The Superhero Genre

Shared class analysis of the superhero genre, focusing on three typical examples of the superhero corpus:

 Film 1: Superman (1978) Donner     

Film 2: Spider-man (2002) Raimi

Film 3: Wonder Woman (2017) Jenkins


Generic Conventions:

Typical Locations American Cities (New York): tall buildings provide the perfect ‘playground’ for large scale action scenes involving flight and destruction. Also, cities are culturally dense, and highly concentrated hubs of society; every class is represented as we move from the workers on the streets, up to the businessmen in their skyscrapers. Hence they can be used to represent an entire country’s  flaws or strengths, linking to the historical purpose of superheroes being beacons of hope, who aid in uniting humanity. 
Characters / Groups 1 : Hero in a disguise – Clark Kent – Superman, Peter Parker- Spiderman, Regular woman – Wonderwoman) 

2: Love Interest – Clark Kent – Lois Lane, Peter Parker – Mary Jane, Wonder Woman – Steve Trevor

3: Villain – Hostages, Destroy buildings, Kill high ranking peeps, want for money & power, worldly possessions – Superman – Lex Luther, Spider-man – Dr, Octopus – Green Goblin – Mr Negative – Penguin – Rhino – Sandman – Venom, Wonder Woman – Germans – Ares.

Conflicts & Themes Super Villain attempting to cause a world changing event with a superhero attempting to stop it. Villain finds a way to control the hero’s power or gets some sort of weapon. Love interest gets involved. Some sort of learning their power or trying to deal with it as well as their normal life. Tries to convey being pure and that anyone can be a hero and teamwork. Achilles heel.
Filmic Technique E P I C !!!  

Triumph! Glory! High energy, tense, action sequences, Dramatic stunts,  fast moving camera shots,  big, wide angles to show the size of the situation that they are in, Scale, Intense music, typical lowkey lighting for scenes with villains and light/bold/bright colour palette  for the heroes, lots of camera tracking 

Iconography /  Mise-en-Scene Costumes – Superhero logo on the costumes, suits usually with armour and protection, mask to cover up identity  

Props – Gadget/weapon unique to the superhero eg Cpt America has a shield.

Lighting – Low key when there is conflict

Setting – In a large city

Makeup – facepaint for Joker

Shape of the story Act 1

The hero arrives / is born in a dire situation. An orphan.  Extraordinary powers revealed. The villain emerges. The hero is scorned / shunned

Act 2

The hero explores their powers and tries to fix the world. They often meet & fall in love – which in some ways is forbidden to the, The villain moves his plans forward towards a crisis.

Act 3

The final showdown. The hero is given an impossible choice often between their love and the fate of the world. With one enormous effort they manage to defeat the enemy.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *