This journey of breaking into the industry has highlighted some skills that are needed to increase my employability in the sector. One of those is Creative Media and it just so happens that the school I have worked in for the last 7 years (time really does fly) has recently started the Level 3 course. Opportunity grabbed, it may have been a little too ambitious hoping to complete the course – and another Level 3 course in Applied IT – within 6 months, alongside work/family/life. Still, this is the first assignment just to show some work outside of work with a step towards some formal qualifications too. This is not about games, but it’s progress towards a life of them!
Unit 10: Film Production (Fiction)
There’s an extensive list of variety in the world of the moving picture. From advertising to feature length, whatever you watch has some sort of purpose whether it is selling a product or making the next big box office hit.
The most obvious is the latter-mentioned format of feature length productions screened on the big screen and often with a multi-million pound budget, A-list celebrity actors and a large part of that money going on post-production computer generated imagery (CGI). Although the length of these can vary a little in terms of screen time, many plan to tell the whole story within a few hours for a single sitting at the cinema – sort of exceptions could include Lord of the Rings or Star Wars yet even then, there is some sort of crises solved before the end of the saga episode.
Within the feature length format includes dramas and political filmmaking but other formats and purposes cover short films or television dramas and series. Television series allow ongoing and intertwining stories between different plot points of characters over a number of episodes or even series. Dramatic tension may be created through familiar “real life” scenarios of which the viewer can connect or sympathise with, even if in an environment never experienced by the viewer, with added unlikely situations to provide entertainment or comedy. This line between series and blockbuster has certainly been blurred gradually over the years of higher-budgets though. Series such as The Good Wife (2009-2016) and the Marvel Netflix Series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage) have included top actors and special effects.
Finally, short films are exactly that; an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Purposes range from cinematic art or experimentation to the more outrageous artistic directors or the ease and lack of budget needed for a shorter film. Promotion of a new director, actor or contributor can also be reasons though this isn’t exclusive; Pixar have made it a sort of tradition since their original Luxo Jr. (1986) to have a separate animated short shown before their feature lengths.
Film Genres are classified for their general codes and conventions so that the audiences that prefer those genre types have a reasonable expectation of the movie. The big screen directors such as Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese may attract fans of their movies no matter the genre, though their style and influence over the entire production is usually recognisable through their own general codes and conventions. Sub-genres of movies have made classification more difficult or those with multiple genres but they include:
|Crime and Gangster||Drama||Epics/Historical|
|Horror||Musicals or Dance||Science Fiction|
In terms of genres I will be looking at the comparative differences between Action and Romance (sub-genre) including general conventions, plot and audiences.
Filmmakers include a variety of distinct conventions, signs and codes. Together, these allow the process of semiotic analysis – the study of each of these and the effects they have on the film but also ways in which a film is allowed to be made and accepted by the audience. Individually or collectively they have meaning and can include a single item, the colour of that item or what a character is wearing to help us better understand what is being communicated on screen.
Conventions are specifically this; the established way of doing, understanding or presenting something on screen. Applying conventions to characters generally lead to stereotyping – an Indian with a strong accent, even though they’re not in the country, or a terrorist being a Muslim/German/Russian. Regardless of how unfair these stereotypes are, all of which could lead to accusations of racism in discussion, it is generally accepted and abundantly found in film.
Signs include singular items or basic levels or communicating meaning. A person crying interprets sadness or someone lying on the floor signals injury or death. Collective signs create codes and together better pain the picture. Crying could mean joy at the birth of a child or celebration at an event; someone lying on a bed would portray sleep, even if it was just a pillow on a floor – though a little strange. There are four types of signs and codes in film:
Indexical – the most basic of signs, commonly cause-and effect; smoke for fire, thunder for a storm.
Symbolic – simply accepted in society or to represent something; blue for cold, a white dove for peace, a skull for death.
Iconic – most signs are iconic but the major difference is that they are learnt from one another, they are not automatically associated with something because of what they are. A red traffic light means stop, not because it is a light on a road or because of the colour red but because what we have learned and accepted it to mean.
Enigma – by posing questions enigma codes help move the narrative and the story of the film onward. Commonly focused on within trailers there may be a character or a brief shot that promotes questions to the viewer: Who is that? Why are they fighting? What happened to that person?
The plot is what happens in a movie. It may sound simple but it is certainly not the narrative. Plot is what is actually happening to the characters, what events are going on and the end results of what the story is telling. But not all of this is shown through media and in fact, the better stories are those that hide much of the plot from the story. As a current example, the BBC One drama Sherlock has a mysterious plot with twists and turns throughout the episodes, much of which is avoided through the narrative at least until the writer feels it ready to share with the audience.
Lights, Camera, ACTION MOVIES
Possibly the most abundant and largest of recent box office hits right now is the “Superhero” movie archetype. They’ve certainly been around for a long time; the Original “Batman” movie released in 1989 and even that was a whole 50 years after the caped crusader was first revealed to the general public in 1939 via comic form. Since then both Animated and Live Action versions of comic book turned movie stars range from the more mainstream “*enter-prefix-here*-man” movies to the lesser-known such as Blade or Kick-Ass. But, especially in the last 15 years, there has been an explosion of superhero movies from those two franchises of comic book history; DC Comics and Marvel.
Audience expectations of an action movie rarely diverge from the plot points of many blockbuster movies. Even in the sequels or forming of super-groups of The Avengers or Justice League, the following steps are just taken as a team effort rather than an individual. Nonetheless, the audience expects a hero, a villain, occasionally a damsel-in-distress and a lot of fighting, explosions or fighting around explosions. The hero wins, the villain loses and the city/world/galaxy is saved from an apocalyptic event where miniscule odds of good winning over evil somehow always (almost) wins.
The Setup: The introduction of characters, setting and world. While this first part usually lasts around 10 minutes of a movie, particularly in origin movies (learning where the hero gets their powers i.e. Captain America: The First Avenger) this can be substantially longer. In Captain America, there were cuts to the main antagonist (Red Skull) and his plans around gaining the tesseract yet even after Steve Rogers’ transformation into the worlds’ first super soldier, we don’t get to see what he really capable of until much later. Even in the first of the MCU Stage 1 movies, Iron Man, the opening scene is of when Tony Stark is in the desert for a weapons test showcase shortly before being attacked and gaining his trademark blue power ring on his chest.
The Opportunity: The new situation where the hero hits their first hurdle, usually marking the gaining of powers or the start of the journey (Spider-Man gets bitten by the spider, StarLord is arrested). In Thor, this trend is slightly mixed up as the movie starts with Thor and his god-like powers before losing them all when being exiled to Earth. The anti-hero is usually revealed here though not interacting directly with the protagonist.
The Point of No Return: After a number of action scenes, the good guy has some accomplishments now and causing some problems to the villains’ plans. In some movies this can be subverted to the real villain who can be hidden behind the current problem for the hero. In Dawn of Justice, Superman’s antagonist for much of the movie is in fact Batman, even during their alter-ego scenes together.
The Major Set-Back: The lowest part of the hero’s journey – Iron Man 3 when Stark is captured, or during Man of Steel where Superman beats the World Engine but is left down and hurt. Thousand have died in Metropolis and many other main characters were near death too. Civil War spins a slight alteration to the norm here as it pits heroes against heroes; in this movie when Tony finds out Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier, had murdered his parents.
The Climax: The final fight of the movie, where evil is on the brink of winning but our hero musters all he can to save the day, save herself* and save the world. With certain doom somehow averted, the hero/heroes have won and all is right in the world again. But the hero doesn’t always survive, instead sometimes sacrificing themselves for the greater good. In Dawn of Justice, Superman sacrifices himself to save the planet against Doomsday and if we go deeper in multi-genres of action-sci-fi then Alien 3, Terminator 2 & The Matrix all have their main protagonist die at the end.
Ripley, Neo and “The Terminator” – and lots of molten metal.
The Aftermath: Whether it be a flattened part of a city or a battered hero, the conclusion on this episode of the adventure is over. Superhero movies almost always subvert from this typical plot point with other action movies though. Even if all seems right there seems to be a sort of tradition that the end of the movie isn’t actually the end of the story, either a lead into another standalone production (almost every Marvel movie) or into the next chapter (the dirt rising from Superman’s coffin).
Action movies, especially the hero variety, usually relate a realistic environment with a less-than-realistic story of plot and characters. This setting has a primary location base set in the real world. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has revolved mostly around New York City from the larger blockbuster feature lengths (Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers) and their Action-Drama Series’ (Daredevil, Jessica Jones). The DC Universe have their own cities including Gotham, Metropolis and Central City but are all based on the cosmopolitan skyline of the Big Apple.
This setting immediately creates a large canvas that the plot revolves around either destroying or trying to save, with millions of people in a built up environment and some sort of apocalyptic battle that in some cases levels much of the city setting. The day-to-day busyness adds to the fast pace during the action scenes – traffic, people in subways – while also linking back to the realistic as much as possible during the quieter scenes of the hero’s journey; such as Peter Parker catching the school bus. It allows many different feels of scene and important plot points too whether it be at a casino, power plant, on the roof of skyscrapers to the underground subways. The below images show has vast a shot of the city can portray the destruction and size of the battle amid a skyline shot, what it looks at street view and the heroes at a personal level (bottom).
In the above images, giant spaceships and explosions may be enough to tell the audience there’s plenty of devastation going on. In other scenes, everything else within frame can help tell the story, in the media referred to as Mis en Scene. In Doctor Strange, the protagonist (Stephen Strange) journeys through the general blockbuster movie cycle where he has an accident near the start of the movie turning his lavish and wealthy lifestyle into one without any money at all. Although the amount of screen time shown in his apartment is small, this transition goes from an expensive piano and multiple flash watches before the accident, to an almost empty shell of a home after selling all of his belongings. His financial situation is explained in dialogue but isn’t needed to get a general idea of what’s going on. Mis en Scene includes everything that you see on screen, from the props, clothing, lighting, sets and the actors themselves. Together, they fill “between the lines” but also make up the majority of the entire movie and can, through imagery, show emotion.
Tights, Hammers and “Science”
Ah, the super suit that helps you distinguish that hero in the limelight. Even more so when you have those face-offs within Avengers, Civil War or Dawn of Justice. Bold, bright and very out-of-the-ordinary the suits sets them apart from the usual clothing of a business suit, tracksuit or jeans and tee shirt. For some, they offer practicality or armour but for most, it just looks cool and offer true representation of their 2D illustrative selves.
Deadpool – Red suit, “You may be wondering, why the red suit? Well, that’s so bad guys can’t see me bleed.”
Along with clothing comes their tools or weapons of choice that are related to those heroes; Thor’s hammer, Captain America’s shield, Batman’s bat-a-rang’s. Those that don’t have weapons can be identified by their abilities even if they’re not on screen; e.g webbing for Spiderman. Shooting webs, laser-beam eyes, super strength, flight, mind control; they all push the boundaries of the impossible somehow into the realms of the possible.
By relating the story to Earth in some way, that link to humanity promotes acceptance to the audience, even though it’s kind of difficult to explain. Sure, there are settings or storylines going on in the background which expand the relevance of the main plot but the layers of fiction do seem a little farfetched even when taken out of context. Captain America’s shield for example is made of “a Vibranium-alloy”, a completely fictional metal of super-strength. Yet included as part of the Avengers: Age of Ultron, a major plot point is during the Vibranium mine in the Middle-East. Fans are expecting this to be expanded upon in the upcoming Black Panther movie lending evidence to the opinion that a continual theme through the many movies in the universe allow those boundaries to be pushed further. Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange were two pioneering movies of the franchise, the former going into sci-fi territory and the latter into the mystical.
Additionally, the portrayal of the characters are seen as heroes within the movie. As such, we as the audience, don’t have to create that sense of heroicness for those characters. Captain America, as the original superhero in MCU, has his pictures on collectible cards, iron man masks, and kids outfits with “interviews” with “real people” giving their own accounts of witnessing these people in action.
All the above use science, in the loosest or most imaginative form of the word. Rogers becoming a super hero is the creation of this so-called science, as is his shield. Stark creates the Iron Man suit and dozens of variants based on his intellectual superiority with “science”. Spiderman’s webbing, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four – all results of science experiments. Even the X-men revolve around the idea that human genetics of evolution is taking leaps in mutations, creating “mutants” with super powers. There’s a grey area too and probably due to the abundance of the genre. An example here is The Punisher who has only had a brief adaptation in the recent Netflix series, his standalone currently in production. Technically, he has no “powers”, but instead is a highly trained ex-militia proficient with weapons, hand-to-hand combat and usual vigilante goings on when taking the law into his own hands, but that may be the appeal of anti-heroes.
Applying conventions to the genre, a hero killing another person is deemed as completely normal and acceptable as if it was a rational thing in the world – “That’s… that’s actually… murder. One of the worst crimes of all, so… also illegal.” – Rhomann Dey, Guardians of the Galaxy. In Deadpool, the taxi driver is an Indian with a strong accent though based in New York. Obviously it’s possible for this to happen but the stereotyping within the movie exacerbates problems out of cinema. Possibly pushing for a subversion here Dopinder does end up kidnapping his cousin via the boot of his car.
Dopinder shows that stereotyping is still strong, even in recent movies
It’s not just what you can or can’t see though in certain genres or stealthier section of action movies, it can make a good trick in concealing someone or something on screen. Direction, strength, shape and distance can highlight certain characters or set areas and change the feel of the entire picture effecting hue and depth. Within action, this can be quite varied on the general feel of the movie. Guardians of the Galaxy was possibly more comedic in comparison to the other MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies, so much of the lighting was a mix of harsh and soft depending on location, top lighting in the opening scenes and high and low key combinations when moving from one scenic environment to another. Contrast however is mainly high throughout – the below image fades to almost black on the edges of the shot while bright centre top lights with yellow clothes harshly contrast the dark corridor they’re looking down.
Man of Steel on the other hand was very dissimilar, both in what action and superhero movies are often expected to feel like, and how it compared to previous incarnations. Rather than Superman being brightly coloured in red and blue, the whole feel of the film felt dark and was heavily desaturated in colour. Similarly to The Dark Knight trilogy, its’ dark aesthetic and grim tone was emphasized with a washed-out and dulled pallet, whereas in Superman Returns colour and hue were far higher and even over saturated in some scenes.
Personally, I enjoyed Man of Steel and felt that the overall production and alteration to contrast range personified Superman to a greater level. The paleness didn’t make the red and blue stand out quite so much and his humanity wasn’t overshadowed by being an actual alien; in scene and even while wearing a skin-tight outfit he wasn’t completely out of place compared to previous adaptations.
Man of Steel vs Superman Returns
Dialogue. Well, there’s a few real explosions too. But in an Action movie, especially when focusing on the box office hit of DC/MCU that’s about it for diegetic sound. Due to the use of CGI so heavily and the size of sets that are meant to represent much larger battlegrounds too there are a number of layers of non-diegetic sound.
Firstly, we still have theme tunes. They might not be quite as clichéd as the original Batman or Spiderman (does whatever a spid…), but from the start of the movies opening credits there will be a score of music played and usually again during the more high-octane action scenes, or when the hero kicks some ass. There are often variants of the score, played more solemnly or in a different key during storytelling around the villain’s plans or low points in the movie.
Then there is the setting/scene to make the audience better believe, however unrealistic, the characters are there. In The Avengers, the helicarrier is a prime example as the ship is fully computerised outside of the few studio sets. From the hum of the rotors, the bleeping of multiple electronics and added communication between other personnel (extras), this would all be added after the main characters’ diegetic dialogue between each other was recorded.
Lastly, with action movies there tends to be shooting and fighting of some or many varieties. If Black Widow was to actually break a poor actors neck there would be far fewer stuntmen in the world. From punches to clashes of weapons there may be some original sound kept if an item interacts with another but even that would have gone through editing to some degree. Iron Man’s instantly identifiable “Repulsor”, or hand cannon to the lesser nerd, has its trademark sound which has stayed with the character for a current total of 7 movies and counting.
Romance isn’t dead
Another genre with a whole load of sub-genres is that of the romantic love story. In a way, that makes it a little more difficult to focus due to the classical romance movies, some of the original movies during the dawn of film in fact, are few and far between in recent years. The “rom-com” of romance-meets-comedy may be more abundant especially to the youth of today, yet they are still ever present to pull at the heart strings. As such, romance focuses on the passion and emotion of the audience, sometimes building on the reality of romantic relationships in the real world incorporating tensions of day-to-day life albeit maybe a little more extreme in some. Finances, family, illness and infidelity are often included in the plot and the story focusing on two protagonists going on their individual journeys becoming one.
Many romantic films don’t have that fairy-tale ending but instead use the focus of the relationship as a buffer between the plot points, some depressing or saddening to the audience. Some people just love a good tear-jerker, both the happy ones and sad ones, so what makes one?
The Setup: The introduction of the characters, the setting and identifying what their problems or conflict are. In romance, there is commonly an underlying issues that acts as a barrier between the two protagonists and it is here that we find out what their problems to finding love actually is. In Notting Hill, Will Thacker and Anna Scott have their own brief introductions of their own life and who they are. You’ve Got Mail (YGM) follows Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly who are competitive business people of contrasted-sized companies. In both, the protagonists are very different types of people and it gets those wondering and wandering thoughts going into how they will be brought together. Also including Sense and Sensibility here as both a contrast to the period drama romance and subversions to the genre. The Jane Austin film adaptation revolves around the Dashwood sisters, primarily Marianne, and the love interest doesn’t appear until the later on.
The Opportunity: Or in romance, it’s instead a conflict or “call to adventure” rather than opportunity. The death of Mr Dashwood at the start of the movie and the developing plot lead the sisters to moving to a new house. In Notting Hill, the two protagonists meet in Will’s bookshop before a little spilt orange juice leads to a spontaneous kiss – completely the norm right? YGM is specifically uniquely different here as, although the two haven’t met in person, they have already been contacting each other through email – one of the pinnacles of technology during 1998. Because of this, they don’t meet in person until a little later in the movie.
The Point of No Return: In the cases where the two lovers are strangers, this sets the relationship off at varying starting points, some around the ideal of love at first sight while others polar opposites. A little more dramatic for Sense and Sensibility, but then it is a dramatic romance. John Willoughby enters the scene when Marianne sprains her ankle and immediately falls in love with him while her younger sister, Elinor, has her own flings. For Will in Notting Hill, his journey (could possibly be referred to as stalking) includes a number of little set-backs at trying to get more time with Anna. And Joe Fox in YGM falls for Kathleen while at the same time realising he is the big businessman about to ruin hers.
The Major Set-Back: The stories of those concerned have mostly been told and the audience is now waiting for them to get together. But there’s not been enough tension yet so there has to be something to make it all seem like love is lost forever. Will and Anna spend a night together but the journalists who take pictures the morning after have her explode in anger and stating “newspapers last forever, I’ll regret this forever”. Joe and Kathleen agree to meet for coffee but Joe realises who she really is and decides to pretend he was there by himself, yet not giving an excuse for his online identity – confusing? Yes.
Marianne gets a letter from her love interest which sets in stone the point that there will be no relationship between the two. There is no hope left here and this is somewhat different to newer romances – you still have hope and expect to all work out in the end but it’s clear that won’t happen, at least not in the predictable way.
The Climax: While all hope is lost, the biggest journey of the two protagonists begins as they strive to gain each other’s heart for their own, hopefully ending in some sort of embrace.
Joe finally reveals who he truly is to Kathleen and, after a few tears, kiss. Somehow it doesn’t matter that he has personally played a big part in closing her business but hey, that’s love. Between Will and Anna they have a number of meets and final heartfelt requests to each other, both wanting each other but having to explain previous mistakes over a sequence of scenes. Pretending to be a reporter, Anna finally forgives him – yet again, I’m not too sure who should actually be forgiving who.
For the sisters, as the possible relationship status between Marianne and Willoughby is never to be, the following progression is a little despairing when she nearly dies from an illness. Willoughby visits only to explain himself, his actual love for Marianne but being married to another isn’t going to allow that to develop further. Here, the story shifts onto Elinor and her love interest Edward, even though they were kind of the side story for the majority of the film.
The Aftermath: This part varies considerably depending on how much story needs explaining afterward. The main objective of most romance movies is winning the guy/girl over so once that’s completed in the climax, there’s little more to say. YGM ends here after the kiss and the camera pans to the sky. Notting Hill has a little more as there is no real final kiss as such, they’ve already kissed and instead it’s whether they get together or not. They do – spoiler alert – and shows an ending of both aspects of their lives; in the celebrity world of a movie premiere and a quiet park bench. And the sisters? Well, they do finally find love and everyone lives happily ever after. Apart from Willoughby, but supposedly he deserved it.
Romantic movies want the audience to be drawn in and the setting is usually rural. The countryside, greenery, flowers and blue sky all contribute to a peaceful, dreamlike space where you (the audience) would love to be, as is the case in Sense and Sensibility. But there is beauty to be found within cities too with parks or rooftop gardens as havens from normal life, such as in You’ve Got Mail, and lends to believability and relating the viewer to the story or protagonists. As the plot focuses on the relationship of two (or few) people, most of the settings of each scene is quite close-quarters. Sure, there are scenes of the outside world or when there are moments of the two alone together, but there is little need to show a vastness of a city other than a scenic or introductory shot to the film itself.
You’ve Got Mail city coffee house vs Sense And Sensibility’s country manor
The mise en scène promotes the feeling of reality, that these are normal people in the world and their story of finding true love can happen to anyone. This is what the audience have come to see, in some cases expecting an uplifting story that give some hope of their own romantic endeavours or simply to give their emotions a workout. Those set in more recent times (excluding period dramas) clothe the characters in casual or normal clothes – such as in the image above with Hanks playing a businessman in a suit while co-protagonist Ryan wearing something less corporate but both accepted as working outfits for many. A coffee house, a park, a shop and the usual items that come with those support that realism while gifts such as flowers or a penultimate engagement ring to the story enforces that emotion of sharing and love.
The generic lighting for Romance plays to the gentle and inviting visuals of warm colour and soft lighting. Shadows are kept low and scenes are well-lit all round, especially the characters, with three-point high key lighting. This keeps most angles of the characters equally lit while keeping shadow projection on the setting low, yet still noticeable to create depth to the scenes. But this is only generic and many productions can use a number of different lighting and colour techniques even throughout the same movie. In The Notebook, alternating scenes use different saturations of colour while still keeping those romantic feelings flowing throughout. In The Titanic the change in colour to the cold blues are prominent in the final scenes where Jack gives into the cold, yet compared to The Notebook, they occur both in the flashback/memory scenes and the “current day”.
The sound in romance films plays an important part in getting those emotions and feelings across to the audience and telling the story, possibly more so than many other genres. Commonly, narration is used to introduce plot points or characters and can assist in getting into a busy scene earlier. This narration may be from the point of view of the main protagonist recalling an old yet strong memory of a previous love – Titanic begins with the older Rose telling the story of her journey like this.
The score, again helps reflect the emotions that are being portrayed by the characters with soft acoustic (like in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or There’s something about Mary) or current pop music (Whitney Houston’s My Heart Will Go On, in The Bodyguard). Current hits engage with those watching it at the big screen and in doing so generate this phenomenon of “dating” the movie – no pun intended. When re-watched, those previous classic hits bring back personal memories of those years which may be an argument in making many romantic movies timeless. Breakfast At Tiffany’s has an incredible subversion to the audience expectations, especially considering it’s over 50 years old – yikes! The music plays an active part in the character progression throughout and, while in many other movies both previous and since have the music be mostly* non-diegetic, is part of the diegetic ambience around the dialogue. *I say mostly, because there are many with a dance or party scene occasionally including a protagonist bursting into song – Dirty Dancing may take the throne here?
Romance vs Action
Strangely, an already mention movie has been genre classed as both – Deadpool. It might not be completely obvious, but from one of the very first scenes the relationship between Wade and Vanessa is passionate and a main drive for the choices changing Wade Wilson into Mr Pool. There’s also a continual self-narration of Deadpool as the main protagonist throughout the movie.
In comparison, both the romantic and action lovers will be looking for those similar plot points to move the story on. It lays out the quest or opportunity in both, creates suspense and drama at key transitions and regularly finishes with that all-important happy ending. There is commonly a love interest in action too and a range of different lighting though with both focusing on a high-key contrast to keep the main characters the central focus. But it may be here that the similarities end.
Settings range far greater in Action, from the deserts of the Middle East to underground bases. The larger the threat the bigger the accomplishment so while an action movie may be focused on one city it will have major scenes all over the world while romantics settle on far fewer. While the attire of both have a big part to play, romance play it down and casual to better acceptance of relationship between the protagonist and the audience. In contrast, Superheroes wouldn’t be quite so bold if they were always in casual clothing – there is certainly an exception argument for Wolverine, but he is a bit of an antihero.
The biggest difference may be the props themselves. Sure, a coffee house without cups would be strange but they lend to the setting themselves in romance. For the hero movies, props are required in such a way that they may even serve as the plot themselves – the Infinity Stones in all of the MCU movies form the main plot arc for both protagonist and antagonist while even the clothing of Superman has its meaning of Hope.
Sound also has its differences. There are certainly themed scores throughout some of the period romances but superheroes are iconic for their own theme tune and variations of it throughout the movie. There are far less layers in romance and at times consist of purely diegetic sound whereas action almost always has some underlying tone behind the dialogue.
The superhero action movie is here to stay. In 2017 alone there will be a total of SEVEN big blockbusters set to release, expanding on the current universe-slash-multiverses and I can’t help but love all* of them. However, romantics do have their own in their corner with both Fifty Shades Darker and the live action reincarnation of Beauty and the Beast. They have the differences and similarities so if you can’t decide on which to choose there’s always one to hit both strings.
*Except the Fantastic Four reboot. There are no words to describe the mountain of disappointment.