Tea Party and Superhero

On 16 December,1773, a group of people living in British American colonies  decided to throw shipment of teas into Boston Harbor in order to protest against Tea Act implemented by British Government on 10 May ,1773. Those who were involved in this incident were called Boston Tea Party. This incident lead to American Revolution , in which Thirteen colonies in North America got independence from their British rulers. However the Founding Fathers believed that there is no point in independence from colonial rule until and unless Americans gets freedom from “big government” that was prevalent in colonial rule.Founding Fathers believed that government interference in an individual life needs to be minimum. In December 16, 2007, group of Americans held a fundraising event on 234th anniversary. This event lead to a political movement called Tea Party Movement. Member of this movement believed that role of government in an individual life has become too big and that the size of government needs to be reduced. Members of Tea Party Movement believed that government intervention in economy and higher taxes were responsible for 2008 recession. This movement lead to popularity of new political ideology named “libertarianism” which believes in limited to no government and individual liberty.

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In 2008 , Marvel released Incredible Hulk , which was a reboot of 2003 Hulk. The Incredible Hulk did not comment on current political situation like The Dark Knight but was relatable  to general mood of audience like Batman Begins was in 2005. The Incredible Hulk was about a scientist named Bruce Banner who is involved in an experiment  that makes human immune to gamma radiation. This experiment was supposed to be part of “super soldier” program which is supposed to make US military more efficient. However failure of experiment makes Bruce Banner exposed to gamma radiation which turns him into a creature named Hulk whenever his heart rate is above 200. When Bruce Banner becomes Hulk , he is unable to control both his strength and anger and injures people around him. This makes Bruce Banner a fugitive in USA and thus he goes into hiding for next five years.When US military finds him , they try to take gamma radiation from his body in order to restart the experiment. However Bruce Banner refuses this demand.

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A lot of anti-big-government people found the problems of Bruce Banner relatable. They believed US military was an allegory of big government while Bruce Banner was allegory of common man harassed by big government.

In 2009, superhero movies like X-Men Origins : Wolverine would manage to be non-political. However 2009 would be the year when the popularity of Tea Party movement would increase when they would protest against “government bailouts” because of the fact that these bailouts may require increase in taxes.Marvel would look at this popularity and release Iron Man 2 as an allegory of limited government, private property and individual liberty.

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In Iron Man 2, US government would ask Tony Stark to handover the suit of Iron Man to government for the purpose of defense. Tony Stark would refuse this demand believing that he is rightful owner of his suit and that USA government would not be as good as him in the matters of using his suit for the purpose of defense. When the government is not able to take Iron Man suit from Tony Stark through conversations and negotiation, US government is forced to send one of the US soldier to take the suit away physically when government thinks that Tony Stark is not using his suit for good. Tony Stark still refuses believing that he is the rightful owner and that he should have full control of suit.This results in a fight between Tony Stark in Iron Man suit and US soldier in another Iron Man-type suit.

A person may interpret this whole situation as individual defending his liberty and private property from government intrusion and harassment. Sure Iron Man 2 also comments on military industrial complex and corporate rivalry but individual ‘s choice is the main running theme of movie.

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War on Terror and Superhero

During 2008 , War on Terror has divided people into three group

  1. Those who believed that War on Terror is the right way to kill terrorist
  2. Those who believed that terrorist should be killed but War in Terror is not the right way due to torture , drone program and NSA wiretapping
  3. Those who believed that USA is responsible for all terrorism in world

In 2008, Republican Party had nominated Former Vietnam Veteran and Arizona senator John McCain for Presidential election. John McCain was as hawkish as incumbent President George W. Bush if not more , in his views regarding War On Terror. His nomination as Republican Presidential candidate has symbolised that a lot of people in USA still believed in War on Terror.

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Since the debut of first mainstream superhero movie, Superman in 1978, superhero genre in Hollywood has managed to be apolitical. However, 30 years later, this rule would be broken by The Dark Knight. While Batman Begins only used the mood of people in order to make it dark, The Dark Knight directly commented on political situation by being an allegory of War On Terror

In the movie, each character is a representation of an ideology that was present in 2008 USA.Batman represented  those who believed in torture and NSA wiretapping, which is why Batman beats criminal during interrogation, kidnap people from other countries without permission and use sensor from mobile. Detective Jim Gordon represented those people who believed that USA should play by the rule in order to defeat terrorist. Harvey Dent represented those people who were good in heart but were angry towards USA and believe USA is responsible for all terrorism in the world. Joker represented  those terrorist who spread anti-USA propaganda in order to recruit people like Harvey Dent . Like real life USA, Gotham, fictional city where Batman lived, was not sure what is ideology of terrorist. Only difference between Joker and real life terrorist was the fact that Joker was  from Gotham City while real life terrorist were from Middle-East.

The Dark Knight

If The Dark Knight asked complex question and showed both sides of War On Terror, Iron Man simplified things a bit and was more Black and White than The Dark Knight. In the movie , the lead character was a Multi-millionaire weapon manufacturer named Tony Stark who sells weapon to US Army because he believes US Army is right to fight Middle – East terrorist . Unlike Joker of The Dark Knight , the terrorist are from middle east, just like in real life. In this way Iron Man was more relevant to current atmosphere of USA than The Dark Knight.

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However Iron Man starts being a less of commentary  on current situation once Tony Stark is kidnapped by middle-east terrorist and Tony Stark makes robotic suit with weapon when he is in captive in order to defend himself. Even though Iron Man fights with middle east terrorist twice in the movie, movie stops being pro-war on terror and starts being a commentary on military-industrial complex as it asks the question what happens when weapons fall into wrong hands.

However these two movie will not be only superhero movie of 2008 which will be politically relevant.

Self doubt begins

In 2003, USA went to war against Iraq because they thought that dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussain had possession of weapon of mass destruction. Optimism was at all time high when Saddam Hussain was captured in December 2003.

However in 2005, USA would find out that there was no evidence of weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. People started wondering why USA went to Iraq in first place. There was a bit of self-doubt in people ‘s mind.People in USA were asking are we the good guys ?

In such atmosphere, typical simplistic  good-guy-vs-bad-guy movie many not go well with audience ‘s mood. Audience now needed complexities.

In 2005 , Warner Bros. released reboot of Batman series named Batman Begins which was directed by Memento director Christopher Nolan. It would be something that people might have never seen before. Before Batman Begins their were serious superhero movies like X-Men but they had fantasy element. Batman Begins stripped genre of any fantasy element and made it as logical as possible. One could think that Batman could be real.

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Now Batman Begins did not comment on current political situation just like previous superhero movies, but it captured the mood of audience who were not as optimistic as they were before founding out weapons of mass destruction did not exist.

Success of Batman Begins forced producers to make blockbuster more serious and realistic.

One of the examples would 21st movie of James Bond series ,Casino Royale . Before Casino Royale , character of James Bond would be flamboyant, villain would try to rule the world and movie would feature unrealistic gadgets like invisible car. In Casino Royale , this trend would change as the new actor, Daniel Craig would portray James Bond as a serious professional , villain would not have grand ambition and movie would be realistic.

Superhero movies would however manage to be apolitical until 2008.

 

With great power comes…

On September 11, 2001  two major U.S. passenger air carriers which departed from airports on the northeastern United States bound for California got hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists and crashed into World Trade Center, killing  2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers.

This incident led America to declare War On Terror. This war was going to be different from the wars USA had previously fought . It would not be a war on a country like Mexico or on particular ideology like Nazism . Rather it would be on the concept of terrorism itself , without really defining who are the terrorist , which terrorist would be fought or what their ideology was. The war would not only be fought using Armed Forces in countries that have terrorist but also through NSA that would wiretap on US citizens because US government thought that terrorist could be in USA also.

On October 7 ,2001 , USA would launch a war against Afghanistan since Afghanistan was ruled by Taliban government and Taliban government supported Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan would be first country against which USA would  wage a war during War on Terror.

Producer of Sony noticed the during Global War on Terror, American citizens were not only feeling optimistic and patriotic, but also started believing in good-guy-vs-bad-guy for real . The producers realized that in such atmosphere, audience would like to watch a simplistic good-guy-vs-bad-guy movie. Thus they collaborated with Marvel Comics in order to make a movie on their most famous superhero character and Mr.Nice Guy, Spiderman. The movie would be based on 90s script written by James Cameron. James Cameron made a slight change in Spiderman ‘s superpower. Originally , in comic book , Peter Parker invented a device which shoots web. However in James Cameron ‘ script , Peter Parker is bit by a special type of spider. This bite would give superpower to Peter Parker. Peter Parker now would have superpower to shoot web from his wrist.

The plan for movie was discarded in 1990s. However when Sony observed that X-Men was a hit, it got confidence in superhero genre and planned to revive the Spiderman script with different crew and instead of James Cameron , it would have director of Evil Dead series , Sam Raimi as director.It would have none of the moral ambiguity and seriousness of X-Men. Spiderman would be a throwback to classic adventure movies like Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood which had romance ,comedy , stunts, thrills and simplicity. Spiderman would have Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker , Kristen Durst as Mary Jane , James Franco as Harry Osbourne  and Willem Dafoe as   Norman Osbourne/ Green Goblin.

The movie was about a shy and nerdy  teenager named Peter Parker who lives with his aunt and uncle since both of his parents died and whose best friend is Harry Osbourne. Peter Parker has a crush on his neighbor named Mary Jane but is not able to propose her due to low confidence and weak physical appearance. One day , during Peter ‘s school trip to museum of spiders , Peter is bit by a special type of spider while Peter is busy photographing in museum for school magazine. The spider’s bite not only gives Peter Parker physical strength but also a superpower. Peter Parker ‘s superpower would be shooting web from his under palm. Peter  Parker would use his physical strength to fight criminals and use his web shooting skills to catch criminals by shooting web on building and using it as rope. But Peter Parker do not want people to know that he is a crime-fighter in order to protect his loved ones, so he makes a suit for himself to cover his identity and calls himself Spiderman

Meanwhile Norman Osbourne , father of Harry Osbourne , who is an entrepreneur and a scientist is making a superpower suit for US military. When Norman Osbourne is threatened by military that funding for superpower suit would be cancelled if it fails to reach it’s deadline. In order to check whether the suit is working or not, Norman uses himself as guinea pig for suit. Since the suit is not ready, the experiment has a side effect on Norman which leaves Norman with split personality disorder. Norman’s new personality is of maniac who uses the suit to cause destruction in city through bombs and intimidation of civilians.

Spiderman is not just an action movie but also a romantic movie as it showcases the love triangle of Harry , Peter and Mary.

However Spiderman would also comment on stages of teenage life directly and indirectly through symbolism. It would showcase peer pressure , bullying , physical change and loss of innocence.

The movie would open with both critical and commercial acclaim.When Tobey McGuire starred in this movie, he had image of a skinny actor who starred in romantic comedies.

The success of Spiderman movie in 2002 would not only give producers enough confidence to make more superhero movies but also start a trend where not-so-macho actors would be cast as protagonist of   action movies as CGI would remove requirement of beefed up muscles from actors. If someone is a fan of Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Carribean series he needs to thank Tobey McGuire and Sam Raimi.

Superhero won the revolution!

It was year 2000.  Those who have been following superhero revolution with full interest, hope and support ; congratulations you have won the revolution! Congrats!

As Charles Dickens said “It was the best of times, it was worst of times”.

On 14 July 1789 Bastillle was stormed. On 14 July 2000, USA gave world the best gift to celebrate the incident that started French Revolution – Storm- I men X-Men

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X-Men almost had everything a superhero fan could want

Special effects.Check

Costume.Check.

Character development.Check.

PG-13. Check.

Only thing missing was good humour

While comic books of X-Men of 1960s were allegory of  civil right movement which were happening in real life, X-Men movies of 2000s were allegory of gay rights movement that have started gaining momentum in 1990s. Which is why in one scene you can see a parent of mutant asking Professor X to ‘cure’ his child. Sounds similar ?

 

The 90s

1990s should have been era of been decade of superhero.

PG-13 was cool as success of  Independence Day showed.

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CGI was good as Terminator 2 showed in 1991.

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Arnie, Chuck and Sly were getting old. Bruce Willis was trying to diversify. JCVD and Steven Seagal had limited non-fighting skill.

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Kids were important audience now as success of  Jurassic Park  showed.

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Videos games were of better graphic.The world was globalized.

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So what happened ?

In starting , everything was nice.

Dick Tracy was a hit in 1990.

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Rocketeer was critically hit in 1991.

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Batman Returns was also a hit in 1992.

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However by 1994, things started to change.

The Crow was  a flop.

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The Shadow was bad.

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Only silver lining was Mask.

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However Mask was a cartoonish comedy. It’s success forced Hollywood to stop making dark movies like Batman, Crow and not take the genre seriously anymore.

Which is why in 1995;

Judge Dredd had to add Rob Schneider for comedy element.

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The ‘dark’ and ‘serious’ Batman films now turned wacky with introduction of characters like Riddler

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Less we talk about 1996 ‘s Barb Wire, better it is.

Superhero movies was talking wrong direction despite all the advantage it had.It needed to stop.

Thankfully ,  Arnie saves the day. No, I am not kidding. If Arnie killed superhero movement in 1982, he will do it again in 1997. He totally does, when he decides to star in already horrible Batman and Robin and turn it into most punful – I mean – painful movie ever made.

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“Let’s kick some ice”

“What killed the dinosaur ? The ICE AGE!”

“The iceman COMETH”

They were actual lines.

The message was clear. Hollywood studios need to take superhero seriously if they have to milk a cow called comic book.

No wonder Batman and Robin turned out to be last of cheesy superhero movie in 1997.

But it had to be replaced with something else. But what it will be ?

Enter 1998. Or let’s say enter Blade.

It was change superhero genre definitely needed. It was violent unlike PG-rated Dick Tracy. It had good costume unlike Steel. It was serious unlike ‘funny’ Judge Dredd. It had scary villains unlike Batman and Robin.

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It was the injection that superhero genre needed for good.

Blade would help in kickstart of superhero movement we are seeing today. However it cannot be father of modern superhero movement.It was R-rated. Superhero need to be PG-13 to earn more money for studios.

So who would be the father ?

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Rebirth of Superhero Genre

Even though genre of Superhero in movie might have died, but the craze hasn’t. If superhero genre was at all time low with likes of Supergirl, Red Sonja, Howard the Duck, Superman 4, He Man ; it would see new heights with introduction of something called “graphic novel”. Graphic novel wold be something like a novel except it would be told in form of comic instead of text only.

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Not only was “graphic novel” introduced , but it would break all records. Comic book writers such as Alan Moore and Frank Miller would be responsible for this phenomena.

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Success of graphic novels aimed at adult audience such as “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight Returns” in 1986 would give a message to Hollywood studios that those who loved gore-fest such as Aliens also love superhero.

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Sure Superman 4 and He-Man  were flop in 1987, but 1987 would be the year supeherro genre could start breathing again. It would not be a comic book movie that would restart but a non-comic book movie called Robocop.

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Robocop was pretty much a superhero. Mask. Check. Vigilante. Check. Human alter-ego. Check. Gadget. Check. Suit. Check. Super villain. Check.

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The message was clear. Not only were there some action fans who did not want their heroes to be so exposed but wanted them to cover their face.

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With the success of comic books like “Killing Joke” and “Batman:Year one” , it was clear that people now wanted Batman to be serious and not cheesy like 1960s TV  show.

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With the success of Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom in 1984 , PG-13 would be seemed profitable.

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It was perfect time for a Batman movie.

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Sure R-Rated Punisher was released and flopped in 1989, but PG-13 Batman turned out to be a hit. And the revolution would start in next decade. Or does it ?