Why superhero movies are more than just popcorn fare

Tom Hiddleston returns to his role as the villainous Loki in The Avengers, and he couldn't be happier. While some people may argue that superhero movies are cinematic fluff, Hiddleston argues that the roles offer serious challenges for serious actors.

Starting with an anecdote about how Christopher Reeve was mocked by his Julliard classmates for taking the Superman role, Hiddleston offers a defense of superhero movies, noting the work actors like Jack Nicholson, Ian McKellen, and Heath Ledger brought to their comic book-based roles. He also notes how superhero mythology offers its own emotional truths:

I have never been more inspired than when I watched Harold Pinter speak in a direct address to camera in his Nobel lecture in 2005. "Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond with the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Some times you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost."

Big talk for someone in a silly superhero film, I hear you say. But superhero films offer a shared, faithless, modern mythology, through which these truths can be explored. In our increasingly secular society, with so many disparate gods and different faiths, superhero films present a unique canvas upon which our shared hopes, dreams and apocalyptic nightmares can be projected and played out. Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; fathers and sons, martyred heroes, star-crossed lovers, the deaths of kings – stories that taught us of the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. It's the everyday stuff of every man's life, and we love it. It sounds cliched, but superheroes can be lonely, vain, arrogant and proud. Often they overcome these human frailties for the greater good. The possibility of redemption is right around the corner, but we have to earn it.

Honestly, I'm a bit surprised that in a post-Dark Knight world, superhero movie roles are considered irredeemable fluff, but perhaps Ledger's turn as the Joker is considered the exception that proves the rule.

Superheroes movies like Avengers Assemble should not be scorned [Guardian via GeekTyrant]