I know that this is destined to be an unpopular opinion. After all, modern superhero films are treated like the best blockbusters ever, while old superhero films are treated like outdated jokes from the past. However, I believe that superhero films have gone down in quality. I do want to make it clear that not all modern superhero films are lacking in quality. There's been plenty of good ones, even some great ones. However, for the most part, I believe superhero films aren't what they used to be.
The three main things that I believe a superhero film should have are:
3. The creativity of the costumes is what make superheroes stand out. Nowadays, I love Batman for several different reasons, but the thing that got me so interested in characters like him and the Joker were their designs. Nowadays, superhero costumes are made less colorful and more realistic which makes the costumes less unique and appealing.
2. Lots of entertainment. Superheroes may be taken seriously, but it's important to remember that they are people in eccentric outfits who battle villains with goofy gimmicks. Something that 1966 Batman movie, the Tim Burton films and the Joel Schumacher films have in common is that they're incredibly colorful, entertaining and a blast to re-watch. The same can't really be said for Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy which is more focused on being sophisticated, serious and realistic than entertaining or fun.
1. The most important thing that a superhero film should have is a lead superhero who is inspiring, lovable and fills people with hope. Adam West's Batman and Christopher Reeve's Superman are great examples of what a lead character in a superhero film should be like. However, it's become a popular trend to make traditional superheroes act like anti-heroes. Anti-heroes can be great characters. One of my favorite characters of all time, Lelouch from Code Geass, is an anti-hero. However, Lelouch was created to be an anti-hero. In the case of superhero films, they often take characters that were created to be great role-models and make them darker. The movie version of Iron Man is incredibly popular, but frankly, I really don't care for the modern Iron Man. He's a spoiled, immature guy who makes several questionable decisions that have put people in danger.
Another major problem with modern superhero films is having superheroes murder their enemies. In the first batch of Batman comics, Batman did carry around a gun. However, Bill Finger quickly abandoned this concept, and for the reminder of his time working on comics, Batman refused to kill anybody. One of the most important things about Batman's character is that he does not kill under any circumstances. As much as I love the Tim Burton films, they messed up that element of Batman's character. As for more recent Batman movies, Batman Begins makes a big deal about how Bruce Wayne doesn't want to kill, yet he sets a room on fire which leads to members of the League of Shadows dying. Yes, they were bad guys, but Bruce is still responsible for their deaths and he never seemed regretful about doing that. The climax of the film has Batman saying, "I can't kill you, but I don't have to save you.", to Ra's al Ghul. I'm sorry, but that line doesn't work. Sure, Batman didn't shoot Ra's al Ghul or anything, but he was still responsible for Ra's al Ghul's death.
Modern superhero films might have better action sequences and more sophisticated styles of storytelling. However, the heart and enjoyment of classic superhero films is greatly missed. 2006's Superman Returns was a nostalgic and heartfelt return to classic Superman, and I truly hope that the other superheroes get films that celebrate the old-school heart of the classic heroes and the wonderful writers and artists who created the heroes.