Before 2017, the recipe for a multi-million-dollar-earning superhero flick was predictable: a man (generally Caucasian and potentially an alien) would experience personal tragedy, and, in a turn of events, would come by some extraordinary power, weapon or skill which prompts them to fight an evil villain.
There’s no faulting this generic plot; Marvel’s cinematic offerings (known for Iron Man, The Avengers and Thor) have garnered more than nine billion dollars since the release of X-Men in 2000. And while DC Films has been flailing since Christian Bale bowed out as Batman, they retain a loyal fan base guaranteeing them a slew of viewers.
But this year things began to shift. The typical superhero has changed their stripes, and as fans snap up tickets to Spider-Man: Homecoming this week
we can see why.
Society isn’t sick of the traditional superhero, but in an era of constant crisis and technological advancement, we desperately want a new one. And whether that’s Tom Holland’s pubescent Peter Parker who’s clumsily trying to prove himself, or Gal Gadot’s fiercely feminist Wonder Woman, we have finally been given the hero we always wanted: someone we can relate to.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming we see the youngest portrayal of Spider-Man yet. And, while his powers are predictably extraordinary, Holland’s portrayal as a quick-witted teen earnestly trying to do good make him someone to aspire to.
In the same way, when Guardians of the Galaxy 2 released earlier this year, the public eagerly engaged with a troupe of messy miscreants; Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is essentially a scavenger, and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a bounty hunter and thief. Yet when joined by their alien colleagues, we learn that diversity is to be celebrated and see no-one is exempt from redemption.
Then there’s the Wonder Woman craze that’s currently taken over the globe, where little girls, feminists and, it seems, everyone else, are celebrating a character who not only fights beside men, but often even saves them.
Directed by Patty Jenkins (the first female to take on this role in the studio superhero movie genre), Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman is full of delightful naivety about gender norms, neglecting the oft-depicted over-sexualisation of the character, and portraying her as brave, capable and self-sacrificing.
These characters have been beloved for decades, but their most recent portrayals show us that we have the capacity to enact change in our own universe no matter how marginalised we may be.
Sadly, this doesn’t come with a fancy suit or a truth-wielding lasso. Rather, it is found in our courage, loyalty and commitment to doing good. And that’s something worth celebrating with a large serving of popcorn and a trip to the movies. So I’m off to see Spider-Man: Homecoming—who’s with me?