After years of trying to get superhero movies and TV shows right, special effects have finally caught up to the imagination of the comic book writers who have offered an escape for children and adults alike for decades.
While the likes of Superman, Batman and the Fantastic Four have gone through multiple iterations over the years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe unlocked the secret to getting superheros on screen.
Just look at Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all-time to cap the 22-film 12-year odyssey that started with Iron Man.
The success of the films has introduced the world to lesser known characters like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
While Marvel has largely owned the big screen, DC Comics, the home of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, has dominated the small screen with Arrow, Flash and Supergirl. But the lesser known heroes are starting to get their shot at the mainstream.
Untethered to the Arrowverse, Doom Patrol has highlighted one of the more obscure cult comic book teams, with the first two seasons available to stream on Binge from September 2.
It features a group of misfits who gain their superpowers in tragic accidents, including a racing car driver turned robot, a woman with 64 distinct personalities each with their own powers, an actress who turns into a gelatinous blob, and a severely disfigured test pilot who can harness negatively charged energy from his body.
But it’s the man who brings these misfits together, The Chief AKA Niles Caulder, that brought acting legend Timothy Dalton to the role.
Best known for playing James Bond in 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill, Dalton has done it all in his career, covering stage, big screen and small screen, even taking on the role of Mr. Pricklepants in Toy Story 3 and 4.
He told news.com.au he felt compelled to do Doom Patrol, despite not knowing the story.
“I just got a call and they said they were sending a script, so I got a script and it’s quite simply like nothing I’ve ever read in my life,” he said. “It was shockingly weird and interesting and bizarre and exciting and funny and sudden outpourings of such genuine emotion and feeling that it was glorious. What I was reading was glorious, the question was were they going to be able to do it? I think they have.”
The superhero genre is at an interesting point in its evolution, with the film industry at a crossroads.
Three of the top 10 films of all time are superhero movies and with the rise of streaming, cinemas are becoming the home for big budget blockbusters.
It lead to film legend Martin Scorcese labelling Marvel films “not cinema” last year and sparking a debate over the genre.
While Dalton doesn’t have a problem with superheroes, he does worry that glossy effects will overpower storytelling.
“Personally, and there have been some I think that have worked very well, but you’re just looking at effects most of the time,” he said. “You are just looking at effects and they are hoping you’ll be wooed by effects, by never having seen anything like this before. If you want to do that and sell it, fine. If it destroys other work and minimises the potential for other work than it is not so fine.
“Isn’t it wonderful to see a film where you are truly involved and where you feel for the characters and you follow their stories and hopes and dreams and care about what happens and you’ve taken part in a wonderful two hour experience when it’s over and you think ‘that was two hours well spent, I’m thrilled that I did this’? But we don’t see as many of those about anymore.
“But we are very good at big blockbuster, wham-bam, circus tent-pole variety, which can be a great experience but what’s their value? I think the bigger they get, the more they drift away from the human base because we get caught up in the razzamataz of brilliant special effects and imaginative visual creativity and we leave the people behind a little bit.”
However, with Doom Patrol’s second season available to stream on Binge from September 2, Dalton said the storytelling on the show had gone to a new level.
“There is still the same wacky madness, there is still that imaginative absurdity,” he said. “I think somewhere along the line, and I think it’s wonderful, that the showrunner said to his writers ‘imagine, imagine beyond imagination and we could put it in this show’.
“But I think now in the second season, we are now delving deeper into the mechanics of people’s lives and how they relate to each other and what is happening to them. We delve deeper into the threats to their existence, the threats of failure. It is in one sense darker but it is much more moving, it’s much more emotional and I think you see the growth of these people beginning to take responsibility and beginning to ‘grow up’.
“You can’t talk about this show like you might talk about another show because it continually contradicts you but it’s really good. I think it’s a better season. It’s deeper and it’s richer and I think you’re going to feel more for everybody and discover more about everybody.”
Doom Patrol Season One is available to stream on Binge now. Season Two drops on September 2.