Superhero movies have been popular for more than a decade, drawing audiencesto theaters and filling the box-office coffers of the major movie studios.They strike a chord in audiences, resonating on an emotional level, resoundingwith the modern world’s ever-growing sense of disillusionment with the ordinariness oflife and its seeming meaninglessness. In particular, superhero movies oftencontain complex themes, such as choosing ambition and success overextended and comfortable familiarity. They also elevate the audience, providingeven the most grueling of life’s obstacles with a sense of hopeful enthusiasm. Buthow long can a genre such as this remain the reigning box-office hit?Is there a limit to its viability?
Many experts in the industry are of the opinion that the superhero moviegenre has a limited shelf life, and that the genre will inevitably die out in time.The primary reason for this opinion is the fact that the superhero moviegenre relies heavily on the same basic elements for continued popularity. Theseelements, such as grandiose action sequences, special effects, larger-than-life characters, and improbable storylines, can only sustain a movie genre for so long. Hence,perhaps the only thing keeping the superhero movie genre alive is its ability toshock or surprise.When these shock factors wear out, the genre will quickly become stale and will no longer be popular.
This opinion is shared by the growing number of moviegoers who have becomebored of the same old caped crusaders on the silver screen. Consumers areincreasingly searching for unique stories, ones that challenge traditionalstereotypes and narratives, and often find themselves disappointed with thelatest superhero installments. A recent study published by The HollywoodReporter found that fewer young consumers are attending superhero films,which will undoubtedly hasten the genre’s downfall. It is worth noting thatalthough there has been a slight increase in box-office numbers for superherofilms in 2017, the overall trend indicates a reduction in audience numbers.
In light of this data, is it fair to say that superhero movies are not long forthis world? Not necessarily. It may be the case that the genre simply needsto reinvigorate itself, to find new ways to engage with audiences. Some haveproposed a move away from the melancholic narrative of the hero whoclaims to be a beacon of justice and a symbol of hope, as this fantasy hasbecome outdated. Others believe it is time to return to the roots of the genre,focusing on the difficulties of being a superhero and the psychologicalimportance of their figures in the world today. Such a narrative approachcould renew interest in the genre and provide audiences with the cornucopiaof storylines they crave.
Exploring New Superhero Narratives
Experts suggest that away from the traditional model of superhero films, many untapped themes are waiting to be explored. These could provide unique storylinesfor films, allowing them to move away from the traditional themes that havebeen explored for decades. Such themes may include exploring the ethicalquestions posed by super-humanity, delving deeper into the psychology ofsuperheroes, and creating an overarching narrative that extends across multiple films.
Furthermore, subverting the traditional superhero narrative couldprovide audiences with a much-needed alternative. Many films have recentlydabbled in a more tongue-in-cheek approach, mocking the traditional superhero narrative while still manage to retaining its core elements. Such films havenot only been popular with audiences but have also achieved critical success.Examples include the recent Marvel films, such as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’and ‘Deadpool’, as well as the ‘ Lego Movie’ franchise.
Risk of Superhero Fatigue
However, these films have also been criticized for cashing in on the samecliches that have been explored by other films, creating what is commonlyreferred to as ‘superhero fatigue’. This is the feeling of a lack of innovation,a lack of freshness in the plots of superhero films. It is the feeling thatwhile the core elements of the genre remain unchanged, the films tend to butsame-y and repetitive in execution.
Essentially, superhero fatigue is the result of a lack of variety, a lack ofdiversity. When the superhero genre ceases to evolve and develop, orworse, becomes stagnant, then interest begins to wane. This is the dangerfacing the genre today, and is the primary reason why some question howlong the genre can last.
Reinvigorating the Genre by Introducing Antiheroes
Perhaps the way to solve this problem is to introduce artists and storytellerswho are willing to try something different with the genre. Living proof isseen in the massive success of showrunners like Greg Berlanti, who createdthe successful DC Arrowverse show series that features a unique, innovativeinterpretation of the traditional superhero mythos. Similar progress can bemadethrough introducing antiheroes in superhero movies, as explored by themore recent darker DC films, ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘Birds of Prey.’
Such characters are essential to prevent superhero films from becoming anincreasingly predictable blueprint, and while they admittedly do not guaranteea return to the zenith of superhero film popularity, they are necessary to reinvigorate the genre. If filmmakers can push the boundaries and createfresh, innovative stories, there is a chance that superhero movies cancontinue to remain popular and viable as a genre.
Popularity of Marvel Cinematic Universe
The most recent evidence of this is the massive success of the MarvelCinematic Universe, a giant interconnected film series that aims tostylistically accomplish what the Marvel Comics universe has achieved in theprint universe. The key to the success of this series lies in the way itembraces and encourages an ever-expanding narrative. By introducing newcharacters, stories, and villains, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues tosurprise audiences and has been rewarded for its efforts.
The success of this series is clearly demonstrated by how it has surpassedits predecessors. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has outgrossed the DC Extended Universe not just in box-office numbers, but also in terms ofcritical acclaim. This points to the fact that audiences are yearning forfresh, new stories, and they will reward the genre when they get them. It isthis key characteristic that makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe the primeexample of superhero film success.
Inspiration from Graphic Novels
All of this suggests that filmmakers should look to the source material ofthe superhero genre for inspiration. Graphic novels have been and are stillthe primary source of storytelling for these stories, providing the basis forbetter-known characters and plotlines. If filmmakers can focus more onthese stories, be willing to experiment, and avoid the pitfalls cited above,there is hope that the genre can remain relevant and engage audiences foryears to come.
Resurgence of Antihero-driven Stories
There has been a recent surge in antihero-driven tales as seen in the MarvelNetflix series, ‘Daredevil’, ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘Luke Cage’, as well as ‘Suicide Squad’. The launch of these series, which saw the emergence ofcharacters who are morally ambiguous and push the boundaries of thetraditional superhero concept, spelt the beginning of a new type of superherostory.
This new style of storytelling was an attempt to shake up the traditionalmodel and find something fresh to captivate audiences, as well as reawakeninterest in the superhero genre. It is also an attempt to draw a newgeneration of viewers to the genre, as many of these shows appeal topopulations that are not traditionally superhero fans. This shows that thegenre is far from being dead in the water, and is instead undergoing anevolution from which both filmmakers and audiences can benefit.
Superhero Movies in the Future
It is clear that the superhero movie genre is not going anywhere anytime soon. However, it does appear that the genre will be forced to evolveand adapt to a changing landscape, one that is beginning to require moreinnovation and freshness. As long as filmmakers are willing to take risks andexplore the depths of their stories, the genre of superhero films will likelyremain popular.
Ultimately, the success of superhero films hinges on the ability of thefilmmakers to create stories that can captivate and surprise audiences. Aslong as this is kept in mind, then the genre may well remain popular fordecades to come.