Iron Man, Batman, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor and Superman have all made their big screen debuts/reboots with varying success since 2005. Although all the films were big box office hits – only a select few were actually critically acclaimed. Because of this, I’ve been wondering what makes a good superhero film?

Firstly, I think it’s best to identify superhero films that have gone seriously wrong recently; Batman vs Superman springs to mind. The epic showdown between two of the greatest superheroes of all time failed to live up to the hype – and was not well received with eager critics. It received a very mediocre 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

On the other hand, one of the most successful superhero films recently was Christopher Nolan’s incredible, The Dark Knight. This film was arguably held together by the surreal performance of the late Heath Ledger, who successfully spelled fear into audiences around the globe with his chilling portrayal of The Joker. A compelling narrative and strong cast ensured this film received a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

So what was the difference between the two films which made one considerably more successful than the other? For me personally, there is only one real reason, it’s realism.

The Dark Knight encompasses The Joker’s continued assault on Gotham, which is best described in the film when Ledgers character tells Harvey Dent” “look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets.” This perfectly sums up the simplicity of the Joker’s character – as someone who creates terror without complex schemes. I believe this is why audiences enjoy it, because they know this could realistically happen in their own world. There isn’t anything sophisticated about it yet it can put an extreme fear into people, making the film unforgettable.

This is evidently different in Batman vs Superman, where the plot of main Villain Lex Luthor, is hugely complicated and is very implausible. His character aims to bring ‘Doomsday’ to life whilst also destroying Superman’s life by killing his mother. Although the latter strategy is quite smart – the film certainly lost its realism feel when the monster was artificially created using alien technology. It’s obviously clear to me that Batman vs Superman believed in ‘big is better’ and that cramming a lot of destruction via this monster into the movie would satisfy the audience – but they were wrong.

And I could continue to go on about the underlying little details that Batman vs Superman got wrong, but I feel it’s unnecessary. I think if I can see a realistic superhero film, things such as plot development and character depth won’t matter anymore because I’ll be totally immersed in that real environment the film creates. It is the most crucial element in my opinion.

I just hope somehow the big boss behind Batman vs Superman is reading this and thinking, my god, this person is right! I’ll be expecting better things from Justice League when it releases it 2017.



Steven Walton PhotoAuthor: Steven Walton

Steven Walton is a 16 year old student currently attending St Andrews College in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was brought up with two older brothers and his big passions are sports (especially motorsport), people and writing. He runs his own motorsport blog, Green Flag F1 ( and is aspiring to be a journalist when he is older.


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