Movie Theory: The Hero Moment

I saw Ant-Man and The Wasp this weekend and while I thoroughly enjoyed the movie there was something that bugged me about it. Both of Ant-Man’s movies have been devoid of a particular trait. The first Ant-Man was an origin story combined with a heist movie, and this one was a comedy wrapped in an “on-the-run” scenario. Both stories were great for the character but because of the set-up Ant-Man (and Wasp as well) didn’t ever interact with the general public. As such neither of the main superheroes in these movies ever got a “hero moment.”

So what do I mean by hero moment? Well, one of the reasons that people love superheroes is that they are people who can do what normal people can’t: they use their superpowers to do good and save people that need to be saved. Unfortunately, as superhero blockbusters have gotten more and more commonplace the focus has been on impressive CGI battles with supervillains and a certain amount of power creep (aka the next threat always has to be stronger than the last) ends up affecting all the new heroes and their sequels.

Because of the visual nature of movies and the blockbuster frenzy of Hollywood, directors and writers have tended to drift away from part of what draws me (and others) to superheroes in the first place. They rely on spectacle over substance. When the heroes are “saving” people it’s often en masse from a world-ending threat instead of a smaller, more intimate display of heroics. In both the first Avengers and Age of Ultron, we get to see all the heroes team up and save a city (New York and Sokovia respectively) and we see them rescuing civilians, but it’s a part of a larger climax that dulls our perception of the heroism in favor of flashy battles and witty one-liners. We’re even briefly given a death toll in Captain America: Civil War for both battles to try and add more gravitas to the situations, but a number as a statistic on the screen does little to evoke any sort of emotional impact on the viewer.

I’m going to go over a few of my favorite hero moments from some recent superhero movies and try to explain why I consider them emotionally impactful (and usually my favorite scene from the movie they’re from) as compared to their respective climaxes. Minor spoilers will follow, obviously. All scenes will be linked to on YouTube for your viewing pleasure in case you haven’t seen them or forgotten them.

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