Undisputed king of the summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg, has come under fire for his cautionary comments about the expected shelf life of superhero movies, telling the Associated Press that the current comic book craze cannot be expected to last:
"We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn't mean there won't be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns."
But despite Speilberg's relatively grim outlook on the future of the superhero genre, he never meant that we're going to see them disappear entirely, and has taken care to qualify his statements on the issue.
In a recent interview with USA Today, the world-renowned director tempered his criticism:
"To clarify, I didn’t ever predict the implosion of the film industry at all. I simply predicted that [with] a number of blockbusters in one summer – those big sort of tentpole superhero movies – there was going to come a time where two or three or four of them in a row didn’t work. That’s really all I said. I didn’t say the film industry was ever going to end because of them."
I find it hard to disagree. All industry trends are inherently cyclical and will inevitably lose popularity once they've had their day in the box office sun.
Speilberg used the rise and fall of the Western genre to illustrate his point:
"I also was simply saying that that particular [superhero] genre doesn’t have the legs or the longevity of the western, which was around since the beginning of film, and only started to wither and shrivel in the '60s."
Indeed, the flops that precede a genre's fall from grace have already started to rear their ugly heads. The undeniably underwhelming response to Age of Ultron and the dismal financial failure that was Fantastic 4, which reportedly lost 21st Century Fox $60 million dollars, seem to signal superhero movies' waning success.
But If anything, the genre output only continues to grow. Next year, a grand total of seven comic book movies will go toe-to-toe at the box office. I'm as excited as the next person to see Marvel and DC's 2016 offerings, but surely it's only a matter of time before signs of genre-fatigue begin to show...