The Superhero Genre in the 21st Century

by Sanjeet Saini about a year ago in superheroes

The 21st Century brought rise to movies and TV adaptations of comic book characters, creating a billion dollar industry.

The Superhero Genre in the 21st Century

The heroes in comic books embody the strength and will in the name of justice while facing adversity. Such heroes act as role models to children, influencing the choices they make in their lives.

In today's society, the comic book culture created by movies that these characters star in reign as one of the powerhouses of pop culture. The superhero genre really took off in the 21st century with the introduction of CGI and advanced special effects.

The Beginning of the 21st Century

X-Men (2000), the first comic book movie to debut in the new century, was the first of many popular comic book-based movies that showed success with the fans. X-Men (2000) grossed $296.3 million USD at the box office, numbers that had never yet been seen in a movie based off of a comic book.

The sequel to the sensation that was X-Men (2000), X-2 (2003) proved that the hype of the comic book characters on the big screen was just as X-2 reeled in $407.7 million USD in the box office. This fame outperformed its predecessor by a large margin and was important in cementing the X-Men cinematic franchise and its numerous movies. With the most recent of which is Deadpool 2 to a roster of blockbuster films by Fox.

Another blockbuster to hit the new millennium was Spiderman (2002). This brought the wall-crawling web-slinger to the big screen for the first time. This web-slinging dynamo proved to be a hit with audiences as it brought in $821.7 million USD in theaters.

Toby Maguire, who portrayed Spiderman in 2002, brought life to the role as he gave life to Peter Parker, the juxtaposed nerdy high school student at Midtown High, to his antic disposition of Spiderman. Toby Maguire's portrayal of Spiderman is well regarded as one of the best overall portrayals of Spiderman, only now being challenged by Tom Holland's iteration of the character.

Spiderman (2000)

With the successful integration of both Spiderman and the X-Men to kick off the 21st century, both movies acted as a segue for the prosperity of future superhero films.

The predecessors of the 21st Century

As the turn of the century marked a beginning for modern comic book movies, it did not begin the genre. The 20th century laid the seed that the 21st century would flourish into a blossomed franchise. During the time of the 20th century, the advanced special effects and CGI, integrated into today's blockbusters had not been as advanced. This would mean that the superhero movies would have to heavily rely upon a great plot and actors who were able to pull off the role.

The most recent installment in the DC cinematic universe; Zack Snyder's Justice League (2017), was meant to be its version of Marvel's The Avengers (2012), attempting to replicate its massive box office success of $1.5 billion USD. However, this was not DC's first attempt at bringing some of these characters to life.

Prior to Christian Bale's well-acclaimed iteration of the caped crusader in Batman Begins (2005), there has been one other big-screen portrayal of the character.

Tim Burton's Batman (1989), introduced one of the first memorable heroes versus villain story arches in cinematic history. As the antagonist to Micheal Keaton's portrayal of Batman, Jack Nicholson gave life to the sociopathic crowned prince of crime. With an unstable personality and devilish smile, Jack Nicholson struck fear alongside with the Joker's signature quirks to effectively play the character.

Jack Nicholson as 'The Joker' in 'Batman' (1989)

Another notable film in the roster of cinematic films by DC in the 20th century, Richard Donner's Superman (1978) starring the late Christopher Reeves as the man of steel and his red underwear of justice.

The Rise of Marvel

As the golden standard for any good superhero movie, the Marvel cinematic universe has created a plethora of films adored by fans. The Marvel cinematic universe popularized the superhero genre with its light humor and feel good stories driven by its charismatic characters.

The first Marvel superhero to receive the big-screen treatment was Iron Man. This movie was the spark that ignited the creation of other future successful Marvel films. With a plot driven by Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy philanthropist seeking redemption for the blunder his company made selling weapons to the military and other corrupt hands. In his crusade to combat the villains that use his weapons for nefarious purposes, Tony Stark created his very own weapon, the Iron Man armor.

Iron Man (2008)

Directed by Jon Favreau (who happened to play Tony Stark's bodyguard, Happy), Iron Man (2008) was a wide success as it raked in $585.2 million USD. Robert Downey Jr. was able to effectively portray the genius billionaire through his quips in times of danger, showing the amount of confidence Tony Stark has in himself.

Marvel's success in the film industry only began with Iron Man (2008). To this date, Marvel has released 19 movies, with more to come, with a combined approximate revenue at the box office at $15 billion USD, excluding Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which is in theaters currently.

Overall, the explosion of the superhero genre of movies in the 21st century has certainly impacted pop culture and has acted as a catalyst for further superhero-themed movies. With current superhero films influencing children as the heroes act as role models, it is safe to say that the continuation of this genre of movies will have a positive impact on younger generations.

Sanjeet Saini
Sanjeet Saini
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Sanjeet Saini

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