Are We Tired of Superheroes?

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This has been the summer of the superheroes. With Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, and Captain America: The First Avenger all coming out within the past few months, they’ve certainly shown that they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Or are they?

Though most of these releases haven’t fared badly (let’s not speak of Green Lantern…), they also haven’t exactly lit up the box office either. Of course this could be attributed to unfamiliarity. Most of the works being released, with the exception of X-Men: First Class, aren’t based on well-known or well-loved characters.

A recent L.A. Times article said as much, quoting analyst Vasily Karasyov as saying, “After a decade of going through comic book character catalogs in search of franchise material, studios are finding it harder and harder to make superhero films work at the box office”.

But consider Iron Man, which wasn’t based on a well-known character yet blew up the box office and saved Robert Downey, Jr.’s career. So then, is it possible that we’re just experiencing superhero fatigue?  A quick search around any Internet message board will certainly tell you so, and it isn’t too hard to imagine. For over ten years now there really hasn’t been a year without one, and that’s a cycle that doesn’t look to be broken anytime soon. Taking a look through film history can show how trends have come and gone through the industry, maybe this is just a trend that’s starting to overstay its welcome.

But in the very same L.A. Times article, Warner Bros. president Jeff Robinov pretty much disagrees with that statement. “I don’t believe there is superhero fatigue,” he says, “Every year there are half a dozen or more horror films and comedies. Superheroes have become a genre of their own and if you deliver, there’s an audience.”

The failure of Green Lantern aside, I feel like he made some good points. But quite frankly, I don’t feel like there’s a definite answer right now. I think it really comes down to personal taste, and whether or not you’re tired of watching superheroes on screen. While Marvel’s titles might not have been runaway blockbusters, the numbers proved that there’s still an audience out there for it. Plus I think it’s a safe enough bet to say that The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises will be making their money back. Let’s not forget about this great experiment known as The Avengers.

On a personal level, I say keep ‘em coming. I feel like there are enough diverse characters and personalities in the comic book world to keep these films healthy and interesting, and if you ask me they’ve really hit a nice stride. It wasn’t long ago that most offerings weren’t worth the money, but thanks in a large part to Marvel Studios there’s been an increase in fun, quality entertainment.  Plus there are films like Defendor and James Gunn’s Super that can show a nice bit of diversity and prove that not all masked vigilantes have to come from a comic page.

But who really knows? Maybe in a couple years time the audience for superheroes will dry up completely, and studios will have to scramble to find the next big thing. But for right now, it’s mostly coming down to how you feel. So is there a true hero fatigue? I’m going to go ahead and say not quite yet.

Until next time, true believers! I hope Stan Lee hasn’t copyrighted that.

  1. Herculine says

    Iron Man wasn’t based on a well-known character? I’d be willing to debate that.

    I think the sudden deluge of super hero movies can be largely attributed to continuing improvements in CGI technology. Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Hulk were all heavy on the CGI in lieu of actual actors performing but still raked in the dough. I think we can expect this trend to continue for several more years to come.

  2. Joe says

    Green Lantern was a good film. You geeks have no cencept of film making.

  3. RPM says

    Well well, just happened to find this article in the NewsDesk of the Avengers IMDB page. You certainly are moving up in the world, Mr. Bitterman.

    I would love for superhero movies to continue for years to come, as long as they continue to be well-made and feeling fresh. Or at the very least, I’d like that Flash movie before the trend starts to wane in popularity.

  4. Cristo says

    I agree with the comment above, if there is superhero movies fatigue is because there are a lot of origins stories and being honest almost all superheros origins movies have the same formula, the same hero path and same cliches, it may sound weird but perhaps the best way to save the superhero movie genre is releasing more sequels, or new superhero movies without having to tell their whole origin. As for the quality of the new movies it looks like the movie companies are taking the genre more seriously; Sony rebooting the Spiderman and Ghost Rider franchises with directors more akin to their respectively themes, Fox trying to save the X-Men franchise first with X-Men: First Class and its sequel(s) and hopefully with the next Wolverine installment and of course Marvel with is ever growing franchises. I just hope Warner Bros. can get their act together, TDKR is a sure bet but Green Lantern hurt the superhero genre considering its fat budget but critical and financial fail and Superman is not sure bet either even if its being directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Chris Nolan, I hope they could save the Green Lantern and create more successful franchises like maybe the Flash, but I’m not too confident about the JLA movie either.

  5. Kate Kulzick says

    Nice article, Wiliam. Are we tired of Superheroes? Maybe not as a whole, but I for one am. More than anything, I’m tired of origin stories. For a while, filmmakers could get away with pretty much any story that had superheroes, but the time when my interest was piqued by anything superheroy is long over. The market has been flooded over the past several years with mediocre to bad superhero movies, with only a few strong entries separating themselves from the bunch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely interested in The Dark Knight Rises and Avengers, but that’s due to their directors, not their subjects. I don’t think I’m alone either- I think the blank check of public interest in superheroes that the studios have been counting on has been cashed. Or maybe I just hope.

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