By Patrick Appel
In a very basic level, modern hero stories explore a simple question: What would happen if human beings could do X? X, in this context, can mean anything from fly to shapeshift to lift trains to build mutation enhancers. In a way, it's simply an extension of the basic question of movies: What would happen if human beings were smarter and prettier and had better dialogue than they actually do? Well, one of the things that happens is that more people want to watch them go about their days. And that's turning out to be even truer when it comes to people who are smarter and prettier and have better dialogue and can fly. What we're finding from the superhero movies is that the action sequences are actually the least interesting. The fights in Batman were significantly less riveting than simply watching a sociopath like the Joker conduct his business. The climactic battle in Iron Man wasn't half as gripping as watching Tony Stark fly for the first time. The hospital scene in Hancock was basically an afterthought, and nowhere near as interesting as the scenes where Hancock awoke, drunk and lonesome, on a park bench. The epic clashes, in other words, have been far worse than the mundane scenes that preceded them.