Thees past few weeks have been amazing for superhero movies. In that time, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Aquaman both opened to $30+ million dollar box offices – which are both huge numbers and incredibly positive steps for the superhero movie genre. Even bigger still is that Into the Spider-Verse had the biggest opening for an animated movie, beating out Sing.
That’s all well and good, but there’s a bigger picture at play here. Both Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Aquaman have continued to shatter myths that movies with minority leads aren’t money-makers. Regardless of how they’re seen by critics, these movies have proven – with their box office returns – that viewers will show up to see them.
All of that being said (yet still along these lines), I still have one disappointment about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. Namely, it is that, after 20 years of Spider-Man movies with 3 different actors in the lead role, it took an animated feature to bring the story of Miles Morales to the big screen. With so many actors of color wanting to play the role of Miles (citation?), his story was still relegated to animation rather than live action. That’s not to say that the animation factor is a bad thing, though. After seeing the movie, it’s easy to say that the animation is very well-suited for this movie. With the animation for Spider-Ham being more simplistic, what was done for Spider-Man Noir and Peni Parker showed that CGI in a live action movie would not have been convincing (this isn’t Cool World after all).
The best part of this endeavor, is that not only did fans (especially kids) get to see a Spider-Man of color portrayed on screen, but that the filmmakers took time to embrace Miles Morales’ Latino roots as well. I think that many of us forget that he even has those roots. For those who saw the film, remember that there were scenes early on in which Miles conversed with his mom and some of his friends in Spanish, and that there were no subtitles. Viewers either got the content of the conversation or they didn’t. This was arguably one of the best parts of the movie: here you had a character who became a hero, and just happened to be biracial – not the other way around. However, I am still hoping that we will get to see Miles Morales in a live action film, though.
Moving to the DC front, it is clear that Aquaman came up big as well. Domestically, the movie has made $72 million and counting, while it’s made nearly $500 billion worldwide. For those who remember, there was a lot of pushback regarding the casting of Jason Momoa for the role of Aquaman in the Justice League movie. There was even one article which listed actors who would be “better-suited” for the role than Momoa.
Of course, these were all white actors.
While most people envisioned the character of Aquaman as the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, not exactly musclebound Atlantean from their youth, Momoa (who is a native Hawai’ian) held his own in both of his outings as the sea king. Despite individual feelings on the movie overall, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the best DC Universe films to date, and that Jason Momoa is partly the reason for that. While we’re on the topic of actors from the islands, did anyone else catch that Temuera Morrison (who is a New Zealander) played Aquaman’s father? This may not mean much to some, but it still goes to show that Hollywood is slowly starting to shift their casting to be more inclusive of people from all walks of life.
The bottom line is this, since Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the myth of minority leads in blockbuster movies is being shattered. There have been not just one, but two huge superhero movies with minority leads which have shattered box office records. If this is any indication of things to come, it’s definitely time for Hollywood to sit up and take notice of the fact that fans will come to the movies to see their favorite superheroes – especially if those heroes are ones to whom they can relate.