In a shocking departure from tradition, a discussion broke out recently on Facebook. I started the ball rolling by asking if anyone else was tired of seeing Marvel’s superheroes fighting each other rather than the bad guys. I was amazed at the passion from the other side of the debate — people who enjoyed seeing heroes duking it out.
Personally, I think it’s occasionally useful as a plot device, but I think it’s already been overused in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One commenter snidely remarked that I may want to avoid the last 50 years of comic books if that was how I felt. This gets it all wrong. I don’t object to it: I just think it’s been overdone, and as a consequence, worn out. It can be a useful plot device, but like any such device, it can be overused to the point of becoming cliche’ at best, or repetitive, expected, and boring at worst.
I suspect my aversion comes from seeing Avengers, Avengers 2, and Captain America: Civil War using this premise as a major part of the story. The first two involved mind control by outside entities, while the third was a real-out-and-out battle. An argument could be made for several other instances of hero-on-hero fights, including Iron man 2, Thor: Ragnarok (Thor #3), Ant Man, and even Black Panther.
Taken altogether, those examples are far less than half of the Marvel films out there, but they occupy the top of my brain’s annoyance chamber for some reason. It’s rightly pointed out that this happens all the time in comic books: my best response is that, while that’s true, films — even films based on comic books — are in no way the same medium, nor should they necessarily be appealing only to the same audience. Non-comic book fans are vastly larger segment of the population than comic books fans, and to have a successful film franchise, one needs to draw in the norms, as it were: people who aren’t familiar with typical comic book tropes.
To be fair, seeing Thor fight The Hulk — or for that matter, The Hulk fighting against Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armor suit — was exciting and fun, and I enjoyed those sequences. But the bottom line is that those are strong examples of “fan service,” done solely to cater to hardcore fans of the genre. There have long been arguments about who was stronger, or who would beat who in a fight — and frankly, I find it tiresome.
This whole hero-on-hero thing ignores the fact that the bad guys of the piece — the supervillains — are still running around doing stuff while the heroes are fighting each other. Stopping the nefarious schemes of the villains seems WAY more important to me than repeatedly conducting what amounts to dick-measuring contests. It also ignores decades of storylines where the heroes fought against common criminals to help out a beleaguered local police force, or even those years in the 1940s when the heroes went to war against the Nazis. Another commenter wisely pointed out that superheroes are used to solving problems with their fists, so it’s only natural they resort to what they know best in any given situation.
In the end, I’m not saying the directors, writers, and actors involved in Marvel films should cease all hero vs. hero fights: what I am saying is that I personally am tired of seeing water drawn from this well. I have high hopes for Avengers 3, featuring a villain powerful enough to take on the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and several other hero groups at the same time AND single-handedly — and the outcome with be in doubt until nearly the end. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll still see hero fights thrown in, because, like crack addicts, we as a culture seemingly can’t get enough of them.