunter, Batman and Tim Drake to name a few), and what about Marvel’s Misty Knight?
I think it could be enjoyable to layout a crime, such as a series of high-profile thefts or murders, and watch how someone with superpowers or enhanced abilities goes about solving them. Is it a supervillain working on a master plan, or is it a common criminal who is clever enough to elude the police? Let us see the advanced technology in action. Pit a sleuth with few or limited powers against a villain committing the perfect crime with supernatural abilities.
Men in Black, based on the 1990 comic, was a commercial and critical success when it came out in 1997, and remains a classic to this day. Despite being labelled as a ‘science fiction, action-comedy’ Men in Black has some of the hallmarks of a crime/mystery film. The main change would be substituting a villain for a handful of suspects, and deciding which of those suspects are actually innocent, and which are just villainous in other ways. Was it Captain Boomerang in the kitchen with the crowbar?
Take a great detective, put him in a costume, give him a cool ability and an even cooler codename and what could go wrong?
When researching for my articles I sometimes like to set myself a little challenge. It’s easy enough to write about how some of my favourite genres could be paired with superheroes, but what about all the others that I don’t tend to watch? So, I chose a genre as a wildcard and, thinking about it, it would be relatively simple to include. After all, Pride and Prejudice was improved by adding zombies, so why not add superheroes?
A period-drama superhero movie would likely need to focus on duality and the difficulty of living two very different lives. Would a lady disguise herself as a man to fight crime? Would a pauper begrudge the adoration they receive as a hero when their all their alter-ego receives is scorn? What if we expand ‘historical’ a little; how would a western be influenced by the addition of a superpowered villain?
Some of my favourite ideas for this genre are historical events. Put a superhero on the Titanic and have him choose to use his powers to save others but sealing his own fate. Give us a villain whose origin is that she used her powers to save her town from bloody thirsty warlords, but the town found her powers unnatural and sealed her away. Sure, we’re dancing on the thin line between superhero genre and all-out fantasy but give the dragons the day off and we’ll be fine.
Out of these four, I have to say my favourite genre pairing for superheroes is a tie between Horror and Musical. Both have a lot of potential, especially with the superhero genre showing no signs of slowing over the next few years.
If you’ll excuse me, writing this has made me yearn to re-watch Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.