I never really understood, until a few years ago. What is it about superhero movies that has crowds rushing to the theater at midnight every time one comes out? Why do they get so much attention? Why is it that even not-comic-book-obsessed, "normal" people love these movies?
I'm sure that part of it is because they're usually released in the summer, a time when hordes of people have nothing to do with their life. Another part is that statistically (don't quote me on this, I haven't actually done any research), 99% of human beings have an undeniable attraction to beings that have superpowers or super martial arts skills, especially when they're damn good-looking. Or when they're Scarlett Johansson.
I used to think these were the basic reasons why the superhero franchise made so much money. But I know now that it goes deeper than that.
Audiences want characters. They've moved past going to see a movie that solves a mystery, kills off the bad guy, and ends with the hero kissing the girl he saved (don't get me wrong, sometimes they still want that too). They want what they're getting on TV these days- a focus on character development. They want people, real people who struggle and get hurt and die and, at the same time, save the day. They don't just want superheroes anymore- they want people who develop, who they can get to know and relate to. The closest an audience can get to characters who exhibit these traits without spending hours on a TV show are the superhero trilogies and franchises that have rabidly taken over Hollywood.
Now, I'm not talking about series like Twilight that contain stalker boyfriends and a female protagonist who's as shallow as an episode of reality television. I'm talking The Dark Knight trilogy, the X-Men movies, even the new Spider-Man. I'm talking Die Hard, a trilogy that, in the past 6 years, released two more movies about John McClane, the bad-ass New York cop who saves America, and the world, from destruction via terrorists. Interestingly enough, even just one of the two latest movies- take your pick- develops its lead character more than any of the first three combined.
What I'm really talking about, as you've probably gathered from the post title, is Joss Whedon, whose bottom line has always been characters, characters, characters. Joss Whedon, who, with Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and later on, Dollhouse, is in fact the showrunner who got audiences hooked on character development. At a time when audiences are craving superheroes who are real, Joss came to the big screen (for the first time since Serenity) with Avengers- with characters his audience shrieks for more of. Sure, these characters had major screen time before Joss came into the picture, but it was he who transformed them into people.
It was Joss who made Avengers into the biggest movie of all time. It was Joss who made these superheroes into one of the most beloved fandoms on Tumblr. He wrote Loki's character and directed the incredible Tom Hiddleston in such a way that fans don't know whether they want to give Loki a cup of tea and hug him, or stab him with his own scepter. Joss utilized one elegant, simple scene with Natasha Romanoff to re-introduce her character and to show the world that women are not to be fucked with. With Joss's writing, we finally, finally (one finally for each terrible Hulk movie) got a Bruce Banner who both tugged at our heartstrings and made us laugh. And it was Joss's directing that put Pepper Potts in a pair of cut-offs discussing business barefoot with her boyfriend, Tony Stark, instead of placing her in a dark alley waiting to be saved by Iron Man.
Human. Real. That's what an audience wants, and ironically, it's what superhero movies give them.
In conclusion, Hulk SMASH.