As we've mentioned fairly frequently, a story is only ever as good as its characters. The human race has always sort of had a thing for iconic figures; Beowulf, Achilles, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Steven Tyler, the list of timeless heroes is a long one. Truly epic heroes capture immortality by awakening something in every human imagination that preserves their legendary status throughout the ages. In many ways, we need these characters in order to tell stories that could otherwise never be, and we need them for entertainment and enjoyment as well as to open our minds to many things we never considered before, like complex moral dilemmas, and Iron Man actually being a legitimate film franchise.
Stop lying to yourselves, we are all bandwagon fans on this one.
However, the most awesome qualities found in each of our heroes, especially in today's superhero-centric world, tend to also be what makes them really terrible people. While their on-screen butt-kicking is cool and all, today's heroes are no longer the shining standards of truth and right beloved by past generations. Now you've got kids running out of the theater pretending to be li'l Wolverines, and that may not be a positive thing.
From left to right: Indestructible Monster, God of Thunder, Underrated Badass, Is A Nice Guy, Samuel L. Jackson, Ultrasexy Superspy, Indestructible Flying Murderweapon.
**Editor's Note: How many band names were just mentioned in that subtext?**
The simplicity of "traditional" superheroes like the Captain or Superman creates too many problems. First, they're either unbeatable at full strength or totally wussy without their powers, both scenarios lacking in any sort of dramatic tension whatsoever. Second, they're ethically infallible and therefore unrelatable, since they tend to appear "truer than true". And third, you sorta get the feeling that Aunt Robin would beat Captain in a fist fight.
When people can't relate they lose interest. This is probably why in many cases, the antagonist winds up being the most awesome part of a story- villains have flaws, motivations which are often complex, and tend to have more interesting origins. We actually relate more with the enemy in most stories than with the hero, which is why we all find characters classified as "antiheroes" to be the best of both worlds. "Anti" in this case means a reflection of, so an antihero is someone with traits associated only with heroes but also the flawed attributes of a more real (and therefore relatable) individual. This is the genius of the Game of Thrones universe; many of the characters are not purely good or purely evil, but a complex mix of both. This isn't exactly an original idea; writers have been doing this for a really long time.
This is all a round-about way of saying that nowadays, heroes don't have to save the city or the girl or really even the world anymore, they just have to beat people up in impressive fashion. That's all we want out of our action heroes, and that's all we're being given. It's still pretty awesome, Wolverine has now been in like five movies, at least three of which were good, and his entire persona is based around the antihero concept. But it's a little concerning that we all kind of ignored that the whole planet was being annihilated in Pacific Rim because PLASMA CANNONS.
All we took away from this movie is that we now have the technology to make live-action Iron Giant.
Making the action-oriented characters we idolize essentially bad guys who lay the beatdown on others in the coolest way possible--therefore qualifying them as good guys--is one of the clearest examples of romanticizing criminality in today's society, a disturbing and damaging trend. We'd go into that concept more if this was a research-oriented website, but it's totally not, so enjoy this movie clip depicting this very thing we were just denouncing. Because even though today's good guys aren't really even good guys anymore, they are still super awesome.