In the decade since its release, the modern superhero movie has found itself at the center of popular culture. In the wake of blockbuster hits such as The Avengers, Dark Knight, and Captain America, superhero movies have become a huge box office draw with revenues from the last few years eclipsing other types of movies. However, some analysts have begun asking whether the superhero movie boom is about to come to an end, and if so, what will be the cause of its demise? In this article, we investigate whether superhero movies are reaching the end of their run and what the implications are for the future of Hollywood.
Current State of the Superhero Movie
Although superhero movies have had a great deal of success over the past decade or so, there are some indications that the genre is beginning to run out of steam. For one thing, the box office receipts have started to decline after years of steady growth. In 2019, for example, the combined gross for the ten highest-grossing superhero movies was $3.8 billion, which is down from $4.4 billion in 2018. It’s also worth noting that many of the superhero movies released in 2019 underperformed relative to expectations. That’s not to say that superhero movies are dead – far from it – but it does suggest that the genre may be reaching a saturation point.
Producer Burns Out
Another factor that may be contributing to the decline of superhero movies is the “burnout” of major producers. For years, Marvel has been the driving force behind the genre’s success, but they’ve recently announced that they’re scaling back production and focusing more on television. The same is true of DC, which has seen a decline in its box office numbers over the past few years, causing them to pivot away from big-budget movies and towards more modestly-budgeted projects. The bottom line here is that without major studios pumping money into the genre, the genre will inevitably become less of a box office draw.
Perhaps the most important factor in the decline of superhero movies is audience exhaustion. In the past decade, we’ve had dozens of superhero movies, with few new takes on the genre, and audiences have grown tired of the same old storylines. Part of the problem is that the genre has become too focused on spectacle, with giant CG-fueled brawls and massive explosions taking the place of more subtle character development and story arcs. People are still interested in superhero movies, but they’re becoming more demanding in terms of what they want to see, and the studios are having a hard time keeping up.
It’s also worth mentioning that, while superhero movies may be on the decline, franchise films are still doing well. In fact, the success of films such as Star Wars, Jurassic World, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe suggests that audiences are still interested in epic, long-running stories that span multiple films. The problem is that once a franchise reaches a certain point, it can start to suffer from what’s commonly referred to as “franchise fatigue”, the kind of audience exhaustion we’ve seen with superhero films. This is something that all studios need to be aware of when launching new franchises, as it could mean the end of a series even before it has had a chance to really get going.
Criticism of Superhero Movies
Additionally, there has been a growing criticism of superhero movies in recent years, with some critics arguing that they’re “overly clichéd” and “formulaic”. This has led to some studios shying away from the genre and focusing their efforts on other types of films. Additionally, the critical response to some of the most recent superhero films has been lukewarm at best, indicating that audiences may be getting tired of the genre as a whole.
Over-saturation of the Market
Finally, it’s worth noting that the sheer number of superhero films released in recent years has led to an over-saturation of the market. With so many films being released, it’s become increasingly difficult for any one movie to stand out, leading to some films being overlooked or ignored. This has resulted in lower box office returns for some films, as well as a general sense of “sameness” across the genre.
Conclusion of the Decline
To be clear, superhero movies are not dead or even dying, but they are definitely in a state of flux. There are still some major successes, like Marvel’s Black Panther, but overall, ticket sales and critical response indicate that the genre has reached a saturation point. The question now is what will happen next, as studios pivot away from the genre and focus on other types of films. It’s possible that the superhero movie will make a comeback in the future, but for now, it appears to be in a state of decline.
Rise of Superhero TV Series
One potential result of the declining interest in superhero movies is the rise of superhero TV series. We’ve already seen hits like The Flash, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones, and more are likely to come as studios look for a way to continue to capitalize on the superhero craze. In addition to providing a new way to tell superhero stories, TV series also provide a way to tell longer and more complex stories than movies are able to, allowing for a much deeper exploration of characters and plotlines.
Superhero Movies Under New Management
Another possible outcome of the superhero movie boom waning is that studios will look to new companies to take over the reins. We’ve already seen evidence of this as Sony has handed over the Spider-Man franchise to Marvel, and other studios are likely to follow suit. This could lead to new and exciting takes on the genre as well as a renewed interest in superhero movies as a whole.
Rise of Independent Superhero Films
Finally, it’s possible that the current state of the superhero movie industry could lead to a rise in independent and low-budget superhero films. As studios focus on more mainstream fare, independent filmmakers may be able to take advantage of the opportunity to tell unique and interesting stories with smaller budgets. In addition, the success of smaller films like Kick-Ass and Deadpool could lead to a renewed interest in taking risks with superhero movies.
New Superhero Movie Genres
In addition to a potential rise in independent superhero films, the waning interest in superhero movies could also lead to the creation of new genres within the genre. We’ve already seen evidence of this in 2018 with the release of The Incredibles 2, which was a far cry from the typical superhero movie. The success of this film could lead to more movies that take bigger risks and push the boundaries of what’s possible with superhero movies.
Alternative Platforms for Superhero content
Finally, it’s possible that the waning interest in superhero movies could lead to the rise of alternative platforms for superhero content. With streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu gaining in popularity, it’s likely that more superhero stories will be told on these platforms. It would also provide a way for filmmakers to tell more intimate stories, as well as explore darker and more mature themes that wouldn’t be possible in a big-budget movie.