“Superhero films have grown and must continue to grow rather than simply being about simple themes or fanciful images.”
In my review of “The Avengers”, I asked if we’ve seen the best that comic book movies have to offer. To clarify, I think that comic book movies are different from superhero movies. This is just my opinion, and I could be wrong, but it has to do with how the movie treats the subject. For example; “Spiderman 2” is a superhero movie, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is a comic book movie. One deals more with the main characters’ plight and conflict, while the other is just about telling a fun story. I’m not trying to suggest that one is better than the other — it’s just how I feel.
So, let me change my original question up; have we seen the best that superhero movies have to offer?
Probably the best superhero story ever committed to print is “Watchmen”. If you have never read this, please pick up a copy soon. I really don’t need to mention in how many ways it plays with superhero conventions, stereotypes and conflict — it’s just great. Of course, Hollywood was just itching to make this into a blockbuster. When the superhero genre took off in the last decade, the project finally came to fruition — and, like its source material, was pretty great.
But, I feel it was less because of the Director, cast and crew and more because of the source material — a monkey (or Uwe Boll) could’ve made this work. Not to take anything away from Zack Snyder, who should be commended for his faithfulness to the story and his unique visual style, but I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more creative interpretation — no risk, no reward. Who, past or present, do I think would’ve made a fine director for “Watchmen”, and bring the best out of the superhero film genre?
Sergio Leone, of course.
You mean the guy that did that western with Clint Eastwood? Yes; the man who directed a Spaghetti Western/Civil War Drama starring Clint Eastwood. Westerns aren’t too different from superhero flicks anyways; both were popular in their time, both had an over abundance of productions and both might just burn out the same way. But, this isn’t the only reason to hire Sergio.
A story as layered as “Watchmen” deserves a movie as equally layered. While Snyder’s version boasts some easter eggs within some of the frames (lifted right from the book in some cases), the camera work and editing don’t really do much to add dimension. The focus in his film is strictly on sets, action and the story itself. But clever camera work and editing can add tension, mood, conflict and much more to any story or character.
One only has to watch the climax to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” to know about Sergio’s style.
The movie has built this one sequence up for about 3 hours — a three way gun duel for a cache of gold coins. The scene plays out, with no dialogue, for a few minutes or so; the score, the camera shots and the pace of the editing all add a mood and tension to a scene that could’ve faltered if handled by anyone else. The director, using these tools, has the audience on the edge of their seats. Imagine this kind of technique and detail applied to EVERY scene of “Watchmen”.
And I know that Sergio would’ve taken some risks; directors like him always do. In his masterpiece “Once Upon A Time in America”, there is an almost surreal sequence used to end the film (spoilers ahead). Max, after his ex best friend Noodles decides not to kill him, is last seen walking behind a dumpster type truck. He disappears, while the camera focuses on the garbage grinders in the back. A car filled with partying people comes into the shot. The car and the people look like they’ve come from Noodles’ past (type of car and clothing people wear). It disappears into a fog, as we end on a shot of a younger Noodles smiling. A sequence with little dialogue that MAKES YOU THINK — imagine that kind of style in “Watchmen”.
Now, again, this is not to take anything away from Zack Snyder — I’m merely musing on what would’ve happened had Sergio lived long enough to do such a project (he’d probably have a lot of fun with Dr. Manhattan experiencing his life simultaneously).
We have yet to see the full potential of the superhero genre. Do we need a Tarantino or a Fincher to bring us this? I dunno. A re-animated Sergio Leone wouldn’t hurt. Well, actually, Zombie Leone might hurt if you get close enough to him. I’d still pay to see that movie, though…