The past decade (and then some) has given us something many thought would never happen: comic book stories part of the cultural zeitgeist. This “revival” had allowed for the Muggles of comics to take them seriously. Accordingly, there has to be a proper introduction to the characters and worlds they operate in. This is where origin stories come into deliberation, which we have had in plenty, and spawned the condition of what I call origins fatigue.
The title of this post initially didn’t have a question mark (?) attached to it. But after pondering – Abandon Origins – by itself, I realized the authoritarian imperative did not leave room to embrace those times when I didn’t feel origins fatigue. I understand the need to establish a connection to characters that will be the poster-children of comics in Hollywood and a prime source of revenue. Some stories work as classic origin tales like Iron Man and Captain America. Few movies have enchanted me so much to the point where I’m taken aback by the real world after leaving the theatre. But in this new age of stories, do all of them need to have their origins chronicled?
The following films are some of the prime examples of transcending origins fatigue.
Thor: Ragnarok – I consider this as a re-set of Thor’s story arch. This is a perfect introduction to Thor’s character to anyone who hasn’t seen Thor or Thor II. It lands you right in a difficult moment for Thor, sets up the catalyst, and ignites the inciting incident and conflict of the story: the death of Odin, arrival of Hela and the destruction of Mjolnir. Did we need a whole film to earn the hammer like in Thor? In the first Avengers film, Thor had a moment of doubt, where he hesitated to summon the hammer. He was unsure if he could confront Loki after the fracturing the team faced. We also see the potency of the hammer when it holds the Hulk down on the sky ship and in Age of Ultron; the Avengers each take turns trying to lift it. Thor laughs at the puny humans’ attempts, until Steve Rogers budges it the slightest. In that scene we understand that one has to be worthy to wield the power of Thor. In Ragnarok, we see his character grow. He embraces the god within him, not the hammer he wielded.
Wonder Woman – Her “origin” story came AFTER she was first introduced in the DCCU. I have told countless people when we talk comic book movies: she saved Batman v. Superman. And really, her solo movie I wouldn’t even consider a true origin story. Yes, we spend some time on Themyscira, and yes they did explain her origins, but that doesn’t stick out to me whenever I think of the film. What does is her time in the World of Men and what she experiences and learns about herself during the Great War. We don’t wait around wondering when she’s going to learn how to use her gauntlets. We see her be Wonder Woman. We learn about her as the story progresses. We get to watch her discover her godessness in a moment of peril. We don’t need a whole separate movie for her to get there.
Spiderman: Homecoming – Even if you haven’t seen/read a single piece of art with Spiderman in it, this is a profound way of introducing the character. “But Uncle Ben dying!” You’re right that death does inform Peter’s decision to do something. Does it really need to occupy forty minutes of the film? Again, this Spiderman (Tom Holland) appeared first in Captain America: Civil War, and I think they fixed the past years and interpretations of the character. If that can be achieved in such a short time, why can’t Uncle Ben’s death be condensed to a moment of peril or inspiration for Peter? In this film, that moment was replaced by him realizing what Tony told him about being Spiderman without the suit.
Dr. Strange – He’s a magical doctor! He deals with the abstract, the supernatural. Why do we need a movie covering how he acquired his powers? I wanted see Steven deal with a magical ailment that leads him down a path of adventure to solve it. I wanted them to have fun with a branch of the MCU previously untouched: pure magical weirdness. The film we got had plenty of beautiful geometric imagery and physics that messed with how you saw the world, nevertheless. I don’t really care how Steven got his powers. I don’t need it spelled out for me. I, again, want to see Dr. Strange BE DR. STRANGE! You can effortlessly boil down his origins to a single scene:
At the moment of peril, when he is unsure of how to combat the magical ailment, he remembers what it was like at his lowest point – when his arrogance and confidence clouded his awareness and nearly cost him his life. As he looks at his hands, the memory of thinking there would be no future for him hits with the force of that fatal car crash. Then someone (be it a love interest, a dead mentor *cough, cough, or an ally) says “You’re the Sorcerer Supreme! If not you, then who?”
Not only do we eliminate origins fatigue from the story, we get to watch him overcome another seemingly impossible obstacle, one that could inform future films, while educating us on past events. They can earn their powers all over again at the battle in the present, and the time wasted holding the reader’s hand through “in the beginning” can be used elsewhere. You, yourself can enjoy writing your hero being a hero. Because even creators have the potential to suffer from origins fatigue.