Our childhood Heroes have come home once again
2023 was a great year for nostalgia media, we got the expected content rollout from our superhero crowd, but we also got some unexpected hits from both the Barbie and Mario Universes. Not only did these films kill it at the box office but some of them also opened up new discourse about the impact of film and the role of its performers.
We can’t talk about films in 2023 without talking about the Barbie movie. What was originally expected to be a lighthearted movie about the most iconic children’s doll ever made ended up delivering a masterclass in subtle feminism. The Barbie film offered audiences a critique of how women are often treated not only in the realm of media but generally the world over.
Fans of the film were happy that a new dialogue was opened because of its release and were hopeful that the film’s success may lead to new insight being gained about the struggles of women. Of course, not everyone felt this way and there were waves of boycotts and general disdain for the film. But at the end of the year, the film prevailed, and we can expect to see many more of these types of films in the future.
This is my dream house, it’s Barbie’s dreamhouse. It’s not Ken’s dreamhouse - Barbie
Another wildly successful film that drew some criticism this year was surprisingly the Mario movie. However, this one had little to do with politics and more to do with the lack of respect that voice actors seem to receive in animated films. The controversy all began when it was decided that Chris Pratt would be cast to voice Mario instead of Charles Martinet.
For those who may be unaware, Charles Martinet has been the voice of Mario for the past 25 years. His name may not be well known but his voice has been a major piece of people’s childhoods for almost three decades. Fans of the franchise were upset to hear that Chris Pratt would be voicing the iconic character but had hope for the best. Unfortunately for some fans, Chris chose not to attempt the iconic voice, choosing instead to just speak as he traditionally does.
The movie was still very well received and ranked number two for highest grossing film of 2023. But this line of decision making did lead to the public having some discussion regarding the role of voice actors and how much respect they receive in their medium. Just because we don’t know what they look like doesn’t mean that they don’t provide us with just as much joy as actors with household names.
Speaking of voice acting, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse also proved itself to be a top contender this year. There is always an expectation that there will be a handful of Marvel or DC films that make it into the top ten list each year. Love them or hate them, you can not deny that the films make serious money.
But the success of the Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse entry shows that we may be making a move away from the blockbuster action comic book films and we may be seeing a return to the traditional animated versions of these films. And this could be for the best. As much as I love Keanu Reeves, his version of Constantine doesn’t hold a candle against Matt Ryan in Constantine: City of Demons.
2023 is finally over and we can only guess at what the next year holds for us. But if the previous year set any kind of example for what is to come, I would say that we should expect to see some more nostalgia farming from film studios, but we may be in for a surprise about just how awesome these films are and what kind of conversations they may lead to.