What Happened To Being Able To Take Kids To Superhero Movies?

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
Image via Shutterstock

Superhero movies of today are definitely not meant for kids

On Friday, I had the rare opportunity to go to the movies. And, thanks to Pop-pop and Grandma, we didn’t even have to shell out for a sitter! We certainly weren’t going to bring our kids, because despite the fact that Batman and Superman are comic book characters who were originally created for children, nothing about the latest superhero blockbuster is appropriate for most of them. In fact, these days it’s hard to find a superhero movie that you can take your kids too.

In “Batman v Superman,” the opening carnage is an on-the-nose reference to 9/11, Batman uses a machine gun, at one point wears a long trench coat over his bat-suit as if he’s headed to a school shooting, and, oh yeah, actually swears. Superman is vilified, doubts himself, is told by his mother to screw it all, and the (no spoilers!) plot point that ultimately motivates him to face off against his fellow superhero? It’s flat-out twisted. And I won’t even get into the ending.

This movie is about characters I grew up watching on Saturday morning cartoon, but it’s definitely for adults.

It’s one thing to take Batman, a tortured, arguably disturbed individual, and build serious dramas, complete with modern-day commentary, around him. After all, he has no superpowers, he’s just a rich guy with an agenda, and it’s a lot easier to fit him into something resembling reality. But doubling down on Bruce Wayne’s angst and going full gritty and dead-serious with Batman starts to feel really silly when the character is sharing a screen with literally magical people. Sorry, “metahumans.”

I love Superman and I love superheroes. I loved them as a kid and I love them now. As our modern myths, there’s a lot to unpack, and a serious approach is not altogether unfounded. It makes sense for our stories to “mature” as we do, and we expect different things from entertainment as we get older, but the approach is starting to come at the expense of our kids. Even the Marvel movies, which are able to raise the stakes without being unrelentingly bleak, have resorted to pitting heroes against heroes. What happened to making comic book movies for them? What happened to celebrating Superman?

When I was growing up, we had the Christopher Reeve movies, which still stand tall among the best comic book adaptations ever – and there have been a lot of those the past few years. Superman and Superman II are fun without being silly, and they are exciting without being grim. Go dark all you want with Batman, but don’t steal Superman from us! Superman is a helpful, hopeful, vibrant character, and while he may lose a little luster as we grow up and inevitably become cynical and jaded, our altogether-too-briefly innocent kids deserve a chance to see him onscreen as he was meant to be: strong, stalwart, and saving the day.

This is not that Superman, and despite Wonder Woman’s fun debut, these are not those superheroes. Suffice it to say that my kids won’t be seeing the new superhero movie anytime soon. And that’s a shame.

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