Monday, September 12, 2011

In the Beginning…

One question that has always plagued me is why we need to have an origin story with every hero film. There are some characters that are iconic and don’t need one. Superman is one that comes to mind. Are there people on the planet who do not know how he came to be? If there are, they are probably not going to see this film anyway. Origin stories take up time that could be spent with an original story. Instead of telling the part of the story everyone knows, tell us a part that is unlike anything we have heard before.

Spiderman is coming out and it’s starting from the beginning, again. I know that that is more of a reboot and some of the elements from the first movies are now going to be changed to be more in line with the comic books so I can see where you would want to start over. Rewriting history is the one exception to doing an origin story. However, the origin story needs to be completed in the first 15 min of the film and they need to kick the real story off from there.

Other reasons to start from the beginning is the completely reinventing the style of the story, Batman Begins is a good example of this. Previous films have had the look and feel of the Tim Burton’s Batman movies. In order to separate themselves from those films they started from scratch to reset the style of the new film. If the Hero is not as famous or more obscure it makes sense to start from scratch.

Let’s look at the first X-men movie. We didn’t need to have an entire movie dedicated to how things started; we just need to have a quick recap/introduction at the beginning of the film. Sir Patrick Stewart’s voice over was perfect. It let everyone know what was going on and then we enjoyed the movie from there. The Incredible Hulk is another one that did a great job of recapping at the start. Do a quick recap during the opening credits that way you can bring anyone who is not familiar with the origin up to speed and you movie directly into the story.

I think one reason film makers do this is because studios have a set expectation of how the formula is going to work out. It worked for Batman so we need to have this in every hero film. It really depends on the character and story. I also think that studios are trying to accommodate many people in their telling of the story and try to encompass people other than the fan base of the characters. I think they probably underestimate the popularity of these characters. I know that you can’t make a movie and please everyone, the fan base is supercritical of how their beloved heroes are portrayed. But as film makers I would suggest that you can move on to new original stories and we as the viewers will keep up. I promise.

What do you think? Is it a requirement to have an origin story for Hero Films?


  1. I don't know why they feel they HAVE to have an origin story, but I finally figured out why so many of them seem to drag. It has to do with the "inciting incident." In writing, the inciting incident is the thing that starts the plot. In Star Wars, it was the Empire capturing Princess Leia, in The DaVinci Code, it was Saunier being killed. In Spiderman, it was Norman Osborne's experiment going wrong. But instead of starting there, we start with Peter Parker being bitten by a spider, and his life changing. Only, that's not what drives the actual plot of the movie. In some cases - it works, like Iron Man. Tony Stark getting blown up in Afghanistan really is what drives everything. It works, but that's not usually the case. Even when the origin story is interesting, like in Captain America, it's not what drives the plot. Movies, like novels, should start at the inciting incident. Not with a bunch of background information.

  2. I am re reading this and now that man of Steel is out I can say that in this case where the last movie did some heavy damage to the franchise. I can see where they want to start fresh. They did not make us sit through a long section of him discovering his powers as boy, they blended in his youth with things that are taking place now. well done team. Now they can start fresh.