Heroes are out and villains, it seems, are all the rage. From rom-com bad-boys and the horror classic “Carrie” to TV favorites like Walter White, Francis Underwood and Dexter and even the genre that worships the classic hero, superhero movies are switching over to the dark side.
DC Comics is set to release two films that feature these protagonists in 2016, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” on March 24 and “Suicide Squad” in August.
“Batman v. Superman” is exactly what it sounds like, a showdown between two of the most famous heroes. “Suicide Squad,” to be released in 2016, focuses on a team of super villains enlisted by the government to undertake impossible missions.
Batman has always been an anti-hero, or at least stood firmly in the gray area of what constitutes being a hero because of his violent vigilante justice. In “Batman v. Superman,” the Dark Knight is at odds with Superman who is typically the exemplification of the ideal man, despite him being an alien.
“Batman v. Superman” will pit alien against man, strength against steel and hero against anti-hero. The trailers show a lot of Superman beating on Batman. Will the ideal superhero become a bully? It looks like Hollywood is going to switch the dynamics between the two classic heroes.
So where is the sudden popularity of anti-heroes coming from? Superhero movies typically have a very clear hero vs. villain dynamic, but movies where the good guy always wins aren’t engaging. Audiences have seen it a million times.
Today people want something new. Perfection is only entertaining for about a minute. After that people want some depth. A tortured past, a broken promise, a dirty secret – it’s the faults that make superheroes a little more human. The weaknesses create emotions that everyone can relate to on some level, which might be why the Batman franchise has grossed on average almost double what the Superman franchise has. Bruce Wayne’s struggle with his own darkness resonates with people on another level, like he says in the upcoming film, he’s human – not a superhero.
But a hero with a dark past can easily turn into a villain, like Harvey Dent/Two-Face in “The Dark Knight.” But if you take a villain and add something human to the character, like a lost love or even just a sense of humor, it can redeem them. Qualities like Batman’s loyalty to Gotham, Deadshot’s tragic past and and even Harley Quinn’s twisted love of the Joker all add a dash of humanity to characters that could have easily been one-dimensional villains.
Writers use the same technique to make perfection interesting and evil something you could get behind. And the movies that master it are the movies you remember. The ones you watch over and over until you know every punch, every explosion and every line.