I have always loved a good superhero movie. I remember sitting in the cinema watching Batman Begins (2005) in absolute awe and anticipation for the next, but suddenly it seems that the film industry is becoming over-saturated by the superhero films that are based on Marvel and DC comics. The past decade has seen a massive increase of Marvel and DC films with over 10 lined up for 2017/2018 alone compared with a much lower figure of 7 Marvel and DC films being released in the entire decade of the 1990’s. The Superman franchise has been pleasing cinema goers since the 1950’s and mainly dominated the superhero movie market until a few Marvel films released in the early 2000’s spiked some interest in the genre with Spiderman (2002) and X-Men (2000).
It was when the likes of Captain America, Thor and Iron man films exploded onto the big screen, with something fresh and different, that the genre really started to become popular and evidently led to the spectacular Avengers Assemble (2012), which grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide and is currently 5th on the box office top grossing films of all time. Superhero movies are now highly prolific and I’m wondering if the rise in production of these films to gain public interest and huge profits, means that more recent superhero movies are devalued and have become such a frenzy of big names, explosions and tight costumes.
Despite Hollywood unsurprisingly pumping out as many superhero films as they possibly can after many of them being enormously popular and successful, there are indications that the public could become disinterested, particularly when the filmmakers don’t get it right. Several have flopped at the box office ( The Green Lantern (2011), Fanastic Four (2015)) and it’s not surprising since they have such a large number with high standards to compare to; they must now be absolutely perfect to win our support. We want things to replicate the universes created by the comic books and if they are not then all hell will break loose. For example, Look at when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in last years Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice; we didn’t want Affleck! He’d already failed us in Daredevil, and with virtual riots erupting on internet forums, social media and movie fan sites, we expressed our displeasure and disgust for the studio to do such a thing to us, (although the casting of Affleck definitely got us talking in a genius marketing ploy and we were ready to challenge every part about his performance should he not meet our expectations. I think he didn’t do too badly in the end…). Sometimes a different interpretation of a character can rejuvenate a dying superhero, Henry Cavil as Superman and Zack Snyder as a fresh director for the Superman franchise in Man
of Steel, fought the metaphorical Kryptonite, for many the style and performance put faith back into the Superman story.
Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spiderman in The Amazing Spiderman (2012) sparked interest a decade on from the original cinematic release. Now, this could also have been to do with the fact that we, as superhero movie fans, could not
wait to see the Avengers and Justice League coming together (I’d been eagerly anticipating the announcement of the Justice League movie for years before it was officially announced) I was just pleased to see a solid, stable actor doing a fairly decent job of playing the role. For me It sparked hope that there was going to be some continuity when the characters all crossover from their separate realms and continue to grow and meld together in the upcoming Marvel and DC films.
With the market being so dominated and overrun by Marvel and DC often retelling the same old tales is the hype fading? Are we as excited as we once where when we go to see a long-awaited Marvel or DC film? For now, in my opinion, that’s enough remakes. Hollywood needs to move on. The remakes have done what they needed to do and I don’t want to watch the same heroes doing the same things. I don’t think that it is exciting enough anymore to simply see our favourite heroes retelling the same stories. We want to see bigger, better, more exciting things and the magic of Marvel and DC universes could be lost if they fail to deliver higher standards in each subsequent movie that is released. We need awesome special effects and well written screenplays that show the personalities of each character and well researched interwoven realms as a setting in which the stories are told. As an audience we now demand many elements to our movies, we want witty character interaction, sarcasm, Oscar worthy acting performances, make up, costumes and special effects. How can they keep up with public demand if they continue to release such high volumes of films? How can they make each one better when the standards are already set so high?
One way the market could keep interest could be to continue the focus on the growing interest in our Hero’s villain counterparts, the characters that we love to hate. Heath Ledgers twisted and tainted performance in The Dark Knight (2008) mesmerised audiences and the villain became popularised and discussed like never before. This piece of acting won many awards, including an Oscar in 2009 for best performance by an actor in a supporting role, great critical acclaim and such an emotional, bittersweet response after the actors untimely death. I believe Ledger’s performance was a pinnacle moment for the villain and it became clear at this there was so much more to be done with the superhero movie; maybe even a new genre altogether. The highly anticipated Suicide Squad will be released later this year with a star-studded cast including Oscar award-winning Jared Leto as the Joker promising us a performance to rival Ledger’s with his dedication to produce a twisted, psychopathic character. The superhero movie certainly doesn’t have to be all about the big, burly hero anymore with a flashy cape replicating the amazing superman from over six decades ago. We also had he success of Deadpool earlier this year, Marvels popular anti-hero grossing over $700m worldwide and the sequel has already been announced. Deadpool is disgusting and crude and but as an audience we loved it. Maybe the dark, gritty world as portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool has actually refreshed revitalised the superhero genre to keep its increasingly desensitized market entertained. Today’s media has opened our eyes to so much more than we could have ever seen before the internet existed and I am sure it is becoming more and more challenging for Hollywood’s writers to keep the average moviegoers entertained.
If the Hollywood film industry can find a way to stop squeezing and stretching what is already there, and continue on to develop fresh and exciting ideas, I would be excited to see what awaits. I don’t want to see Peter Parker’s uncle Ben killed again or Bruce Wayne’s troubled childhood being retold, or Superman’s struggles with being in the human world, at least not for a few more decades, anyway. I am, however, excited to see what Suicide Squad can bring to the table and what will happen to the next generation of superhero films. I can’t help but think that even the new Justice League film which is due to be released in 2017 may be a tad disappointing, if the movie is relying on the spectacle of all the characters coming together, it’s been done now and I’m unsure if it will be as exciting to see as it was in Avengers Assemble. Hollywood will really need to pull off something unique to top the success of its rival gang.