The New Era of Super Hero Films

CF_hero1Hollywood is nothing if not predictable when it comes to bringing us a re-launch, sequel, franchise or “reboot” of a story that will be box-office-safe. There have been plenty of super hero “flicks” (calling them films seems inappropriate) that turn comic book stories into jokes, feature costumes that look like they were purchased at a convenience store, and set designs that may or may not have been a school’s craft project. However, studios are now bringing us a new and powerful era of super hero films that do more than deserve our attention, they demand it.

The concept and familiarity of a super hero is what initiates interest, but it’s the intelligent storylines, fun and dramatic action sequences and, of course, brilliant design strategies that come together for a truly compelling and enjoyable viewing experience.

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CF_hero3Where’s the brilliance in design you may ask? Let’s run through a few key design elements that make these super hero films fantastic: first, fashion. Academy Award-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming collaborated with The Dark Knight Rises director, Christopher Nolan, to bring sophistication and practicality to these fictional characters that not only makes them seem more relevant to us today, but strangely realistic (relatively speaking of course). Forgetting about the status quo and retrofitting these characters’ costumes to work for the character actually makes the costumes seem less like costumes. For example, take a look at the new approach to fashion design for Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals. The character Bane left his wrestling uniform at home and opted for the more practical camouflage, bulletproof armored vest and shearling coat while wearing a muzzle-shaped, medicinal mask that distinctly adds to his gorilla-like presence. Catwoman, on the other hand maintains her sleek and appropriately dark uniform, however the elements of her costume that have traditionally been so pointless are now suddenly useful and sensible. Those aren’t cat ears you’re seeing but adjustable night goggles. And throughout the film, her razor-sharp, 4-inch metal heels come in quite handy when fighting off trained killers!

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The sharp attention to design by no means ends with a character’s uniform. Engineers, digital designers and industrial designers are playing vital roles in these ambitious films. Do you expect The Avengers to travel coach on a commercial airline from Germany to New York in time to defeat the evil villain, Loki? Of course not. To solve this predicament, visual effects companies, Industrial Light & Magic and Weta Digital designed the “Helicarrier”. This flying aircraft carrier features two stacked carrier decks and modular engines capable of operating in space. The engineering detail of these digital graphics does justice for comic author, Stan Lee’s imagination.

Quality reaches nearly every aspect of this new generation of super hero films. 2013 will bring us Man of Steel, Ironman 3, and Thor: The Dark World, all of which include superior production artists and writers. While 2012 set the bar incredibly high, I’ll be looking forward to another year full of exciting design…. brought to us by some of the most talented directors, producers and designers Hollywood has to offer.

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