by John Heath.
The reaction to The Amazing Spiderman 2 has started an intense critical dialogue about superhero films, foremost in this Criticwire survey. I particularly recommend reading Glenn Kenny and Richard Brody’s responses – they represent very different types of reactions to the question ‘Are there too many superhero movies?’ (both of which are reactions I sympathize with). Many of the critics offer some variation of the old ‘The superhero genre is like the western, it’ll eventually get good if you get it time!’ argument.
Comparing Superhero films to Westerns has become a cliché, a bit of received wisdom that has thus far been passed without much skepticism or examination. It has become a truism among the faithful that comic book films will become the next great chapter in American genre art, if only we have a little patience. While it’s hard to not see some superficial similarities between the two genres (they’re both largely action oriented, both involve elements of myth and morality play, and both began as adolescent entertainment), I think it’s clear that the western genre was (and is) varied and adaptable in a way that superhero films haven’t been.
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