Let's face it, the studios are gambling a lot on the superhero franchise. Marvel Studios have announced titles all the way through to 2020; Warner Brothers and DC have used Man of Steel as a launchpad for their own Cinematic Universe; and even Sony are getting in on the act again with Valiant Comics, a company whose sales comprise less than 1% of the comic book market.
But everybody knows that Hollywood has fashions, and is it possible that the fashion for superhero movies will soon change? Are storm clouds gathering on the superhero scene?
1. The market is getting flooded...
Go back two decades, and you might get one superhero movie a year, if that. After the success of Blade in 1998, you had a few other studios trying things, but even then you rarely got more than two out in a single year. But between 2015 and 2020, you can expect no less than 26 superhero movies - and those are just the ones we know about! That's an average of just over five a year!
For comic book fans, it's all pretty reminiscent of the early '90s, where the comic book bubble led to some pretty tremendous sales - and not a few gimmicks. The '90s were particularly famous for tricks with covers, with the best-selling X-Men #1 having four different covers and a final, spreadout version. All of which sounds pretty similar to Fox's decision to release [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](tag:203942) not once but twice, with this year's 'Rogue Cut' restoring footage that fans had been eagerly wanting to see the first time they went to the cinema.
Marvel, at least, are showing a little bit of wisdom. Each one of their movies touches on a different genre - from the heist style of Ant-Man, to the cosmic opera of Guardians of the Galaxy , to the political action of [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973) . It means that, tonally, every Marvel movie feels differently, not just 'more of the same'. There are promising signs that Warner Brothers and DC are following suit, with Suicide Squad looking like it's a whole world darker than anything they've ever produced. Given that studio brought us The Dark Knight Rises, that's saying something!
The danger signs are coming from Fox, though. Although I'm trying to remain optimistic, this year's The Fantastic Four looks to be emulating the pseudo-scientific, darker approach that proved so successful with the X-Men Series. And that in turn suggests that Fox could be something of a one-note studio with regards to superhero movies.
The question is, how will fans react when they've overdosed on superhero movies? Will the industry slump? Or will these companies find ways to reinvent the genre, keeping it fresh and new?
2. Key actors are demanding pay rises...
For every Marvel film, Robert Downey Jr. rakes in a not-so-small fortune. Don't believe me? He was paid $50 million for The Avengers , rumoured to be paid $75 million for Iron Man 3 , and $80 million for The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. Marvel are getting tougher - let's face it, the $80 million for two movies is actually a cut compared to the last two! - but his paychecks are still astronomical.
Hollywood's next rising star is Chris Pratt, whose performances in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World have earned him worldwide admiration. It won't be long before Pratt, too, begins to command Downey-sized paychecks. Since he's already tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pratt is yet another headache for Marvel.
It's another sign of a part of Hollywood that's in boom, but it can't be long before the studios begin to get frustrated with superhero movies whose stars demand this kind of pay. Again, it's reminiscent of the kind of pay deals some '90s-era artists demanded, with the likes of Todd McFarlane turning themselves into celebrities for their art.
3. Studios are reaching....
Back in the '90s, comic books were all the vogue, and their popularity was absolutely incredible. It didn't matter who your favourite character was - odds were high that they'd be appearing in a team book, a solo series, a miniseries, a one-shot, or even all of the above at once.
And now take a step back and think about it.
No matter how good the film was, the fact remains that we've just watched an Ant-Man movie. Ant-Man. A superhero who, yeah, was one of the founding members of the Avengers, but who in the comics never really recovered his reputation after he beat his wife. In the Ultimate Universe reboot, Hank Pym actually set ants on Janet Van Dyne to have her eaten to death. No wonder the movie focused in on the Scott Lang incarnation of the hero, and used Hank Pym's Yellowjacket identity for another, villainous, character.
Some of the industry's experiments are credible - Guardians of the Galaxy reinvented the team and the concept enough to make them something fundamentally different from the comics. And Suicide Squad looks to be a smart call on the part of Warner Brothers and DC. But when you have fourth-rate heroes like Ant-Man as the title character of a blockbuster, it's hard not to feel like the studios are kind of reaching.
How will it all end? Is Hollywood about to experience a repeat of the superhero bubble burst that we saw in the comics in the '90s? And what can the studios do to prepare for the fashion change?