Movie quotes. Every great movie has them and even movies that are not that great, still manage to come up here and there with a little piece of dialogue that will remain engraved in our memories. Quotes are not only part of the dialogue, they can become so much more. For instance, it can define the character's motivation, it could tie up plot points, it can even set up in motion the events of the film.
Quotes are a very important part of any film and they are not easy to come up with. The beauty of them is the actual simplicity of how random they look like at first but then you realize how complex the meaning behind them actually is.
Great quotes transcend from the movie screen to our daily lives and in to popular culture. Finally, movies establish their legacy once we hear a quote from it and automatically transports us to that moment when we first heard it. That's how important movie quotes are.
And comic book movies are gaining ground on that territory.
Gladiator's "Are you not entertained? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?! Is this not why you're here?!" is a slap to the audience's face that makes us realize that we are not better than the arena spectators. We are concerned for Maximus' safety but we still want to see him fight and kill. At that point, we forget that his family was slaughtered and that he is a man with only vengeance in his heart which keeps him alive. With that proclamation, Maximus reminds us who he is and solidifies the legitimacy of the character and the film. There are great quotes throughout Gladiator but that line will always establish the tone for the rest of the film.
That's the point of this article. To reassert the power of great dialogue and how quotes have made comic book movies part of serious film-making.
Take, for instance, the gif above placed within the title of the article. We know where that scene is from. We know the character. We even know what is being said: "I believe whatever doesn't kill you, simply makes you... stranger".
That's a great quote right there and it comes from a movie that has great quotes throughout but one that says everything or perhaps nothing about The Joker. Christopher Nolan said that he didn't want to give an origin to The Joker and introduce him as an absolute. That quote gives weight to that statement because maybe The Joker had a traumatic experience and came out of it better or worse. But one thing is for sure, now everyone in the audience is asking himself or herself about the motivation of this character. They hooked us from the first 10 minutes of the film. The Dark Knight is a fantastic film and is thanks to its dialogue that managed to raise the bar for other films of the genre.
This article was inspired by the recent Captain America: Civil War trailer. And that's where I want to start. Yes, we know close to nothing about this film and there were mixed reactions to the trailer but the power of a good quote can not be denied.
I want to share and, if you like, discuss this topic around the evolution of good dialogue in comic book films (so far). There are really good dialogues out there in our favorite comic book movies but I'm choosing a few that I think had have a great impact and if you have a different or favorite one, let us hear it in the comments. Please, enjoy!
10. "So was I" - Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Marvel's Civil War is a landmark in the comic book world. It had ramifications throughout the whole comic book universe and it was a year long event that included most if not all characters that existed at that point in Marvel. Obviously, the Marvel Cinematic Universe cannot go that route since we have only a handful of characters and the concept of civil war will be a small version of it but still huge in terms of the cinematic universe.
When 'Civil War' first came out, I was #TeamCaptainAmerica from start to finish. I honestly ended up hating Iron Man and still do when it comes down to the comic book world. And when the MCU announced that they were bringing the idea of 'Civil War', I was very excited and sided automatically with Captain America. And then the trailer dropped on us.
Remember, 'Civil War' is a sequel to Captain America: The Winter Soldier not The Avengers: Age of Ultron. So, we are going to be looking at these events mainly through Steve Rogers' point of view. And you know what they say, before you can judge, try to get both sides of the story.
Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) is the first noticeable change and possible catalyst in 'Civil War'. The 'Sokovia Accords' are going to replace 'The Superhuman Registration Act' but the idea is still there of actions have consequences. But having Bucky in the middle of this, it makes you think. Are Captain America's priorities in order?
And then this outstanding exchange between Captain America & Iron Man happens:
Steve: Sorry Tony. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice. But he’s my friend.
Tony: So was I.
God! What a line. Now it becomes even more difficult to decide who to side with. Noticed how Tony says "was" not "am"?. Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man has been a great turn for the character but this quote shows a vulnerable side that we haven't seen before. These little details are what make a good quote, a great one. This is the kind of conflict that I want a movie to have and to make their audience have the same reaction to it as its characters. In 2006, I pledge my undying loyalty to Captain America throughout Civil War. Ten years later, I am not so sure anymore.
09. "The Red Capes are coming!" - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Again, here's a movie we don't know a lot of but the last lines from Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) deliver a powerful message. The red capes line is not a reference to Superman or the soldiers with the "S" on their shoulders, it is a message from Lex. Remember, Lex Luthor is one of the most intelligent and dangerous people in the planet but his ego is bigger than that. The red capes is a nice reference to Paul Revere's famous Midnight Ride "the red coats are coming" quote.
Here, Lex plays the part of our modern Paul Revere. He is the one warning us about praising false gods. It is a big and resounding "I TOLD YOU SO" directed to humankind. But he is here to deliver us from our own mistakes. He is our real savior.
That's why I love this line. Because that's Lex Luthor. Arrogant, intelligent but most of all (and scary to think about), he might be right. This is the strength of good dialogue, letting us know about a character with just a single line.
08. "You should. He believes in you" - Constantine (2005)
A pretty underrated movie. Constantine was a very honest and nice attempt to make a serious comic book movie. The material was there and great actors all-around but something was missing. Also, it didn't help that Batman Begins came out the same year burying the film a little bit further in to the background.
But there's a piece of dialogue between John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) and Angela Dobson (Rachel Weisz) that sums up the whole movie:
Angela Dobson: I don't believe in the devil.
John Constantine: You should. He believes in you.
This quote sends chills down the spine. We, as human beings, by nature are afraid of the unknown. Whatever we can not explain or understand, intrigues us but try to stay at a distance. By telling us that whatever it is that scares us, is aware of us, it forces us to make a decision that we don't necessarily want to make. Either we confront that fear or let it consume us.
Please, check the video attached above.
7. "Never Again" - X-Men: First Class (2011)
X-Men: First Class did a great job introducing the dynamic between Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto. Throughout the movie, we see two men fighting for the same cause but approaching it from different perspectives. Professor X wanting to coexist with humans and Magneto letting nature follow its course and allow mutants to take its place as the next step in evolution. We witness their relationship walking on a very thin line and finally we see the resolution during the following exchange:
Professor Charles Xavier: Erik, you said yourself we're the better men. This is the time to prove it. There are thousands of men on those ships. Good, honest, innocent men! They're just following orders.
Magneto: I've been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.
What would you do? Magneto is one of the greatest comic book characters of all time for the simple reason that his origin has a very real and human background. He was a Jewish boy during the Nazi rise to power. Magneto can be easily described as a villain but when you are trying your best to give people a chance and see that history is repeating all over again, what would you do if you have the power to do something about it?
"Never again" is a powerful statement and one that solidifies the philosophy of one of the greatest comic book characters of all time.
6. "We have a Hulk" - The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers (2012) was a great accomplishment for the comic book film genre. The idea of creating one-shots and create a shared universe was bold and ambitious and now, everyone wants to imitate it. It could have easily gone horribly wrong and destroy millions of expectations but fortunately, the people behind these beloved properties, took them seriously and respected the source material.
We had a great time watching Iron Man taking flight for the first time and see Captain America fight Red Skull years later but in The Avengers we were witnesses of something that seem truly impossible. And I am not talking about that money shot where we see all of the Avengers together for the first time. I'm talking about the scene above when Tony and Loki have the following exchange:
Loki: The Chitauri are coming. Nothing will change that. What have I to fear?
Tony Stark: The Avengers. That's what we call ourselves; we're sort of like a team. "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" type thing.
Loki: Yes, I've met them.
Tony Stark: Yeah, takes us a while to get any traction, I'll give you that one. But let's do a head count here: your brother the demi-god; a super soldier, a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend; a man with breath-taking anger management issues; a couple of master assassins, and YOU, big fella, you've managed to piss off every single one of them.
Loki: That was the plan.
Tony Stark: Not a great plan. When they come, and they WILL, they'll come for you.
Loki: I have an army.
Tony Stark: We have a Hulk.
Loki: I thought the beast had wandered off...
Tony Stark: You're missing the point! There's no throne, there is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it's too much for us but it's all on you. Because if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damned well sure we'll avenge it!
This dialogue is great because it gives validation to the whole idea of what we are watching in front of us. They said that the hero will always be only great if the villain matches his or her resolve but in this case, Loki was the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point. The Avengers became an official team during this battle. "We have a Hulk" sounds witty but it's a clear message that whatever you throw at us, we will match it.
5. "With great power, comes great responsibility" - Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man is arguably the most tragic and relatable comic book character. He is a person with real problems. He is not rich, he is a student, he has a job and in between saves people that will never know his real name. And that's the beauty of this character.
The comic book film genre already existed but with Spider-Man, it showed that it could be a very important part of cinema. It was a movie for comic book fans but at the same time for the general public. "With great power, comes great responsibility" was a very important statement not only describing the dilemma that most comic book characters have to face but also for the comic book genre as a whole. The power the studios had in their hands to deliver great stories based on our most beloved characters. Spider-Man may be a Marvel property but this line applies to DC and other comic book properties.
After watching Spider-Man delivering these lines throughout the movie, you knew that the future for this genre, looked really bright. Because it was clear that someone decided to try to understand the character first before sending him swinging from the rooftops. In a way, Spider-Man was the template for the explosion of the comic book genre that we know nowadays in terms of dialogue.
4. "I never said thank you" - Batman Begins (2005)
Look at Jim Gordon's face in the last panel. That's what a hero should convey. Batman's statement gives him peace of mind and a sense that everything will be alright. There is great dialogue throughout the movie but the last lines is a nice wrap up to the story. I put a little higher this one than the one with Spider-Man just for the fact that a hero must be selfless and whereas "with great power, comes great responsibility" is the dilemma that every comic book character comes across with, Batman's reassurance in this dialogue is understanding the sacrifice and one that takes comic book films to a different direction.
We believe in what is being said and it puts this quote high above with timeless ones like Clark Gable's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" (Gone with the Wind - 1939) or Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s "Show me the money!" (Jerry Maguire - 1996).
The quote describes the character, reinforces his mission and most of all, it stays with us even after the closing credits.
3. "We are Groot" - Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
If you would have told me that I would cry watching a talking raccoon and a sentient tree, I might have slap you in the face. But this scene in "Guardians of the Galaxy" supports the point I want to make about the power of dialogue in comic book films.
Granted, the scene is beautiful and strengthens the moment but the delivery of the line "We are Groot" shatters all expectations you have of the movie. A movie full of silliness, fun and non-stop action and still be able to deliver one of the most emotional moments in comic book film history.
The Avengers is the team that we all wanted to see on the screen but Guardians became the group that we wanted to be part of. They are not heroes, they want to save the galaxy because they are the idiots that live in it, just like you and me.
Rocket Raccoon: No, Groot! You'll die! Why are you doing this? Why?
[Groot uses a thin branch to wipe away Rocket's tears]
Groot: *We* are Groot.
Guardians of the Galaxy showed us that movies can be serious and fun at the same time and most important, full of emotion.
2. "Never compromise" - Watchmen (2009)
Watchmen is not a perfect movie but that's why it was considered unfilmable at the time. The movie was originally planned to shoot in 1986.
Watchmen (the book) is an accomplishment for the comic book world to the degree that it was considered part of Time 's 2005 "All-Time 100 Greatest Novels". So, there was no doubt that making it into a film was going to be a really tall order.
The dialogue throughout Watchmen is provocative and relentless and the actors / actresses did their best to convey the characters' lines. The movie was shot almost frame by frame from the novel and the dialogue mostly word for word. But Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach stole the movie. He delivers every line with passion and literally brings the character to real life and he is the focal point of arguably the best scene in the movie:
This is what a comic book movie is capable of when good dialogue is shown on screen. Thought-provoking, memorable and timeless.
1. "You're just a freak, like me" - The Dark Knight (2008)
And here it is. The movie that could easily be the standard with which the comic book films nowadays area measured with. The Dark Knight is highly quotable making it instantly memorable. Harvey Dent's "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain" or the countless Joker quotes are an accomplishment for great dialogue.
We all wanted to see Batman interrogating criminals just like in the comics and when we finally got to see it, turned out to be The Joker no less.
This scene has everything that a comic book film should have. Characters on full display, comic book setting (the interrogation room) but most importantly, the best dialogue I've heard in a comic book film. Seeing Batman meeting his nemesis face to face was glorious.
The back-and-forth between Batman and The Joker is like reading it straight from a comic book page but with the foundation of a good screenplay. This is the perfect marriage between comic book and film. And it showed the world that it can be done. This scene shows how powerful good dialogue really is.
From that point, Hollywood finally realized the potential of comic book films. Yes, people complain that nowadays we are drowning in so many comic book movies that eventually people will get sick of it. Well, I beg to differ. Comic books are an infinite source of material. And if the studios decide to come up with movies every year until the day I die but they have the quality of the movies I just listed, well, count me in.
Well, there you have it. Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed the read.