Superhero movies have seen a steady climb in popularity throughout the 2000s, taking their current place atop the cinematic heap. They are certainly the most successful movies, with the MCU dominating the box office and the DCEU building up its clout as well after some missteps. One of the biggest problems with superhero movies today is how much they depend on cliches in order to drive them, something which often keeps them out of awards contention despite their massive fanbase.
Formulaic story arcs and simple to digest plots are certainly an issue but one can’t deny that a lot of superhero characters are as cliche as they come as well. Sometimes, it’s good, other times it’s bad but the cliched character are an undisputed fact of the genre.
8 Ikaris Is The Classic Hero Turned Villain
Eternals is a remarkably uneven movie, a messy yet beautifully shot epic whose characters aren’t exactly comic accurate or even very good for the most part. Throughout the movie, audiences are led to believe that Ikaris is the Eternals’ warrior extraordinaire, always there to save his fellows and helping to get the group back together. A little over halfway through the movie, it’s revealed in the movie’s clumsily endearing way, that things aren’t as they seem.
Ikaris is all about the Eternals’ mission, the truth of which he knew about for years. He turns on the others and becomes a classic hero turned villain cliche. It’s not really foreshadowed at all, unless one calls Richard Madden’s understated performance foreshadowing, one of many strange writing choices the movie makes.
7 Cyclops Is Played As The Ultimate Straight Laced Killjoy Leader In The Original X-Men Films
Cyclops gets a lot of flack for being boring, something he doesn’t always deserves. At least, in the comics he doesn’t deserve it. He does in the first three X-Men movies, though. The writers of those movies stayed away from comics on set, which explains why Cyclops’s only personality trait was that of a cliche serious leader.
That’s not to say that isn’t a part of Cyclops’s personality in the comics, but the movies made it the only part, something which made him much more cliche than usual. He was one of the most one dimensional characters in the opening trilogy and was only saved from being even more of a straight laced killjoy by dying early in X3: The Last Stand, something which put everyone out of his cliched misery.
6 Shazam Is Nearly Every Kid Made Into An Adult Cliche Except With Superpowers
Shazam is one of the DCEU’s most balanced characters and stars in one of its most fun movies. Billy Batson as Shazam plays into an old storytelling trope, one recognizable to fans of movies like Freaky Friday, Big, and Vice Versa. These movies are all child/adult body swap comedies and while Shazam doesn’t body swap, instead becoming an adult character through his powers, he still plays perfectly into this cliche.
Most of the footnotes of this archetype are there, down to still hanging out with his young friend. Missing is an adult trying to seduce him in his adult body and the superpowers aspect is different but otherwise Shazam encapsulates this type of character to an entertaining tee.
5 Professor X Is The Perfect Complicated Mentor
Another cliche character from the X-Men films is Professor X. Whether he’s played by Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy, Professor X fits into the mold of the complicated mentor to a tee. He’s often right and always there for his students, while simultaneously having secrets and sometimes making things more difficult for the people he works with. One of the most fun aspects of the character and his portrayal is the way audiences get to see him transform into the man they first met backwards.
When fans were introduced to him in X-Men, he was fully formed but the First Class movies shined a light on who he was, an often messy man trying his best to make the world a better place. It showed viewers how he became who was and was a nice bit of character growth that made the cliche work even better.
4 Gamora Fits Into The Tough Person Who Takes Time To Open Up Cliche
Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy has a lot in common with her comic counterpart but it’s not a perfect adaptation. The two share their extreme skill in battle and their tough outer shells but MCU Gamora is much more of a cliche than her comic version. She’s the classic closed off tough person who opens up to those around her, becoming a valued member of the group and a love interest for one of the characters.
All of the hallmarks are there, down to her only joining the group after trying to fight them. The only slight difference is that she’s a woman and not the main character, as this cliche usually extends to male lead characters. Still, she slots perfectly into the group dynamic of the Guardians. Her character growth makes her a better character than she should have been.
3 Christoper Reeves’s Superman Is Every Perfect Cliche The Character Created In The Comics
Superman is the perfect role model and Christopher Reeves’s portrayal of the character, especially in the Richard Donner directed entries in the series, plays into every Superman cliche the comics created. He’s the quintessential meek Clark Kent, changing his body language subtly to make himself less imposing, and his Superman is the boy scout everyone wants Superman to be, a completely dependable, trustworthy hero of the people, as at home getting cats out of trees as he is punching Kryptonian criminals.
Reeves nailed every little Superman cliche to a tee in a way no other actor since has. Brandon Routh came close but it wasn’t exactly there, and Cavill’s Superman was written by people who were actively trying not to write that kind of Superman. Reeves made audiences believe a man could fly and felt like he stepped right off the comic page.
2 Ben Affleck’s Batman Is Played As An Ultraviolent Older Cop Cliche
The DCEU took some liberties with Ben Affleck’s Batman. One was the way they portrayed the character. This was an older, more violent Batman, one who had no problem killing his foes if it came right down to it. This is sort of a Batman cliche but it’s also one that comes from a lot of cop movies, the violent, disillusioned older cop. Everything about the way the character is written plays into this cliche, from the tragedy in his past spurring him on to greater violence to his change of heart after clashing with a pure hearted rookie.
Playing into cop movie cliches with a Batman movie is both bizarre and also kind of fitting. Batman is basically a cop in every way that counts but it’s a very specific cliche from the cop movie genre and seeing it in a superhero movie is different to say the least.
1 Wolverine Is The Ultimate Edgy Cool Guy Character And Grew Along Those Lines Til The End
Wolverine is the best there is at what he does and in the movies that’s usually being the coolest guy on the screen. It’s impossible to deny that Wolverine was the main character of the X-Men movies he appeared in. He was played as the edgy cool guy, always fast with a quip, violently dealing with the bad guys, and being the center of attention.
His character development across the movies also played into this. As time went on, he changed from the edgy cool guy to the elder statesman to the lonely man at the end of his life, his years of being cool having netted him nothing more than heartache and pain. It took the cliche to its logical conclusion, as only long form portrayals like Hugh Jackman’s seventeen years as Wolverine could, and is one of the best character arcs in superhero movies.
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