With so many comic book adaptations hitting the screen, the question I most often hear is this: is Superhero Fatigue a reality? Most say that no, the comic book industry has been in the works since forever, and if reading colored papers with dialogue bubbles doesn't get tiring after more than seventy years, how could cinema do it? Well, pretty easily, it seems. Let's just look at it shall we?
We know it all started with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have been other movies for sure, but never has this been such an over-saturated genre than it turned out to be ever since Samuel L Jackson uttered the sentence about the Avengers Initiative. Problem is, ever since that happened, everybody wants a piece of the superhero cake. Fox has tried and tried again with the X-men characters it owns but not as desperately as Sony did with Spider-Man. I'll be honest here, and I know I'm going to get a lot of hurt for this... but I really enjoyed the Amazing Spider-man and its sequel. I did! Andrew Garfield was a decent Peter Parker and an even better Spider-man, however, I have seen the cracks in the writing and what I thought at the time was interference from the producers and the study. Unfortunately, that turned out out to be true. Now, with Marvel Phase 2 done and ending, with Batman v Superman on the horizon along with Civil War and all the bloody baggage those two come with in the upcoming years. Also, we can't forget about the television series' like The Flash, Green Arrow, Agents of SHIELD and so on and so on. Many have thought that the Legends of Tomorrow spin-off series, people have just gone too far. But did they?
In short? Yes they did. Superhero fatigue is indeed a reality. Why though? Oh God, here comes the hate. But I feel I'm right, even though I'm surely not. But let's look at the franchises separately and see where things went wrong.
Fox owns the X-men, the Fantastic Four and most, if not all the characters those two titles come with, including Cable, Deadpool and Wolverine. So what's the history of that? The first X-men film is said to have revolutionized the superhero genre in cinema, but did it? Somewhat. I mean, in my opinion, it wasn't that good. I have seen little of the X-Men cartoons and have read almost none of the comics, but I had friends who did, so I still got to know them well enough. When I first saw it, it was just a movie for me, nothing special. My first real introduction into the X-Men genre was the X-Men: Evolution cartoon series which somewhat re imagined the team. I watched the movies again and I think they just became worse. I didn't really see the X-men, I just saw sloppy redesigns that looked like people from a cosplay convention. Yet, as time went on, the franchise kind of grew on me. The first real X-Men movie I guess was First Class. Why? Because they did not try to make a superhero movie. It was a spy flick that happened to star people with powers. Which kind of is the point I'll make, but let's just go on. Days of Future Past was simply brilliant and I can't wait to see Apocalypse which seems to be finally really close to the source material, but we'll see.
Sony owns Spider-Man, one of if not the most successful characters of Marvel Comics. I'm not sure, but as far as I know, Peter Parker was the first superhero who readers could identify in a personal manner, who was just a mortal amongst us, a teenager who had a real duel identity. He didn't have the financial backing of Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne, or just every day problem solving powers like the Flash or Green Lantern. Spider-Man had to struggle with balancing an everyday life and a hero identity with true effort. He had to study, work and earn a salary like all of us. As such, most of us identified with him a lot. While Superman, Batman, Thor or Captain America were heroes we looked up to from a distance, Spider-Man was like one of us, almost like we ourselves could suit up and join these legends and gods. This has been flashed out even more brilliantly in the Ultimate Spider-Man series, which if I can be frank, in my opinion is one of the best, most well written comic book series of all time. Stepping away from me fanboying out over here, what did I think of the movies? Meh. Well, the first trilogy was a meh. Although many like it way more than the Amazing series, I think the first trilogy was just a movie series that encompassed and paid homage to the old comic book movies like the Batman and Superman series. Although it had some serious moments, it was campy fun and a really well directed movie which showed that superhero movies can still be huge, expensive blockbusters. We have to admit, the X-Men movies don't seem as huge when you see Spider-Man swinging in New York, do they?
The first was just campy fun, the second grew a bit darker but still had a lot of flaws while the third was an abomination of cinema. As such, it was acceptable for me when they announced the reboot. What happened when it came out? The audience let out a collective and huge MEH. As much as I could tell it. Every critic I saw speak about it just shrugged and said that: Well... it was fine I guess. It wasn't Spider-Man 3...
Not the second Amazing Spider-Man... boy did that rub people the wrong way. It did the same mistakes as the Raimi third did, for the same reasons... studio interference. Sony had so many bad decisions, that they actually signed a contract with Marvel to save whatever dignity they had with the character. Which brings us to...
The Beast. The one studio to rule them all. Marvel. The studio who wrote superhero cinematic history. Is it wrong of me to say then, that I really don't like any of the Marvel movies? That's right. I think most of them are just boring, one note superhero flicks. Why is that bad? That's what superhero movies should be. Just flicks. NO! Wrong. And this is why the Fatigue is more real than we think it is. my opinion in this whole matter is that there is no such thing as a Superhero genre in cinema, and maybe not even in comics. Think about it. What is a superhero genre? Someone has a cool power/technology/ability and they fight a bad guy. The end. Nothing exciting right? Because this is what Marvel's doing in their solo movies. All Iron Man movies, Thor movies, Captain America movies, all of them are just the exact same thing. Iron Man being cool. Then the drama comes. Existential crisis. Then Tony gathers himself. Gets in the suit and brings down another person in a suit. The end. At least Iron Man 3 had the gall to have a non-Iron Man knockoff as a villain. Okay, how about the Hulk movie? Hulk's cool when he transforms, existential crisis for Banner, then a battle against an evil version of himself. Okay, then Thor. Cool battle, then existential crisis, then battling against his evil half. Captain America. Existential crisis, then battling another super soldier. In both movies. While I admit that these are just crude summaries of what are complicated stories and scripts, you have to admit that essentially, these are true. Even the Winter Soldier, which was a brilliant movie, had Cap go against another version of a super soldier and it even had existential crisis in it... again! Sure, I admit that even in the comics, you can't put a hero against someone who's out of their league, but still, that doesn't mean you can't make it interesting! Look at Ant-man, the first movie in Phase Three and this is STILL going on! Cool powers, existential crisis, battling against an evil version of themselves. The end. Seriously? At least the Avengers movies were cool. Before I can prove my point about the Fatigue, we need to talk about another side of things, which is...
Yep. The elephant in the room. Warner Bros and DC Comics. Sure, we can call them names and we can say that they are just trying to mimic Marvel and that they will never be as good because they are brooding and dark while Marvel is enjoyable and so on and so on... well you might be right. Still, there is something that DC did right with one of the most successful and famous comic book series of all time: Batman. The Dark Knight trilogy is said to be the most well written, most well directed and acted comic book movie series of all time. Is it though? Well, it's well directed, that's for sure. As for me, I don't like it as much as others, but that's not the point. Thing is, Nolan wasn't trying to do a superhero movie. He was making a crime drama. What movie is the same? Guardians of the Galaxy from Marvel. It was making a sci-fi flick which only happened to star Marvel comics characters. Fox's First Class made a spy movie with superheroes. You see my point?
The greats of the comic cinematic universe, Days of Future Past, Winter Soldier, Dark Knight, Guardians of the Galaxy aren't making superhero movies. They are making genre movies which happen to star heroes. And this is why superhero fatigue is a reality. As long as studios like Marvel or Sony or anyone else are trying to make cliche superhero movies, we, the audience will eventually grow tired of them. As Iron Man 2 and 3, Thor: The Dark World and others have proved, the character itself won't sell anything. It has to be better than that. What we need to realize is that we need to get rid of the 'superhero genre' and create a cinematic universe where there are 'mixed genres'. Batman is essentially a crime drama, with superheroes. Superman is a sci-fi flick, with superheroes. Spider-Man is social commentary. Captain America is a commentary on war and governments. Iron Man is sci-fi and technology again. Thor should be a fantasy adventure. You get what I'm trying to say? There should not be a superhero movie. Only sci-fi, fantasy, crime, thriller or adventure movies that happen to star comic book characters. As long as we see these run of the mill 'superhero movies' we will get tired of them. The rose colored glasses will break and we will stop cheering for the Avengers, we'll stop arguing about who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman, and so on. Well, let's just hope this won't happen. I have to remind everyone that this is just my opinion on the matters, please don't take these as facts. Thanks for reading and have a good day!