In the current glut of superhero movies — we've had Thor and X-Men: First Class, this Friday brings Green Lantern, with Captain America due July 22 — even the most casual observer might begin to notice a few, ah, familiar elements.
Tropes, you might call them. Or, to the less generously inclined among you: cliches.
Now, we're not talking about the kind of recurring Jungian archetypes that grace the comic book page, here — this ain't grad school. For the purpose at hand, let's table all talk of cultural monomyths. Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey? Let's put a pin in that.
No, this is about Hollywood — the elements that moviemakers affix to comic book heroes to make them play in the multiplexes.
The blockbuster summer movie is its own beast, with a rigid three-act-structure that bends its protagonist — especially a character with decades of comic-book history/narrative baggage under his (utility) belt — to its implacable will.
Compromises must be made, a cinematic shorthand employed, and a formula emerges — a formula that manifests in fixed ways in just about every superhero movie you'd care to name.
Don't believe me? Take the Official Monkey See Superhero-Movie Bingo Card with you to Green Lantern this weekend.
Get your parents to help you cut along the dotted line on your computer monitor (use safety scissors!).
Watch the movie, and when you score five in a row, stand up in your seat, shout "SUPERHERO-MOVIE-BINGO!" and redeem your prize with the house usher.
(Note: No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Prize entails being escorted out of movie theater while being pelted with Jujubes and those gross little balls that look like chocolate-covered tumors. What do you call them. Muncha Crunch. Those.)
Have you spotted some other tropes to add to the bingo card? Let's hear 'em in the comments.