In the past year or so, a disturbing trend has popped up among audiences and fans of comic book movies in general. It's one that continues to rear its head every time a comparison is made between any of the three major shared comic book universes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Extended Universe and the X-Men franchise.
What it boils down to is the belief that comic book movies are nothing more than comic book movies, devoid of any real subtext, art or substance and therefore should remain lighter, heavy on action and full of wit and charm. Essentially, comic book movies are a one-dimensional property in the first place with not a lot of depth to them, so they should know their place and not try to be anything other than that.
What a load of pretentious and ignorant crap that is, if I do say so myself.
Comic book movies are pretty much science fiction movies if you are to classify them in a grouping, and anyone that has been paying attention to awards shows and all of the serious accolades given out to movies knows that science fiction gets the raw end of the deal more often than not. Lasers, spaceships and superpowers allow critics to put you in the same place that they put The Fast and Furious franchise, where your movies are considered more of a guilty pleasure than actual art and truly layered cinema. This is simply a ridiculous mindset to have and it has always been the case with action or science fiction movies for a long time now. Unless its adapted from a seminal piece of literary work, is played heavily for a dramatic tone with almost all action eliminated from it, or is an an indie film made on a small budget, it doesn't get the level of respect and appreciation from the "upper class" as it really should for the thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears that everyone on the cast and crew of that movie put in to make it come to life on screen.
This lazy mindset, whether people admit it or not, is being applied to comic book movies, even by those who enjoy them. In fact, ESPECIALLY by those who enjoy them. There are people who go to the theater to watch a comic book movie and are expecting two hours of entertainment and escapism with absolutely no subtext, philosophical debate or intellectual stimulation to be had and that's exactly how they want it. They don't want a comic book movie to be anything more than simple entertainment because they feel that it shouldn't be anything more than that. Not everyone feels this way, but it's a lot more people than you might think.
Why is that the case, though? Why can't a comic book movie be a work of actual art and be a truly inspired cinematic achievement? Why must it sit in a box with other action movies and the like, never able to move past the big explosions, super-powered fights and chase scenes to tell a story that is truly indicative of deep, multi-layered storytelling? There's no reason that it can't, and there is no reason why people should believe that it can't or worse, that it shouldn't.
What is considered a masterpiece or a work of art when it comes to comic book movies is completely subjective and up to the opinion of the person to decide, but that person should at least have the choice to make that decision without being told by others that there is no such thing, or that a more seriously-taken comic book movie is somehow "wrong" because it is considered joyless or too dark. Taking the term "comic book movies" and choosing to emphasize the word "comic" as if to shame comic book movies that are not as full of levity or escapism as others is a close-minded and limited perspective to have. There is certainly a place for comic book movies to be taken more seriously as a commentary on real life issues and to be looked at for grand storytelling scale on a philosophical level. Comic books are in fact their own mythology and build their worlds based on legend and the human experience that so many of us take for granted.
Movies don't always have to have a ton of subtext, be very reflective of real life issues or inspire great philosophical conversations about the nature of mankind, but just because a lot of people want to have mindless fun with their comic book movies doesn't mean that they can't ever have the more serious subtext and other qualities. No one should ever be able to tell you that "comic book movies aren't that deep," because there are more than enough examples within the last five years alone (all of the DCEU, Logan and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) to put that argument to rest. Don't limit what comic book movies can do just because they have superheroes or special characters in them. They have the ability to be just as if not more powerful and thought-provoking to an audience than any Oscar-nominated or independent film drama ever made.