The hot summer days of waiting in line to see spandex-clad heroes are long gone, as are the packed theatres where leatherbound screen characters suplex fools accompanied by the hardest of nu-metal audio. The current cinematic age is no longer speckled by these films but dominated by them. Where viewers once had a sometimes years-long gaps between movies, it’s now odd to have a wait before the newest release draws the droves to the nearest multiplex. It’s begun to feel like this age of giants may never end.
The overabundance of superhero films is not to say that the quality or creativity is a diminishing return. This year we have seen a sequel to a space-hopping fantasy featuring a talking raccoon and David Hasselhoff, the first Wonder Woman film, and a John Hughes high school Spiderman movie.
This type of genre packing is lucrative and a vehicle to test different angles to present these well-trodden stories. While the box office return on these films is still staggering, despite Justice League’s soft opening weekend, the five-year-plus plan for these continuing series brings forth a serious sense of ennui and a need for change in the industry.
With DC and Fox struggling to manage their franchises, the majority of their focus for the last decade has been on Disney and Marvel. This attention has brought a bevy of success their way, financially and critically. Yet the formula keeping the money ship together is beginning to wear and show its cracks.
If this genre is to continue to advance with audiences, it seems necessary for companies to take a step back and reevaluate. As with the horror flicks of the seventies and eighties, the superhero film has is over saturated with the repetitive nature of its current output. With new Avengers, Aquaman and Black Panther premieres due in the first half of 2018, the film industry must look to what will keep and gain traction with the masses.
Last year’s Deadpool, a raunchy action movie that happened to be about a potential superhero, seemed like a potential starting off point for the genre, but it’s still too early to judge how its impact will affect the trajectory of films to come. It seems that all they attempt to do is blend new styles into interesting concepts or follow the current raunchy template and not bother with the broad strokes. While one would hope otherwise, it seems as if the craze is still far from burning out. Audience members are still willing to dole out the cash for the newest spectacle.
Inflated box office returns do make it hard to judge worth. Well-made films are fun to watch and hard to ignore, but the constant onslaught of similar stories leads this writer to want a focus on deeper and more fulfilling material. Actions with consequences that reach beyond candy coated sagas and present moral quandaries beyond Thor crunching bad guys with his hammer. These heroes are well written enough to invite more creative implementations of their characters and I believe the genre may just be big enough to begin telling those stories.