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Fans return to sequels, remakes during summer movie season

By By Nicole Hefner -
April 30, 2014 at 1:05 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2014 at 11:30 p.m.


The antihero

Not all the stars of summer movies are figures of virtue.

Evil fairy Maleficent, of the "Sleeping Beauty" tale, is getting her own movie this summer, and super-intelligent chimpanzee Caesar leads a band of apes against humans in the new "Planet of the Apes" franchise.

The antihero has been popular in American culture since at least the 1960s, Jeffrey Sartain, assistant professor of English at UHV and managing editor of the American Book Review, said. They provide an escape for the audience, and they're a way for moviegoers to measure their own morals.

"These antiheroes become sort of a funhouse mirror for the audience. They reflect aspects of people, especially uncontrolled aspects of people," he said.

Cody Alvarado went to see "Spider-Man" with his dad in 2002. He's been hooked on the character ever since.

"I fell in love with Spider-Man and wanted to know everything about him and all the people in his life," Alvarado, 21, of Tivoli, said.

The summer movie season is chock-full of sequels, remakes and adaptations of preexisting material. It kicks off Friday with the release of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

Sequels and remakes aren't anything new. Jeffrey Sartain, assistant English professor at UHV and managing editor of the American Book Review, said Shakespeare's works have been reused for the past 400 years.

"We update stories to keep up and retell these stories in new media, but also, we update the stories because they still have something to say to us," Sartain said.

Between movies, cartoons and comic book appearances stretching back to 1962, it's easy to lose track of how many times Peter Parker has web-slung his way to the rescue. But fans like Alvarado keep coming back for more.

"I liked the first one ("The Amazing Spider-Man") a lot; it was so much better than the Sam Raimi movies," Alvarado said.

Bryan Hons, 25, the coordinator for Victoria Comic Con, agrees. Andrew Garfield, who portrays Parker in the new series, is "definitely a lot better," and with at least three different villains making an appearance in the trailers, Hons is eager to see the new "Spider-Man."

"I'm really excited that they're introducing all the new villains," Hons said.

Since 2002, Alvarado has learned all about Spider-Man's friends and foes. But what brings him back to the hero isn't just a colorful cast of villains.

"He's a relatable character," Alvarado said. "It's not just me personally; I see a lot of people relating to him because he's not the coolest guy out there."

Superhero movies are big business these days. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" made $96.2 million during its first weekend in North America, and there are three other big superhero movies slated for release in the summer months besides "Spider-Man," "X-Men: Days of Future Past," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Karen Jean, 31, of Victoria, is so excited for the new "X-Men" movie that she's taking a day off from her second job at Wal-Mart on May 23 to go see it.

"I didn't want to take the chance of missing it opening day, so I requested off just to be on the safe side," she said in a Facebook message.

She's followed the "X-Men" movies since the first one in 2000.

"I was hooked instantly. The cast is just amazing, and I grew up watching the 'X-Men' cartoon," she said. "It would come on early in the morning, so I'd always watch it before having to catch the bus for school. Seeing it brought to life on the big screen has just made me more of a fan."

Though she doesn't have a single favorite character, she does love Wolverine, who she said is "kind of the good-guy jerk," and has enjoyed watching him grow through the films. Storm, with her ability to control weather, is also a favorite.

"Just all their different abilities and them coming together with so many differences is really just a lesson we could all learn from," she said.

Sartain says the forces behind the upswing in comic book movies are both cultural and technological.

"It's tough times, and people like to go to a movie or read a story that often says these things are going to get better or that maintains some level of hope for them," Sartain said.

Some of the comics, Sartain said, have existed for 50 or 60 years, but the technology to tell the stories on the big screen only recently became affordable.

Hons thinks part of the appeal of big summer movies is that they're made for families. Children get excited to see superheroes, and parents get excited when they see something relevant to their own lives, he said. Heroes are also fun to watch.

"They're just people everybody can look up to. They write them to where their life is always exciting, and basically, they just make you jealous," Hons said.

Hons and Alvarado are also primed for another big summer release - "Godzilla." The franchise is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, one of the reasons Alvarado is excited for it. Hons is hooked because the trailer looks intense, he said.

Alvarado doesn't remember how old he was when he watched his first Godzilla movie, but he does remember that it was either "King Kong vs. Godzilla" or "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!"

"He's a defender of Earth, but he's also a menace," Alvarado said.

For Alvarado, the common thread between "Spider-Man" and "Godzilla" isn't hard to see.

"We all go to the movies to have fun and escape our mundane lives," Alvarado said.

His interest in sequels and superheroes also boils down to fun, Sartain said.

"They're not the best films ever made - they're not 'Citizen Kane' - but they're a lot of fun," Sartain said.

Hons doesn't see the parade of sequels and remakes ending anytime soon.

"Even when people say they don't want to see them, they still end up seeing them, it seems like," Hons said.

He does have a special request for more movies.

"I wish DC would jump on it," Hons said. "I'm always going to watch the Batman movies, and those will always do well, but I really hope they make a Flash movie and a Green Arrow. I won't say an Aquaman; I won't go that far."

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