Death of the Critic

Superhero Fatigue

Written by: Tom Blaich


With today’s release of
Wonder Woman, it has been a little over nine years since the release of the first Iron Man movie, and with it, the beginning of an international love affair with these spandex-clad superhuman, ripped from the pulpy pages of so many comic books. In these nine short years, we’ve seen the release of 36 mainstream comic book superhero movies, with even more films about the superpowers surrounding them.

It is an unprecedented inundation, and it shows no sign of slowing down, with juggernauts like
The Justice League, Infinity War, Black Panther, and more on the horizon. And it is becoming harder and harder to keep getting ourselves excited at this point. The good guys beat the bad guy who had some sort of device/magic/being that threatened a city/country/world with total annihilation.

We’ve talked before about how he overuse of the
apocalyptic events have made them lose all of their potential impact. Superhero movies used to be the blockbuster events of the year, something that an entire year or more worth of marketing and hype would lead up to. They were something you’d want to line up at midnight for, finally a chance to see all of your favorite heroes in action.

With the release of the first
Iron Man, an initiative was put into place to create more fully realized worlds for Marvel, and later DC to populate with games and movies and merchandise of all sorts. Dozens of characters and plotlines intertwining to create a fully realized world, but along the way some of that magic was lost.

I love what this push has done for the actual worlds of the superheroes, but what I don’t love is how they have, as a result of this, started to feel more like big budget seasons of TV shows, self-contained episodes tied together by post-credit stingers leading towards a two-part season finale. Gone is that special feeling, and in its stead is one that is more of an obligation to watch another movie, waiting for the final film to cap it off, and knowing every plot point along the way, even before it happens.

It is a problem unique to the genre of superhero movies, because it is the only genre that has enough intertwined source material built up to do something like this. The vast, interconnected universe of Marvel and DC five studios as much raw material to work with that they could ever want, and it means that they could keep churning out movies for the next decade to come, and still have some left over.

Studios love franchises because they are established and they are low risk. You can pump money into them for years, and you will keep seeing a return. It’s a safe investment, and combine that with the intrinsic box office draw of superhero battles, and you have a recipe for financial success that drives them forward, even when the passion seems to disappear.

It makes for entertaining, if mindless movies, and there is nothing wrong with that. But now there is a huge number of them, five or more releasing every year, and it is beginning to feel like it should be unsustainable. There is only so many times we can have an attractive white guy punch some strange monsters or robots before it gets tiring.
We’ve seen all of the powers, all of the different abilities and combinations. It no longer feels fresh.

I’m one of the rare few that goes to the movie theater all of the time (partly to write for this site, and partly because I simply love movies), but the average consumer does not. An average theatergoer will go to the movies about 5.5 times a year, and asking that they make every single trip a trip to see the newest superhero movie feels a bit presumptuous.

As it is, this trend shows absolutely no signs of slowing down though. These movies continue to break records at the box office, even in the face of sometimes middling reviews, and the projected timelines of these movies have them being released until well into the next decade, at least.

It means that we will have to change the way that we look at these movies, how we see them in context and hopefully more will take cues from
Captain America: Civil War, which brought the focus into more personal areas and let us explore individual characters instead of exploding cities. We will have to stop seeing them massive events where thousands die and buildings are toppled, and instead look at them like the comics do, an exploration of the difference between these nigh-invincible gods and the regular humans that surround them.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

You Might Also Like:
Superpowers and Storytelling

Music with a Message

Situation Invincibility and How it is Ruining Action Movies

Images courtesy of Fox Movies

blog comments powered by Disqus