Critical Response Brief 2 : Superhero Movies


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This is an in-depth study into the target audience of specific superhero movies.

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Critical Response Brief 2 : Superhero Movies

  1. 1. Evolution of Superhero Movies 1966- 2013 • Brief Two • James Morris
  2. 2. Since the begging of the comic book and the invention of the superhero fans have longed to see there heroes on the big screen but with the dawn of multiplex cinema and special effects fans where finally granted there dream. But superhero movies have had a rocky past and through the process of audience research and genre change they have finally emerged as an important pat of the film business for example Avengers Assemble (2012) was the 3rd biggest box office success ever grossing over a billion dollars. This no doubt show the strength in these characters and the connection people have with them.
  3. 3. I’ve been looking at the differences between two trailers of the superhero movies The Dark Knight (2008) and Batman The Motion Picture (1966). Both movies are based on the same character but set in different universe and contain completely different themes. While the 1966 batman is very campy with the spandex The Dark Knight is very dark with batman being shown as a silent watchmen in stead of a friendly crime fighter. This is clear in both trailers and the reasoning's beyond this will become clearer with further analysis into genre change and codes and conventions.
  4. 4. The content was constructed using extensive product research and audience research. For the 1966 batman it had spun off from at the time a successful TV programme starting Adam West the response of the TV show was very positive as it kept to the values that the the first comics had set up a very light hearted superhero to appeal to young children and teach them lessons of right and wrong. All though the backstory was dark the TV show never referenced it only focusing on the crime fighting and exotic villains. This is very clear in the trailer for this movie you can see the producer wanted to aim this at children. The Dark Knight trailer has clearly been constructed not only to appeal to a wider audience but also to stay true to the comics dark beginnings and darker evolution of the superhero which occurred from the 1970’s onwards and is the hero today which people love and know. The Dark Knight trailer not only appeals to comic book fans but a wider audience with the use of special effects, action sequences and a bombastic musical score. This trailer is seen as a key point in the evolution of the superhero movie with films such as Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel taking inspiration from the themes and darkness of this trailer.
  5. 5. Superhero movies & trailers hit a various width of conventions while containing a large amount of codes these are Setting :Location often an American city a big location where things can go wrong in this case Gotham city. The location also gives us vast opportunities for things to go wrong hence the explosions we see in the trailer. Themes :The themes in superhero movies always show the human and super human element of the character and who he deals with both lifestyles for example batman, Spiderman and ironman. There is also an element of public threat in every movie. Character :There are normally 4 types of character in superhero movies hero, villain, damsel and the public. The hero is often recognizable and given normal problems so the audience can relate to him. Villains are vengeance driven or set on coursing madness. Damsel are the hero’s weakness as they will do anything to protect them. The public might to a normal person who can understand the problems the hero is going through e.g.. Alfred in the Dark Knight. Props: The props are items that represent what superhero for example a car costume or power they posses. Narrative & Plot: The plot is normally a tail of good vs. evil at its simplest. The plot will also show the two sides of the superhero and his struggle with them. Style: Superhero movies vary in style but normally settle on either true to the comics and very colorful or dark and brooding this is clear with films such as the amazing spider man and man of steel. Examples of the brighter films include Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Franchise and The New Marvel Universe where humor is key to its success.
  6. 6. The Modes of address is how the media product in this case superhero movies is conveyed to the audience and the style of which it sets out during marketing in poster trailers and other material. The mode of address can say a lot about a film prior to its release and give people an idea of what the film maybe about going into it. The Modes of Address in superhero movies contain most of the conventions on the previous slide but can change people opinion and out look of the film. For example Man Of Steel (2013) was marketed as a psychological character driven movie setting out many different themes during the trailers and advertising campaign. This brought with it a high sense of expectation and mystery about a new chapter in superhero movies. Upon release critics where disappointed that the movie was filled with over the top action sequences that dwarfed the character building. This opinion may have been down to the mode of address. I personally disagree but can see where the critics are coming from and how the mode of address can massively impact the films success.
  7. 7. The two trailers I will be analyzing are the Batman Motion Picture Staring Adam West and Burt Ward from 1966 and The 2008 Christopher Nolan film staring Christian Bale The Dark Knight. With both movies based on the same character its clear they are going to be some similarities but as the films have a 42 year age gap it is clear that there are going to be some massive differences. In that time over 117 super movie adaptions have been made not to mention TV shows, Cartoons and various other media that this now unique genre has touched.
  8. 8. The 1966 Batman movie trailer is a contains many conventions of your average super hero movie only differences is they are displayed as a clear advertisement with Batman and Robin explaining what you can see in the new movie and what characters it will feature. As they explain we are given tasters of some of the action scenes in the film all with a campy comic book feel thanks to the over the top dialogue and bright costumes. This is a great example of the selection of content with in the trailer. We also see all the conventions you would expect to find in a trailer with batman referencing the various props the movie offers which we are then show. We are also shown the 4 main villain's each of which has there own line of dialogue specifically designed for the trailer. Locations are also shown with action scenes taking place in the bat cave and onto of a submarine. A few small clips indicate some recurring themes with the private life of the hero being shown and the Polaris missile which dates the film to cold war period showing that world events had an impact on the big screen. The trailer markets a fun film in which children can attend as most of the violence is filtered with cards that say ‘pow’ and ‘splat’. This meant the film could reach a larger target audience and during the 1960’s violence in film was uncommon. As the film was a spin off from a successful TV show half an audience for the film was almost garneted. But with the colorful trailer containing large action sequences, cool gadgets and exotic locations the film attracted more people who had never heard of batman before. Although in todays eyes this trailer is seen as stupid and cheesy it still meets conventions clear in many other movie trailers today and I believe it is a creative successful trailer that would make you want to see the film.
  9. 9. The trailer for the 2008 batman film The Dark Knight set the high standard of most superhero trailers to live up to. Even after its release many movies are criticized for ripping off The Dark Knight as they have also taken dark realistic outlook on the superhero for Example Iron Man 3, Man Of Steel and The Amazing Spider-man. The trailer really establishes the dark realistic tones that are visible in the film. Like Batman 1966 the trailer meets all the codes and conventions you would expect in a superhero trailer. The Trailer opens with batman standing on top of an building with the Joker giving a monologue explaining a few plot points that where created in the first film that have carried on to this one. We then a selection of clips that focus on Bruce Wayne dealing with spilt lifestyle and the unstoppable metaphor for chaos that is the joker as he creates a hell in both Wayne's personal life and life as batman. This meats the convention of themes and plot as this film suggest its more about the struggle with Wayne's inner demons as we only see batman for a screen time of just under 30 seconds compared to the 2 mins of batman in the ’66’ trailer. This shows how realistic style this film is conveying to the audience and it isn't the batman show. Completing this screen time we see more Joker than batman this indicates that the villain plays a massive part in the film. Although the villains in the 66 trailer had a lot of screen time there are scene as very cartoony with over elaborate schemes and more as something to have in the film. This trailer shows us that the film is built around the villain. The trailer uses big bombastic music and large Imax location shots to create a vast environment in which the action takes place. We see massive explosions as well to fit into the action genre . All setting a dark tone. The violence in this trailer is clearly shown and not as reserved as the 66 Batman. Overall this makes for a dark violent trailer focusing on a character driven storyline to attract to a wider audience. Although it has it similarities with the ‘66’ trailer I believe both trailers are successful in convening appropriate theme tailored to an attracting a specific audience.
  10. 10. To further understand the effectiveness of the trailers I conducted a focus group in which I showed the trailer to people of various age groups and gender to determine what trailer was better and why. I then handed out surveys and made notes on what they thought also observed the focus group to conduct the level of interest show by the participants. My focus group aged between 10 and 75 with a mixed gender all equal. I have displayed my results as comparisons to the trailers target audience.
  11. 11. Findings Batman 1966 As I said in my trailer analysis the target audience seemed to be children from all the signs that it was giving off. My focus group agreed with me with one member saying ‘the whole concept looks very childish’. But when deciding what film they would prefer to watch the younger members seemed to but my inclined to watch the dark knight when asked why (male aged 13) they replied saying ‘it looked boring with no action’. I was surprised to see the older members being attracted to this film over The Dark Knight. One person male aged 65 said “ it looks like something you can have fun watching and there doesn't appear to be much violence in it”. These quotes summed up the split reaction with many of the older members opting to watch the 1966 batman. The group looked amused when shown the 1966 trailer almost as if it was off a sketch show. This showed that the colorful themes displayed in the 66 trailer where seen as completely over the top and comical. The group however did seem to like the costumes and classic hero values on show. Again many of the younger members looked uninterested as there seemed to be no story said one member. Overall I can say that the Batman 1966 movie has not stood the test of time and its childish appeal is gone, however its nostalgic properties still remain as the older members proffered it over the The Dark Knight.
  12. 12. Findings The Dark Knight As I believe I mentioned in the dark knight trailer analysis the target audience seemed to be young adult to adults clearly because of it’s dark themes and in-depth character development. Unlike the Batman 66 trailer my focus group seemed to agree with me. With the overall vibe being that of excitement but with some people being put off by the creepy performance of heath ledger as the Joker and the level of violence on show. As expected the level of action attracted the younger members and the adults but the older members seemed to be put off by the rampant pace and explosions one saying ‘the storyline looks fantastic but there looks very violent and loud as doesn't give you a chance to settle down before jumping off again’. I had expected this although the older members seemed to enjoy the banter between Michael Cane and Christen Bale (Alfred and Bruce). Again violence became an issue with a one Mother saying the amount of violence in films like this might cause children to copy what they see. This became a theme with people who praised the plot but disliked the violence. Some where able to sit back and just enjoy it for what it is a film trailer, one man aged 23 said ‘this film is amazing of course there will be arguments but if anything the film condones this by having a character that fights for good. Overall the focus group where very satisfied with the trailer although a few issues where brought up many said they would want to see the film and find out more about it.
  13. 13. In conclusion I believe that the two trailer I showed meet all the codes and conventions and appealed to the correct target audience at time of production. The themes and styles brought up made people want to see the film. This goes for all superhero films made to today as I believe there is a strict formula that these movie must stick to that is displayed in the two I evaluated. You must show action, locations , vague plot details , props, music and most importantly the superhero. If these requirements are there will be public interest in the film. As there was such a strong debate about violence in film I will continue the discussion on the next brief.