There is a definite connection between international conflict and the resurgence of superhero-themed motion pictures. When crisis has disrupted the usual comfortable confines of everyday life, the public turns to vigilant superheroes that work outside the law to achieve justice.
In the 1970s, a decade of rising gas prices and conflict in Vietnam, Americans turned to their televisions to watch such shows as Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk.
During the early 1990s, as the first President Bush led America into war against Saddam Hussein, Americans took to the theaters to see Batman Returns and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Now, more than three years after the attacks of Sept.11, 2001, and a year after the start of the war in Iraq, superhero movies are making yet another comeback.
Between April 2 and August 6, more than eight superhero-themed movies will be released, including a sequel, a cinematic update of a Batman nemesis and at least two comic book-inspired motion pictures.
Those two comic book-inspired movies, Hellboy and The Punisher, both hit theaters in April. Director Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy, starring Ron Perlman and Selma Blair, offers a somewhat original premise and dazzling special effects. Perlman is the title character, a demon created by the Nazis during World War II who fights the forces of evil rather than uses them.
The Punisher, on the other hand, follows the story of G-Man Frank Castle, whose wife and children are murdered, inspiring him to become a one-man judge, juror and executioner known as the Punisher.
Meanwhile, Oscar-winning beauty Halle Berry has traded her Academy Award for a whip and leather cat suit in French filmmaker Pitof’s Catwoman. Gone are any mention of Batman, Gotham City or any elements of Batman creator Bob Kane’s original character creation. In this film, Berry portrays Patience Prince, an ordinary woman with the not-so-ordinary alter ego known as Catwoman. Along for the ride are Benjamin Bratt as the love interest and Sharon Stone as Catwoman’s nemesis. Slated for a July 23 release date, Catwoman arrives in theaters more than three months after Hellboy and The Punisher and two weeks after the release of Spider-Man 2.
Everyone’s favorite web-slinger returns to the big screen in Spider-Man 2, the highly-anticipated sequel to the 2002 blockbuster. This time around, the romance between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson intensifies, while Parker’s alter ego, Spider-Man, gains a new supervillain, the diabolical Doctor Octopus. Columbia Pictures is so confident in the money-making ability of the sequel that it has already approved the production of a third installment in the Spider-Man franchise.
In other production news, a new chapter of the Batman saga is on the way. Batman Begins already has an impressive cast of actors attached to it, including Katie Holmes, Michael Caine and Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. Christopher Nolan, the director of the 2000 indie hit Memento, is attached to direct.
A new season full of superhero-themed films is around the corner, but with films like Batman Begins going into production, it’s unlikely that America, or the world, has seen the last of superhero movies.
Marta Rusek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org