In a world filled with reasons to be gloomy, glum, downbeat, dispirited and downright sad, it's reassuring that there are still some things all-but guaranteed to put a smile on our faces, and shine a spotlight on the bright side of life. In contrast to, say, the tragic events happening in Syria, or the brutal treatment of minority groups both at home and abroad, there are thousands of individuals fighting tirelessly to do something about them. Malaria kills over a million people a year - but with the unflagging efforts of countless heroes around the world, scientists and local activists are hopeful of eradicating it within a generation. There might well be a whole lot of lemons in the world - but there are also a hell of a lot of folks out there making - and sharing - lemonade to make up for it.
That same pattern - one of a general sense of existential angst and futility being countered by the work of an inspired few - can actually also be spotted in some far less important realms than mass murder, abuse and disease.
Take Superhero Movies, for Example...
Now, while any movie's objective importance may well pale in comparison to the eradication of malaria, they're still - for the majority of us reading/writing this - a far more tangible and commonplace part of our lives. While we might donate money to help with causes bigger than ourselves, or even contribute our own time, there's a pretty solid chance that in the day to day, movies occupy a whole lot more of our thinking.
Which, though they may "simply" be entertainment, makes them important. After all, the way we live our day to day lives inevitably has an impact on the way we think, and act, and feel.
And for a whole lot of movie fans out there...
There's a Lot of Cynicism Surrounding Superhero Movies
Y'see, when it comes to the superhero movies, we're constantly being told - even by key creative figures within the industry like Zack Snyder - that the hugely popular genre is completely and utterly doomed.
That's right - ask a hundred people about the future of superhero movies, and odds are you'll get 50+ answers along the lines of "They're going to overstay their welcome," with the implication being that they simply won't be around in ten years time.
Now, maybe they're right - much as it's entirely possible we won't be able to effect widespread social change, or eradicate malaria - but what with there being some fairly solid scientific evidence that optimism is better for us than cynicism and all, it seems reasonable to at least challenge that basic assumption. After all, if we can't be optimistic about superhero movies - how are we going to be optimistic that our small - but collectively, hugely powerful - efforts in other arenas are going to make a difference?
Here, then, are...
10 Reasons to Be Cheerful (About the Future of Superhero Movies)
10. There's Historical Precedent That Suggests Superhero Movies Will Be Around For a While
Now, Steven Spielberg may have recently argued that superhero movies will eventually "go the way of the western" - with the jibe presumably intended to suggest that they'll soon fall from favor, and become scarce - but that might not be quite as immediately horrifying a prospect as it seems.
After all, as Kevin Feige pointed out in response to Spielberg's comments:
The Western lasted 40-50 years, and they still pop up occasionally...It's been, what, eight years since Iron Man 1, if we count that, which I do, as the beginning of our MCU? Maybe [the superhero genre] will only last another 42 years."
Or, in other words, superhero movies may well fade from popularity - but there's a pretty solid chance it won't be until we're all too old to mind overmuch.
In the meantime...
9. We're Currently in a Golden Age of Superhero Movie
Now, some argue that the frantic proliferation of superhero movies (2016 and 2017 currently have eight high profile ones scheduled, with countless smaller budgeted movies alongside them) will play a big part in Spielberg's speculated "way-of-the-western-going," with audience's, suffering from fatigue, eventually growing tired of the genre.
Another way of looking at that? Superhero movies are going through a golden age. Even if they do eventually drop back down to a more "manageable" number (though, one every month and a half isn't really as ridiculous as some industry figures seem to think), then, there's nothing to stop us enjoying the glut right now.
8. They're Getting Better All the Time
Between the ever-more-experimental Marvel Cinematic Universe (the past two years have seen a space opera, a heist comedy and a '70s style conspiracy thriller, all labeled 'superhero movies') and the evolution of the Batman franchise from high camp to The Dark Knight, the past decade of superhero filmmaking has - with some notable exceptions - largely been defined by a steady improvement in the quality of its films.
With DC's own Cinematic Universe set to join in the fun in earnest from next year, and a whole lot of independent heroes due to arrive any month now, the future, as they say, is bright.
One of the key reasons for that?
7. Marvel Studios Has Pioneered a New Kind of Moviemaking
Now, while some may mourn the fall of the director-as-God-King pattern of filmmaking pioneered in the 1970s, in which a director's creative vision was backed by a supportive studio or financier (or, at least, a few lucky white dudes' visions were), it's tough to deny that the return to a kind of studio system that Marvel has pioneered was behind a whole lot of what we love about the MCU.
After all, by consolidating the planning and creative oversight for the MCU in the hands of a passionate comic book geek (step forward Kevin Feige), Marvel was able to create a vast connected movie universe, tied together by a common cinematic reality. Without that advance planning (much as it seems to drive some directors absolutely nuts) we wouldn't be seeing next year's eagerly anticipated crossover event Captain America: Civil War - let alone The Avengers - since the movies leading up to it would likely have contradicted one another too much to be able to have their characters cross over.
6. By Joining in, DC Has Opened Up a Whole New World of Superhero Cinema
A common - and arguably legitimate - complaint about Marvel, of course, is that the whole MCU is a fairly neutered, Disney-fied version of superhero-dom. Which, seeing as everything's a PG-13, and the company is owned by Disney, is pretty much undeniable. For millions of children (and parents) around the world, though, that's exactly what they want to see - a universally accessible style of moviemaking, without kid-unfriendly gore and swearing.
For those who want a grimmer, gloomier take on the genre, though, there's still an outlet. Not only are Marvel's own Netflix offerings far more adult, but DC and Warner Bros' upcoming Cinematic Universe looks set to bring a whole lot more adult situations to the superhero screen. Which, after all, is one of the great things about a genre - you can make a whole lot of different kinds of movies under its umbrella.
5. There's Evidence to Suggest That the 'Trickle-Down' Effect Will Help All Levels of the Movie Industry
Take a look at Chronicle, for instance. Made for $12 million, the sort of budget that smaller studios are often willing to part with, the 'found footage' superhero movie eventually made $126.6 million worldwide.
While the likes of Marvel and DC may - for now at least - dominate the upper end of the budget spectrum, there's no reason to believe that innovative filmmakers working on smaller budgets can't also find substantial box office success. Far from stifling creativity, then, superhero movies can be seen - much as Marvel and DC are in the comic book world - as high profile paragons, alongside which all kinds of remarkable work can be produced.
What's more, there are "real world" benefits to the development of superhero movies, too...
4. The Security of Studios Like Marvel Is Encouraging New Film Hubs to Develop
Head down to Fayetteville, Georgia, and ask them whether superhero movies are a good thing, and you'll likely hear a whole lot of stories about economic growth and job prospects. After all, with Marvel Studios seeming set to film a whole lot of major blockbusters at Pinewood's new 700 acre studio lot in Fayetteville (just south of Atlanta) over the next few years, there's (for the film industry, at least) a whole lot of job security to be found.
Add in the state's tax breaks, and there's every reason to believe that smaller scale studio spaces will soon begin to emerge, enabling the region to eventually be able to cater to all kinds of movies, superhero or otherwise.
3. Thousands of Kids are Being Turned on to Reading
Now, some may scoff at the idea that superhero movies are turning kids on to reading, but I'd wager the majority of them would also not consider reading comic books to be "real" reading.
For anyone who grew up with comic books (or fell in love with them as an adult, for that matter), though, they very much are "real" reading. They're legitimate literature, that just so happens to be a legitimate form of visual art at the same time. Within a generation of kids introduced to comic books via Iron Man, Batman or Captain Marvel movies, there are sure to be a whole lot whose first experience of falling in love with reading will come as a result of watching a superhero movie.
2. Superhero Movies Are Increasingly Discussing Serious Global Issues
Whether we're talking the complex, competing needs of security and freedom (Captain America: The Winter Solider, Captain America: Civil War), the treatment of outsiders (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) or even the way we as a society treat rehabilitated criminals (Ant-Man), there's compelling evidence that superhero movies are bringing a whole lot of serious issues to the forefront of popular culture.
They might be sugar coating them with a solid helping of punching and adventure, but that doesn't make the social context any less present...
Which, in turn, means that...
1. Superhero Movies Are Helping to Fight for Social Change Themselves
Now, that isn't to say they don't have a long way to go in terms of their relationships with gender, race and sexuality - both Marvel and DC are still working on fixing imbalances in representation and equal opportunity - but what progress they are making (the imminent arrival of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Cyborg will be key) could well prove hugely influential on other aspects of the cinematic culture.
After all, if superhero movies prove that progressive policies can also be profitable, that'll quickly bleed over into other movies - and prod legitimate change into being.
The most important thing, though?
Sometimes We Just Need to Believe That Things Can Work Out For the Best
Now, sometimes that can be as simple as watching Captain America win the day against an evil robot, or Wonder Woman kicking the patriarchy in the face - but it has a whole lot of real world relevance too. Believing that superhero movies have a future - and, what's more, a future that can be both cinematically great and socially progressive - doesn't make us naive, or foolish. It makes us optimistic.
And in a world filled with a whole lot of reasons to be cynical, it can't hurt to believe that things can last, and make a difference - especially if we translate that optimism to some of the hugely complicated real world problems that we're all facing. Working together - and believing in the future - we can (as cheesy as it sounds) change the world.
Just ask the Avengers...