I’ve been hearing for quite some time now that there is an over saturation of superhero films and that eventually, they will die. The first time I heard this from mainstream media was in 2013, when The Wolverine was released. It was considered a big flop opening weekend, and to the mainstream media (let’s be honest, they don’t care for these films anyway), the idea was that there was an oversaturation of films and that is why it failed to reach the heights of others. But of course, I shouted at the TV as if the guy on the news could hear me that the reason it didn’t make blockbuster-type money was because the first film was horrible. Instead, fans failed to support a sequel that would lead them to great disappointment again. What that news reporter failed to take see was, in addition to being a sequel, The Wolverine was doomed to fail because 2012 was the year of Avengers, Iron Man 3, and Man of Steel.
Since 2013, there have been eight relatively known superhero films. Some have had great box office success while others failed miserably (here’s looking at you Fantastic Four). And if you’ve seen Marvel’s or WB’s list of films for now through 2020, there are many more. And yet, for every five that succeed, we tend to hear that the genre is dying because of the few that fail. If there is any indication that it isn’t quite the genre, if not what part of the genre is alive, look no further than the recent advance sales on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Obviously, Star Wars is in another category on its own in terms of franchise, but bear with me for a second. The craziness that is Star Wars can be seen at any [insert name] Comic-Con there is. The rise in popularity in Cosplay and sold out conventions tells you that this genre is very much alive and well. It’s why Marvel Studios did all they can to get the rights back (shared, but still it’s a start) to Spider-Man after watching Sony botch him up. It’s why WB is finally taking a more serious interest in their DC Comics line and starting to follow Marvel’s footsteps in creating a cinematic universe. It’s why shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, and the soon-to-be hit Supergirl (which I anticipate will do very well) are so popular. This genre is not dying, because for the current generation and the one to come, superheroes are important, and it is important that they be done right.
Most DC fans will probably hate me for this, but the truth is the truth. We should all thank Marvel Studios for the direction that the genre is going. When they went out of their way (and budget at the time) to make the first Iron Man film, they laid down the foundation of a cinematic universe that would lead to an Avengers movie. This changed the landscape of Hollywood and the consumer drastically. What the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises couldn’t do under FOX and Sony respectively, Marvel Studios did with a lesser popular hero. It’s all about doing it right, and Marvel Studios has done it right. Not all their films have been the best ever made, but they’ve created a trust with the general public that they are able to have a plan that leads all the way to 2020.
Warner Bros. found out the hard way, as did FOX and Sony, that just making a film with these characters is not enough. Neither studio took any of their properties seriously enough (outside of Batman at Warner Bros.), but Marvel’s success changed the game forever. It is that trust that Marvel has built with consumers that will carry forward for next few years as long as they continue to deliver. That trust allowed Guardians of The Galaxy and Ant-Man to exceed expectations. It is that trust that they hope will restore Spider-Man while introducing more new heroes in the near future. One can only hope that Warner Bros. gains that same trust with their upcoming films (because let’s face it, as fans we want them succeed).
I ask myself, why are superheroes important? What is it about Spider-Man or Batman that makes people want to go out in droves to see them on film? How was it that a giant tree and talking raccoon stole the hearts of so many to make the most obscure team in Marvel become one of their best and most popular film franchises? I think there is something about superheroes that we all either relate or aspire to. It’s a great escape from reality that for a moment brings us into a world that is much better than the one we are in (so we think). Maybe there is a void in us that temporarily gets filled when we see these heroes on the big screen. The idea that Peter Parker can be Spider-Man or Bruce Wayne can overcome tragedy to become a threat to the criminal underworld inspires us. No hero is like the other, but the heroes that resonate the most are the ones who we tend to relate with more outside of the costume. The right actor, the right story, the right effects brings us to a world where we want to see more of, and is far from its death bed.
Whether we know it or agree with it, maybe it is because we are in need of a hero that superheroes are so popular and important to us. Are we wired that way? I believe so. We are souls that yearn for our hero and creator. I believe that is why we are so drawn to these films lately. It is not only because they are finally actually worth watching, but because they temporarily fill that void. The truth of the matter is, only one superhero can fill that void now and forever. He’s the originator of sacrificing Himself for us. He’s the original “returns from the dead” as he resurrected after three days. And in a mythos where Thor, Loki, Superman, Thanos, and so much more overwhelm our thoughts of powerful beings and gods among us, Captain America’s statement in the first Avengers film rings true:
“There’s only One God ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that”
So is the superhero genre in film dying? I don’t this so. Is it soon to be oversaturated and overwhelming? Possibly so! But through it all, it will remain and will succeed, as long as they continue to keep our trust in them.