Friday, October 17, 2014

Superhero Movies: Will the "Bubble" Burst Soon?

This week alone has been huge for the future game-plans for both Marvel and DC. While DC showcased their official schedule of films in their official DC Cinematic Universe, Marvel announced that Robert Downey Jr. will appear in "Captain America 3" and it seems that perhaps Marvel has several more event films up their sleeves besides a two-part "Avengers 3." film. None of it is particularly surprising at this point. Ten years ago, it was a big deal when our favorite superheroes started showing up on the big-screen. Even though we had superheroes on the big screen as early as 1978, the superhero movie really got popular after 2000 and 2002. Hollywood saw just how gigantically successful "X-Men" and "Spiderman" were and thus spawned a new deal in Hollywood: "If it makes money, oversell the shit out of it."

This is not just happening in the superhero genre, after "Lord of the Rings" opened huge, just about every movie based on a teen fantasy novel series is being adapted for the big screen now. It is both a curse and a blessing that Hollywood has adopted this business model, for a very simple reason, for every good movie, there is at least two bad movies. After the success of both "X-Men" and "Spiderman," Hollywood began greenlighting superhero films like crazy, as did DC. Can anyone remember the superhero films that came out between 2002 and 2008, or did you completely wipe them from your memories? Here, I'll remind you, "Daredevil," "Hulk," "Elektra," "Ghost Rider," "Superman Returns," "Fantastic Four," "Spiderman 3," these films just did not have the same impact that "X-Men" and "Spiderman" did, and even though we got a "X2," "Spiderman 2" and "Batman Begins" between those years, it was clear that the studios wanted our money, and did seem to care much about the quality of their pictures.

In 2008, that all changed, and the studios began to work harder to make movies that would make money and be overwhelming for the audiences. Putting the Avengers hook into fanboys was a genius move in 2008, but so was making something as epic as "The Dark Knight." Suddenly in 2008, superhero movies were not just event films anymore, they became a business. While we still get a bad superhero movie every once in awhile, the trend has been pretty good so far. But some people are starting to worry that this could change quick.

I should not say that "Hollywood's new deal" was new. Hollywood does this every few decades, if  something sells well, every studio will join in and create a river of profit. Just look at the Western genre today, while some artists are working tooth-and-nail to revive it, the Western genre has faded out. That seems mostly due to the over-abundance of Western films from the 1950's to the 1970's. That is a lot of time to make several Westerns and its easy to see how audiences could have got burned out by them. This makes me sad, as I feel the Western is our country's mythology. Cowboys are for America as samurai are for Japan. The Western explains us as Americans and for everyone else they are unique fables. I wish more Westerns were getting made, but when they do, they seldom do well and it seems the repercussions of over-saturation still live on. The same can be said about the gangster movie after the 1920's and 1930's. Yes, tons of gangster movies came afterward and many of them are popular now. But gangster movies are far and in-between, which in my opinion is good.

Many people think the same thing is about to happen with superhero movies. It seems that very soon after a decade or two of five superhero movies per year, audiences are beginning to become burned-out. Even Robert Downey Jr. said himself that superhero movies are getting old. When actors are saying it themselves, it hard not to raise an eyebrow at this ordeal. But Marvel has laid out for us that its cinematic universe may not be going anywhere anytime soon. On the other side of the coin, DC has announced that they have several movies planned each year until 2020. I also have to add that none of this includes "Spiderman" at Sony, "X-Men" with Fox, "Fantastic Four" getting rebooted, "Deadpool" and anything else that may slip through the radar. All of this begs the question: Will the superhero movie bubble burst soon? Will audiences get so overly-saturated with superhero movies that the subgenre becomes unpopular? It would be sad if did, especially since Marvel and DC have laid out some pretty ambitious groundwork for their futures this week. A lot is riding on "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," and if DC and WB are serious about their schedule, then their World's Finest film has to hit audiences. Sure, its going to have a big opening weekend, its the two most iconic superheroes sharing the big screen for the first time, but the momentum can drop if the film is bad. If that momentum does drop, then DC will second guess this schedule they have worked so hard to put together. Despite being a Marvel boy, I do wish DC best, and it is cool to finally see some different competition within this sub-genre.

As for Marvel, well they have been off-and-running since 2008, carefully and systematically creating a cohesive shared universe of movies. They have worked really hard to get there, and if DC begins to steal the lime-light from them, Marvel should still be incredibly happy with what they have accomplished. They have changed what can be done with filmmaking (Seriously, I hear that Universal wants a "Universal Monsters" universe of films, and that King Arthur and Robin Hood are next to have their own shared universe franchises too) and nothing can take away what they have achieved, not even Ben Affleck or Henry Cavil. The thing is, whatever this big story Marvel has planned, I want it to be fulfilled. I want them to finish what they have started, and if this cinematic bubble bursts, nobody may be able to see that conclusion.

Am I crazy or am I on to something? I really want to hear what people have to say about this. Are we reaching a critical saturation point with this sub-genre or is it a genre built to last? Honestly, I don't know, I can personally do with five superhero movies a year, but I obviously don't speak for everybody. So what are you thinking?


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