It is a certain bet that for the majority of the year at the cinema the top billing will be filled by a superhero film. Marvel Studios, DC Comics, Fox and Sony all put most off their eggs in the superhero basket. Every year the same question is asked by film critics and audiences, asking; when will this superhero craze end?
From 2008-2017, Disney/Marvel Studios have released 16 superhero films with an overall worldwide box office gross of over 12 billion dollars. There is no argument over whether these films are successful as clearly they are, however the film market has become saturated by these films. Popular superheroes such as Spiderman and Batman are no longer the bastions of the genre as lesser known superheroes are given their own film. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is a pristine example of this. Who knew a film that has a talking tree and raccoon would work? The studios can literary print money from this genre and at the moment they are just throwing ideas at a wall and seeing whatever sticks and at the moment, the wall is pretty sticky. Critical failures such as Suicide Squad (2016) and Batman vs Superman (2016) were financial successes, the former winning an Oscar. There is no clear indication on whether audiences are growing bored of this genre. The box office results are still in their billions and it is hard to see this declining anytime soon.
Trends in cinema is not a new concept, film audiences thirst for the latest trend. If you remember in the early 2010’s zombies were everywhere. This was enhanced by AMC’s The Walking Dead and Valve’s Left 4 Dead video games series. As The Walking Deadlimps towards its eighth season the popularity of zombies is starting to decline. What critics are fearing though, is that it has been almost ten years since the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and there is no sign of this decline. The outlook for the next few years not only sees superheroes as key inclusions in the cinematic timetable but also TV shows and video games. Netflix have produced their own TV Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been massively popular. For anyone that predicted it would be the end of superheroes in 2017 couldn’t have been more wrong.
Before I start to predict the end of the superhero craze another question to ask, is that is it a bad thing for cinema to be full of superhero films? The majority of films released by Marvel are rated highly by critics and audiences. New superhero films attempt new formulas just so they feel fresh. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) could be described as a spy thriller and Mark Ruffalo, who plays Hulk in the upcoming Thor: Raganrok (2017) has described it as a buddy cop movie in space. Along with that, multiple studios have their own style with the dark and gritty atmosphere of DC comics and Fox who has just released the R-Rated Logan (2017). The superhero genre knows it is growing stale so new directions and pushing the envelope with ratings is apparent. Logan was one of the most fresh examples of this. It was a gritty superhero film that focused on paternal relationships and growing old. It was more bleak then the usual fare and I have vouched for the film to be given some sort of mainstream award recognition because it deserves it. The genre maybe saturated within cinema but you cannot fault the genre for trying everything to be different and trying to feel fresh. With critically applauded films such as Logan and Captain America: Winter Soldier it could easily be argued that there is no need for the genre to disappear. This relates back to the old saying: If something is not broken why fix it?
The question has never really been about the quality of the films, all these films have fantastic casts, directors, cinematographers, producers and so forth. The problem is the choice. If you went to a sweet shop and brought a pick and mix you would not just fill your cup with jelly snakes. First off that is an awful method of filling up your pick and mix cup but secondly eating a cup of jelly snakes, no matter how many flavors there are, it can grow tiresome. Confectionery metaphors aside, superheroes are everywhere and taking up limited places in cinemas. The monotony of cinema at this current time could repel the general public from going to the movies. The trouble is, there is not enough people staying away, audiences have gotten use to what films they like. The whole situation is based on risk for both studios and audiences. Studios put millions of dollars into marketing and production and need a clear and concrete profit, superheroes do that. Tickets are skyrocketing and audiences now have to give away a lot of money to watch a film they have no idea if it is good or not. Superheroes for a large majority of moviegoers is a safe bet.
The superhero bubble will not burst until this studio/audience relationship changes. Studios are unlikely to risk millions of dollars on new films to an audience that have already told them what they like. The audience has the real power., If they don’t turn up for these films and request new and exciting ideas, then it must change. With the way popular culture works, this could prove difficult. The fast and erratic nature of contemporary culture has varying and unpredictable tastes. It is difficult to predict when this superhero craze is going to end. The short answer is that it is not anytime soon. People still enjoy and pay their hard earned money to watch these films and buy the toys, comics, video games etc. The audience hold the power and while the studios keep inflating the superhero bubble, we just sit back as hold the pin. At this precise moment and for the recent future we are just happy to watch how big this bubble will get. Audiences will grow tired eventually of this trend but what will be after that? Just another trend that acts a conglomerate on the cinematic timetable? Another genre that starts out as fresh and in 2 years becomes stale? Well, probably but that just how going to these multiplexes work.