If you want to know what a society values — how its people truly see the world around them — just watch their superhero movies.
Superheroes got their start in the 1930s and 1940s, originally as beacons of perfection. Their challenges, while requiring superhuman abilities, ultimately proved easily defeatable. Their obstacles and fears were mostly external. Little could actually get in the way of their success. They were, for all practical purposes, without flaw.
Then, in the early 1960s, a comic book writer and publisher named Stan Lee began shaking things up in the comic book world. His Marvel Comics characters were flawed, like the rest of us. They were emotional, got sick, had friends and loved ones they often disappointed, and were vulnerable to the world around them.
With Marvel’s revolution in psychological realism, a superhero no longer had to be a perfect example of justice, strength or power. Rather, superheroes became those who, in spite of their internal struggles, in spite of being downtrodden, were able to persevere. Superheroes became more like us.
Like every form of pop culture, superheroes evolve. With the problems our world faces today (be it unemployment, climate change, war, terrorism or poverty), it has become apparent that we can longer do this on our own.
With all of today’s problems, we don’t need a superhero. We need superheroes.
Generation We: Duty Over Glory
Superhero teams, collaborations and crossovers are nothing new. But what is new is their huge popularity with millennials. For millennials (people now in the 15-35 age range), the world seems a lot darker than when we were younger.
As teens and young adults, we’re beginning to see the earth we’ve inherited, and it isn’t as friendly, pretty or healthy as it used to be. There’s a reason our superhero movies have gotten darker, grittier and based on much higher stakes than those from the days of old.
While recent advances in technology are extraordinary compared to what our parents (and especially their parents) experienced when they were growing up, these advances don’t make up for the fact that our planet is hurting and many vital resources are running low.
We’re collectively beginning to notice. And we’re collectively realizing this problem is much bigger than anything we can do on our own.
It’s this disturbing new reality that many of today’s most popular superhero movies are addressing.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a telling story of what millennials are facing today. With the help of Professor Xavier and Kitty Pryde, Wolverine goes back in time and teams up with other past X-Men in order to prevent the Sentinels from destroying all mutants, and ultimately, humanity.
While we can’t travel back in time, this film brings to light the question of looking at history to see where we went wrong. By traveling to the past and stopping an otherwise inevitable apocalypse, Wolverine and his team of mutants were able to save the world.
Instead of traveling back in time, however, millennials must look back and see where the problems resided in order to find a solution for our future.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are a group of characters from different walks of life. Forced to come together in order to survive, they aren’t afraid to do a little bad in order for good to prevail.
One character that truly embodies the millennial’s “Generation We” mindset is Groot.
Groot is a vastly intelligent being who struggles with communication due to the stiffening of his larynx. Every sentence sounds like, “I am Groot” to those who don’t understand his language.
For someone who struggles to communicate with the people around him, Groot is passionate about and protective of those who call him a friend.
Without the sacrifice of Groot (a living, breathing, plant-based entity), all of the Guardians of the Galaxy would have been destroyed. It’s as if Groot is a metaphor for the way the earth has been sacrificing itself for humanity. In this sense, we need to look at the world as if it were one of us and fight for it as much as we would fight for a loved one.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
It takes the whole team to stop the robot apocalypse! (Image: Walt Disney Company)
In the latest installment of the Avengers franchise, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and the other Avengers fight the terrorist group Hydra and take Loki’s scepter.
Upon finding an AI inside the scepter, Stark and Banner believe it will help Stark’s “Ultron” Global Defense program. But it is discovered that Ultron actually has sentience, and it becomes obsessed with destroying humanity in order to save planet earth.
It isn’t until warring sides realize Ultron’s plan for human erasure that they all come together to fight for a common belief: Human life is precious and needs to be protected.
These days our problems are more than one superhero can handle.
Take Captain America: Civil War, for example, which has just announced its cast list. Once, Captain America was the embodiment of American military might. He was stronger, faster and quicker to bounce back than any of his enemies.
But one person can’t do it all, not even Captain America.
In the next installment of the Marvel universe, Steve Rogers puts on his suit and shield to lead a new team of Avengers in the protection of humanity. After an incident that causes much collateral damage, the Avengers are left fractured, but must come together to save humanity.
It’ll take some fantastic individuals to defeat Dr. Doom starting August 7, 2015! (Image: Marvel Entertainment)
The newest installment of the Fantastic Four series, coming out August 7th, fits right in with Generation We. In the official trailer, Dr. Storm claims that “this is our chance to learn more about our planet, and maybe even save it.”
The four must come together in order to prevent the planet from facing an otherwise inevitable doom (Dr. Doom, that is). When the entire planet’s safety is in question, it takes more than one individual. It takes a fantastic team of four superheroes (and countless regular citizens) in order to save it.
Create The Next Superhero Movie
Filmmakers have a unique opportunity to broadcast their ideas to millions of people. Do you think you could be the voice of an entire generation?
With the proper training, you too could create a film that not only entertains, but educates and opens the eyes of everyone who watches. Sign up for a course in digital filmmaking and visual effects so you can create the next superhero movie!