Can our desire for superhero movies ever fade? Will audiences get sick of comic book films?
Over the last few years, Hollywood has been taken by storm by a group of caped invaders. Where the superhero genre used to be a silly, over the top affair where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito would spit out bad puns (who are we kidding – amazing puns), now it sits in pride as king of the summer blockbuster. Since Iron Man hit in 2008, Marvel Studios has put out 10 films which have grossed over 6 billion dollars. Every year they make more and without fail we swarm to see them – it seems our appetite for catsuits, lasers and Robert Downey Junior just cannot be sated. Of course, that’s not going to stop anyone from trying.
Recently, Marvel Studios announced a timeline of all the films they plan to bring out up until 2020. There are 11, and that’s just Marvel. Fox, who own the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, have their own plan. Sony have a plan for the Spiderman series and Warner Bros have a tightly packed schedule involving anything and everything from the DC universe, including Batman, Superman and the Justice League. Put together we’ve got more than 30 superhero films coming out in the next 5 years.
Hollywood has caught itself one of the fattest cash cows around and it’s going to milk it for every last drop. You ever hear a song you like and then just listen to it on repeat for like a week and now you can’t stand it? That’s what this is going to be. I’m not criticising comic films themselves, personally I love them. That just makes me hate this idea even more though. At the level of saturation we’re talking about, anything would get stale.
The sheer volume of films about to come our way isn’t the only issue. The fact that the studios announced which films they’re making and when just highlights how shortsighted they are. Remember when you first watched Iron Man? You were about to leave when the credits faded and another scene appeared, showing Nick Fury mentioning the Avengers. Remember how excited you were? Those post credits teasers are part of what made Marvel so huge, after every film you’d get another tiny hint about what they were planning next. Those tiny nuggets of information that built up into amazing hype don’t mean anything anymore because we already know they’re bringing out a Black Panther film in 2017, or that the third Avengers will tie in with Guardians of the Galaxy. Speaking of the third Avengers, we already know it’s being made and who it will feature, so why should we care about the second one? We know nothing hugely significant will happen if they’re back in 2019 time to fight evil with Chris Pratt and his band of merry misfits. They’ve created a small flurry of buzz now, but undercut the hype they could’ve had for the next 5 years.
Being shortsighted seems like an odd criticism to levy against Marvel, a studio that built its success on one of the most well thought out and interconnected movie universes in history. All of their films form a giant web connecting every character in one big marvelous (get it?) tapestry. With every film they add, however, that web gets larger and harder to maintain. Now it only takes one of their films to be a flop for it to impact on all of the others, and we learned from Green Lantern that being a super hero isn’t necessarily a free pass to box office success. With Marvel branching out into more obscure characters like Ant-man and Doctor Strange the risk of a failure is always increasing, especially since they can’t afford to be throwing their best writers and directors at these films with so many more established characters still in play.
Comic book films, it seems, have already peaked. It looks like it’ll be all downhill from here. Resources will be spread thinner and the films will start to conform to an even more restrictive formula. Studios are wasting time and money on characters nobody really wants in order to build more complex connections, when what they should be doing is getting over their petty squabbles about rights and collaborate with each other. Instead of asking what we want, they’re telling us what we’re going to get, and the sad part is that when the dust settles and comic book films are dead, Stan Lee’s gonna walk away with more money than God.