All four of the comic book movies arriving this summer are essentially origin stories that explore the beginnings of either a single superhero or (with X-Men: First Class) an ensemble of warriors. But which one really looks to be the most interesting and thought-provoking?
Part of what grabs my attention about Thor is that it doesn’t tell the tale of an ordinary person becoming something greater, but rather the story of an already powerful warrior who is forced to learn the value of those weaker than himself. Combine that with Thor’s Oedipal issues, Loki’s jealousy and prejudice being heightened by his rise to power, and Odin having to confront his elderly state – there’s plenty in the way of meaty substance for the film to explore.
While the plot threads involving Asgardian characters again seem more interesting than those of the regular humans in Thor, it could also be interesting to see how the film addresses matters that relate science and magic. So long as the movie doesn’t get bogged down in setting up The Avengers (a la Iron Man 2), it should be very good.
Green Lantern deals with more of a familiar superhero storyline: a weaker individual gains great power and must learn how to use it properly and responsibly. What make Hal Jordan’s journey all the more intriguing is that his is more psychological in nature – it requires him to overcome his insecurities and emotional shortcomings, as his limitations are less physical but mental in nature.
Parallax is an excellent metaphor for the corrupting and destructive power of fear, and the manner in which characters – be they Hal Jordan, Sinestro, or Hector Hammond – respond to the creature should make for some engaging drama as well. Hopefully all these ideas and concepts will be developed to some degree and executed well in the film.
It’ll be almost impossible to not cheer on Steve Rogers in Captain America as he transforms from a wannabe fighter for justice into a super-powered hero who understand the value of his abilities and strives to use them solely for good. Match him against a ruthless and diabolical villain like Red Skull and
the Nazis his Hydra soldiers, and you’ve got the makings of a fun old-fashioned adventure tale about ridding the world of evil.
That kind of story may not read as especially interesting on paper, and it might not fly so well with viewers in the mood for something more complex, but – if done right – Captain America could be just as good (if not better) than its comic book movie peers.
X-Men: First Class really sticks out for me in the story department for a number of reasons. There’s the mutant metaphor being explored in the context of the 1960s, a time when counter-cultural movements were beginning to really take place; the political intrigue and suggestion that real-life historical events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis were affected by mutants; and of course, the aforementioned evolving dynamic between young Professor X and Magneto (juxtaposed to, say, The Civil Rights Movement).
That’s not to mention the coming-of-age drama concerning the younger mutants who are just struggling to find their place in the world. So long as that aspect of the film’s plot doesn’t dip too much into the Twilight pool, it’s hard to envision X-Men: First Class really faltering in the story department.
Verdict: At this point X-Men: First Class is the winner for me, but the other three titles have the potential to either match or exceed it, in this regard.