5 Origin Stories We Never Need To See In Adaptations Anymore
Hollywood isn't obsessed with superheroes -- it's obsessed with superhero origins. Sometimes it makes sense to include a character's origin in an adaptation (only uber-nerds knew what a "Tony Stark" was before 2008), but if the hero in question has already had other movies, TV shows, top-selling video games, and Macy's Thanksgiving Parade floats? Yeah, you can safely skip that crap. Hollywood, we promise that no one will be mad if you stop fixating so much on overplayed moments like ...
Batman: The Waynes Getting Shot
A rich couple decide to save precious seconds by cutting through a place called "Crime Alley" at night, with predictable results. To be fair, it was called "Completely Safe Non-Murder Alley" at that point.
Why It's Overused:
You could probably put together a whole feature-length movie made out of nothing but scenes of Thomas and Martha Wayne getting killed over and over in live action films ...
Live action shows ...
Video games ...
Animated films ...
And animated shows (from as early as 1985).
The resulting movie would probably still make more sense than . And speaking of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, that was the perfect opportunity to do away with the Wayne-killing tradition -- it's technically a Superman sequel, Batman was older and already established, the running time was long enough as it was, and, again, everyone already knows this happened. Even newborn babies know Batman's origin. It's part of our genetic memory by now.
But no, they still went ahead and killed the poor Waynes on screen again anyway, probably just because Zack Snyder was very proud of the "Martha" plot twist and wanted to make sure absolutely everyone got it.
Batman: The Animated Series had the right idea: it simply starts with Batman on a random case, and they only ever showed his parents' death through a freaky symbolic nightmare while he was tripping on the Scarecrow's fear toxin. If 8-year-olds in 1992 could follow the plot with no more information than that, surely today's adult moviegoers could too. And if they can't, you can always take out your phone and look up "Who the heck is this Batman fellow?" in the middle of the movie. Just please dim your screen before doing that in a dark cinema. And if that sounds like a hassle: may we interest you in this nearby alley?
Spider-Man: Uncle Ben's Death
Spider-Man lets a crook escape and the guy repays the favor by murdering Spidey's favorite uncle, teaching him a valuable lesson: never do favors, ever.
Why It's Overused:
Admittedly Spider-Man: Homecoming already skipped Uncle Ben's death, but given his wife's decreasing age in each reboot, it's possible that he simply reverted into a fetus and stopped existing off-camera. But, outside the movies, we've been shown Spidey's origin across various media for even longer than Batman's: Uncle Ben's first cartoon murder is one of the few shots from the 1967 Spider-Man animated show that hasn't been turned into an internet meme yet.
Since then, we've seen the exact "Spidey lets a thief get into an elevator and then the same thief kills Uncle Ben, whoops" moment on the Spider-Man cartoons from the '80s, the '90s (twice if you count the Spider-Man Unlimited intro), the '00s, and the '10s, which we guess must be pretty useful to researchers tracking criminal fashion trends.
But, somehow, not even the versions animated over 40 years ago are as stiff and awkward as the tragic death of this Uncle Ben mannequin in the Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game for PS4 (which for some reason included this scene from the previous movie).
What all these scenes neglected to mention was that Peter Parker was singing on the street like a jackass right before Uncle Ben got murdered, and his reaction immediately afterwards was to launch into a rejected U2 B-side. We learned this essential information in the classic Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical, which expanded the list of people weighing down Peter's conscience by attempting to kill several cast members.
And yeah, the MCU did right by not re-re-killing Uncle Ben (on screen, anyway), but they kinda ended up giving us an even more long-winded justification for Peter's "with great power ..." mantra through his relationship with his rich Uncle Tony. In a way, all Spider-Man movies so far have been "origin" stories -- he always quits Spider-Manning, or takes an easy route via an enhanced suit, and then learns a lesson about responsibility and truly becomes Spider-Man. We've yet to see a Spidey film that feels like one of those random issues you'd pick up as a kid where he gets involved in a crazy adventure and learns no lessons whatsoever other than "I should carry more web fluid" (he won't), which is a shame because that accounts for like 99% of the Spider-Man reading experience.
The Punisher: Frank's Family Getting Killed
Frank Castle's wife and kids get whacked by gangsters, usually during a picnic in park. Shouldn't have taken them to Gotham's Crime Park, Frank.
Why It's Overused:
The 1989 Punisher movie with Dolph Lundgren originally opened with 18 minutes of police detective Frank Castle's regular adventures before his family gets car-bombed and he goes off the deep end (though he doesn't wear the skull logo in this version, because what kind of psycho cop would do that?!). The theatrical release replaced that with a news report about the events and only showed the explosion as a much shorter flashback later on -- it's like they already knew how overplayed this would become.
Punisher: War Zone (2008) also went with the "haunting flashback" route ...
... but Thomas Jane's Punisher (2004) balanced that out by having the longest Castle family massacre yet, in every sense. In this version, the bad guys stop by a family reunion and murder not just Frank's wife and kid but his parents, cousins, nephews, third uncles, some actual castles probably, etc.
Netflix's Punisher skipped the actual family murder scene, but the show was still obsessed with the character's origin. His stint on Daredevil and the first season of his series both revolved around characters digging into what "really" happened that day, and the Castles made so many flashback and dream appearances that they were practically co-stars.
The Castles' unfortunate end has also been rendered in pixelated glory in more than one video game ...
... and even the '90s Spider-Man cartoon decided to show us as much of this scene as Fox Kids' ridiculous censorship rules allowed them to. Which is to say ... a single shot of a kite.
Thing is ... does the Punisher really need an origin? He kills terrible people; that isn't the hardest motivation in the world for the audience to crack. Punisher existed in the comics for a year and a half before they even brought up his family -- before that, the writers simply mentioned that he was a marine just around the Vietnam War era, and readers were like "ah, OK, gotcha." In fact, in 2003 Marvel published a miniseries establishing that Frank's Punisher persona was actually born in 'Nam, long before anything happened to his wife and kids. If future movies and shows are going to explain anything about the character, it should be how he looks so fit if he's at least in his 70s.
The X-Men: Reforming The Team Every Damn Time
There's a potentially cataclysmic mutant-related threat in the horizon? Time to throw together a group of characters at the last minute to take care of it!
Why It's Overused:
The first X-Men movie is largely about Wolverine and Rogue joining the team and quickly going from noobs to saving the lives of hundreds of world leaders from the top of the Statue of Liberty. That's like if you got a job in an Amazon warehouse and they named you Jeff Bezos within two weeks. But, OK, we can buy it this time because, well, it's Wolverine. Dude was already like 200 years old at this point.
In X2, the team gets remixed with Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants to prevent a mutant genocide. Meanwhile, X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out to be a stealth origin for the X-Men themselves too, since Logan frees Teen Cyclops and other young mutants into the care of Uncanny Valley Charles Xavier, who has working legs.
But then, in X-Men: First Class, the above is unceremoniously ignored and we see the team's actual origin: it all started when Charles and Magneto recruited a stripper, a cabbie, and a couple of other random young mutants to prevent nuclear Armageddon. X-Men: Days of Future Past barely has a team in it and hits the timeline reset button at the end, anyway -- leading to X-Men: Apocalypse, where another newly formed team of baby X-Men prevents the end of the world or whatever was going in that movie.
Apocalypse, incidentally, ends with the new team officially standing together for the first time in more comic-accurate costumes, like saying, "OK, here we go! This is the start of the X-Men now, finally! Nine movies into this franchise!" It took exactly one more movie for both the team and the franchise to fall apart.
Almost every one of these films devotes like half of its running time to shaking up or reforming the X-Men before it can even get to the premise we paid to see. Imagine if every time you pick up an X-Men comic, it spent 10 pages introducing characters before they plot got started. Oddly enough, the movie that handled this the best is X-Men: The Last Stand -- Beast, Kitty Pryde, and Colossus are mostly just there, and the story has other issues, but there are no reports of viewers' heads exploding.
Superman: His Entire Origin
Do we really have to?
Why It's Overused:
This one's older than color TV, and it has somehow gotten longer over the years. The original Superman animated film series from the 1940s took a couple of minutes to explain what happened on planet Krypton, and boom (no pun intended), done, we're ready for leaping tall buildings and such. But then, on the first live action Adventures of Superman show the next decade, those two minutes turned into half of the first episode spent on Krypton stuff, the Kents finding and adopting a space baby, and so on.
By the time Superman: The Movie came out in 1978, Hollywood had decided we needed 47 minutes of preamble before Superman even puts on his blue tights. This is the moment when we officially don't need to see Superman's origin on a movie anymore; these events are more famous than anything in the Bible by now. And yet, Man of Steel (2013) actually topped the first movie -- Superman may put on the costume halfway through, but Zack Snyder approached the whole film as an origin story (or at least that was his explanation for why Supes is more destructive than Godzilla and King Kong put together).
In the meantime, we got entire "Superman" TV shows about what happens before the interesting stuff. Smallville went on for ten seasons (a full decade) of S-teasing. Syfy's Krypton was cancelled after only two seasons, but we're guessing the producers only made it about Superman's grandparents because they were hoping to stretch it for a couple of real-time generations.
It's baffling that these last ones happened after the comics proved, through Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman, that you only need four panels and eight words to learn everything you need to know about Superman, in case you also just arrived from another planet and don't know this stuff already:
At least the new show, Superman and Lois, seems to be doing things right and actually moving the story forward instead of telling us what we already know for the 80th time. Here's hoping the next movie follows that example, ideally without any piss jars involved (we can't believe that's a thing we have to request now for all future Superman movies).
Top Image: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment