Ever since superhero movies first arrived on the big screen, they've been subject to a whole lot of criticism for their very nature. Whether they're being decreed as shallow and dumb, slammed for stripping the movie industry of variety and creativity, or blamed for the demise of more serious, 'substantial' genres, they've long been a prime target for anyone with an axe to grind and nowhere else to grind it.
While the fact that a whole lot of superhero movies are noticeably well made, technically complex and emotionally sophisticated films is often ignored, as is the film industry's long history of low-risk genre productions, that doesn't however mean that there isn't potentially some truth to the criticisms leveled at superhero cinema.
It's Entirely Possible That Superhero Movies Have Killed Off Some Other Genres
After all, genres have always come and gone in Hollywood as audience's tastes changed, with melodramas, westerns, monster movies and gangster movies all having had their turns as the dominant box office force, before fading into comparative obscurity.
With the rise of superhero movies as the most reliable source of box-office income, then, it's surely very much possible that other genres have suffered accordingly.
The most obvious possibility?
Superhero Movies Might Have Helped to Kill Off Serious Crime Dramas
Now, the days of The Godfather and The French Connection dominating the pop cultural realm may have long since passed, with even the early '90s fillip of Pulp Fiction and Heat now a full two decades old, but even as recently as 2007, there was still a major market for serious crime dramas.
American Gangster made $130 million domestically off a release that November, with a $43 million opening weekend, and the previous year The Departed made a solid $132 million. Since then, though, things have proven a lot trickier for the criminal cinematic element.
Since 2007, Crime Dramas Have Largely Struggled Domestically
With Gangster Squad only making $46 million domestically off of a $60 million budget back in 2013, and the likes of A Most Dangerous Year, Broken City and Runner Runner also failing to make back their budget domestically in recent years, there's a pretty solid argument that the base-level audience for serious crime dramas has gone down substantially during the past decade.
What's more, even a seemingly very successful picture like The Wolf of Wall Street - which made $116 domestically - will have likely made a loss domestically once marketing and other considerations are factored in, having a $100 million dollar production budget. That problem - the need for an action movie-sized budget with little chance of as high a return - is one common to many crime dramas produced nowadays, and with few likely to make as much money internationally as Wolf of Wall Street managed (a cool $275 million), it's perhaps unsurprising that there are relatively few of them on studio slates.
Is That the Fault of Superhero Movies, Though?
After all, with those crime dramas that are released rarely going head-to-head with the big superhero blockbusters, it's entirely possible that the rise of superhero movies is entirely unrelated to the fall from grace of the crime drama. After all, the logic goes, a rising tide lifts all boats - and the phenomenal success of superhero movies doesn't prohibit audiences from going to see crime dramas as well.
That being said, though - there's certainly still an argument that can be made. Superhero movies have, after all, largely stepped into the subject matter shoes of the crime dramas of yesteryear, offering increasingly complex stories of criminals and the crime-fighters who oppose them, but with the added bonus of superpowers and cool costumes. The Dark Knight was as much crime drama as it was a superhero movie, much as Ant-Man was basically just a heist thriller that knew the Avengers existed.
Add in the increasingly limited number of release dates that are superhero or superhero-like movie - I'm looking at you Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Jurassic World, Hunger Games and Furious 7 - free, and it's also possible to see the rise of superhero movies as having substantially limited the release options for crime dramas.
Take the recently released Black Mass, for instance, which - with a superstar leading man and $53 million budget - might well have expected a major release with a whole lot of fanfare...had it been released twenty years ago. In 2015, though, it's simply a high profile member of the awards circuit, as its second place, $22 million opening weekend (behind The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) can attest.
Are Superhero Movies Really to Blame, Though?
Well, perhaps - and perhaps not. For all that the rise of the big budget superhero movie can be seen as a potential contributing factor to the downturn in fortunes of crime dramas - or, for that matter, any other flagging genre - it's also entirely possible to see it as being an entirely unrelated phenomena, placing the blame on changing audience tastes and box-office patterns.
The big question, then?
What do you think?
Have superhero movies killed off the crime genre?