ByMark Timlin, writer at
Mark Timlin

I had a discussion over Twitter a little while ago with a friend about the vast number of upcoming superhero movies. One of the things asked was “won’t people get bored of them?”. I answered truthfully – no. I sincerely believe that fans and movie-goers will not become bored with superhero movies. At least, not any time soon. Our little debate ended with my friend saying “Cinema works in cycles.”, and I can't argue with that. Think about all those westerns that we used to get, with the likes of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. Cinema was once overflowing with them. Now there’s only a few every now and again. So it got me thinking – are we getting too many superhero movies, and should Hollywood take a break from them?

Where Did All The Superhero Movies Come From?

Films like X-Men and Spiderman are the reason why we have so many superhero movies out at the moment. Yes, there were tons of others before them but the mutants and our friendly neighbourhood spider brought comic book movies back into the spotlight and proved to Hollywood that with the right commitment and people, a comic book movie can be successful. Since then we’ve had these movies coming and going faster than we can count. Some have been successful, some haven’t. Catwoman and Green Lantern completely flopped both critically and commercially, while the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been successful in both areas to differing degrees. It should be also noted that the critically panned Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice smashed the box office while the acclaimed animation Batman: Mask of the Phantasm didn't even make its budget (though perhaps its weird release date was to blame for that).

But why do we have so many? What makes them so appealing to film lovers everywhere? For me, it’s because I love seeing the universes and characters I’ve read for years brought to life. Some may not do it in the ways I’d prefer yet for every Daredevil or Transformers, out comes The Dark Knight or The Avengers. But for other people, it’s for one of the main reasons why we go to cinema – to escape. The cinema is one of the greatest forms of escapism and, for two hours, the outside world is not important. All that matters, for everyone in a cinema, is what is on screen. Whether or not it’s a superhero movie, films capture our attention and keeps them until the credits start to roll (for Marvel fans, well after the credits).

How Important Are Superhero Movies?

That’s how I see things and I’m sure a few fair people do as well. Yet for Hollywood, it all comes down to one big thing – money. As of Civil War the combined budget of all of the films within the MCU has been nearly $2.5 billion. Again, as of Civil War, the MCU has raked in over $10 billion, making it the highest grossing franchise in cinema history (before inflation, that is. After inflation the mantle belongs to James Bond). Take away how much they cost to make and that is still a lot of money for Marvel and Hollywood. Maybe saying money is all that Hollywood cares about is harsh, as there are plenty of hard working, dedicated actors and directors out there. But when a single movie brings in over double the original budget it doesn’t take a genius to realise that there needs to be more of them. It's just a shame certain franchises have been milked dry – I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity.

Superhero movies aren’t just important to Hollywood, there are a load of businesses which benefit from their release. Toy companies, theme parks, book publishers, just to name a few. I can’t even imagine how much was made from toys and models from the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe or The Dark Knight trilogy. And then there’s those who are new to superheroes so they’ll want to read the comics after seeing the films. So DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and others have probably made a killing there. Without superhero movies these comic book companies probably wouldn’t be doing as well financially without countless people going to see their movie counterparts.

The Incredible Hulk Ride at Universal Orlando
The Incredible Hulk Ride at Universal Orlando

Is There Anyway People Will Get Tired of Superhero Films?

That's a hard point to discuss because everyone views superhero flicks in different ways. Not every person who has seen the entire MCU will have read the comics in relation to each character. Some will not even be superhero fans, more just the casual film viewer. But comic buffs may not always agree with how films portray their favourite heroes and refuse to see their movie because of it. Take for example the latest Fantastic Four film - it got a lot of pre-release backlash because Johnny Storm was played by black actor Michael B. Jordan, as everyone knows that The Human Torch is a white character. Upon release it was critically slammed and flopped at the box office. Aside from the fact that the film was a complete embarrassment on all fronts it could be argued that some people didn't see the film because of the change in skin colour to Johnny Storm (which is, of course, a horrible and disgusting reason to not see a film).

Another way people may get sick of superhero films is, like the aforementioned Fantastic Four, is the quality of the production. The 2015 reboot of the Fantastic Four was nothing short of a disaster, namely for its poor characterisation and abysmal storyline. It rightfully deserved to sweep up at the Razzie awards. The same can be said for Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. With so much pointlessly crammed into this movie and such terrible portrayals of DC's finest heroes, Zack Synder's follow-up to his Man of Steel was downright disgraceful. The film had an incredible opening weekend but it lost serious momentum by the second weekend, with a drop of over 68% at the box office.

On the other hand, for all intents and purposes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has nailed their characters through its choice of actor/actress and their on-screen personality and storyline. Not every character and plot elements have been great (looking at you Malekith and Extremis) but the good far outweighs the bad. The same can be said for the films themselves as none of them are generally bad or train-wrecks but some are more watchable than others. Even when their films have production problems (Ant-Man and Age of Ultron) they are still able to be good films. Don't get me wrong, the MCU is not perfect. But Marvel are committed to making its film franchise work and they take special care when it comes to their properties. It's no wonder people come out in droves to see them.

So should there be a break from superheroes? Cinema really does go in cycles, and on some level maybe another genre should get a turn in the spotlight. But, if truth to be told, I can’t see an end to these movies. DC have just dispatched the Suicide Squad and are calling in Wonder Woman and the Justice League next year. Doctor Strange will be seeing patients in November, and Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy are returning in 2017. Even with all these superhero films we also have a whole range of superhero TV shows as well, including Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Legion. With all these and many more going past 2017, there’s still a big (and hopefully bright) future lined up for our spandex-wearing crime stoppers.


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