The latest comic book adaptation, The Kingsman: The Golden Circle shot into cinemas this week and coming soon to Ragna-Rock our worlds are Thor: Ragnarok from Marvel and Justice League from DC Comics. It is an appropriate time to reflect on the current state of the comic book and superhero film industry.
Superhero and comic book movies have been around for decades, with Marvel and DC Comics both releasing films for various characters on their rosters to varying degrees of success. Fast forward to 2008, the current Marvel Cinematic Universe was only beginning to be established, with the film rights still lingering with other studios. Only Spider-Man and X-Men were being released at the time to mixed acclaim. DC on the other hand were killing it with Christopher Nolan‘s grounded take on Batman, but with few other successful releases. Superhero movies have grown significantly in popularity due to these revolutionary films and universes being built. Fans are always clamouring for more. We are now getting at least three movies a year from each studio, so the question must be asked, are too many superhero films too much of a good thing?
A Simpler Time
With the recent superhero boom there is a large risk of a flooded marketplace that is already starting to occur. From 2000 to 2008 DC had only released 7 comic book movies, whereas Marvel characters appeared in 16, with most of those released by Fox or Sony. People had time to process and appreciate each story for its own merits. There were no connected universes, X-Men in 2000 was followed three years later by X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand followed in 2005 to end the trilogy. The stories were either self contained with subtle easter eggs to please comic book fans, or set up a basic trilogy with an overarching plot. This was occurring over a period of several years and people could pick and choose which superhero films they wanted to see, without missing a vital plot point.
Crisis On Infinite Film Scheduling
Flash forward to the present. Interconnected universes have been built up for almost a decade by Marvel and DC have started building their movie universe in the last few years. Marvel’s films in particular started off standalone with the big payoff leading to each hero combining in the Avengers. However, once the Avengers was released something changed. In the following phase 2 movies, the initial heroes who had movies in phase one got sequels like Iron Man and Captain America, but we also got new characters introduced like the Guardians of the Galaxy. Even more characters have been introduce in phase 3. These new characters resulted in more movies being churned out more regularly. Instead of having one or two Marvel films each year, we are getting three to four. DC have also built their universe which is quickly accumulating to two to three movies each year as well. Add to the mix Fox and and the Netflix television series and we have upwards of ten superhero properties released each year.
To make matters even more alarming, Marvel, Fox, Sony and DC have all released their upcoming superhero films well past the year 2020, with many still yet to be officially announced. Films based off Marvel properties will consist of 13 movies within the span of three years. DC have 6 films coming out, with 13 yet to have release dates announced. Five of those unannounced films are from the Bat Family. While it is great we get to see the characters we have always adored come to life on the big screen, when does it become too much? Movie tickets are no longer cheap, and add a gimmick like 3D to the mix or a deluxe screening and the ticket could cost upwards of $40. People turn to piracy for a reason. Unfortunately, when they do the movies don’t perform at the box office and we don’t get another sequel. The constant news updates, plot and casting rumours, and turmoil many studios find themselves in bring a sense of dread to the industry instead of promise and excitement. Rather than focusing on world building and making as much money as possible to develop these characters in as many movies as possible, focusing on developing strong stories and connecting with the viewers is needed. This may mean less quantity but greater quality.
House Of Ideas Collapsing?
Marvel’s success is quickly becoming it’s greatest downfall. It is difficult to argue that the plots in recent MCU films have been compelling. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was nothing more than a cash grab, and while I enjoyed it, was very similar to the first film. Doctor Strange was a essentially a mystical origin along the same lines of Iron Man. They have exhausted their best characters that they have the rights to and are now venturing into C and D list territory, which audiences aren’t familiar. There is no doubting that the MCU is an amazing accomplishment, but it isn’t flawless. Audience fatigue set in around the time of Avengers: Age of Ultron. No longer are films standalone, they feel more like crossovers featuring different Avengers characters to constantly remind of the interconnected universe. Captain America: Civil War felt like Age of Ultron 2.5. Even more frustrating is that key moments from each movie have played a dramatic part in establishing the next, with each film feeling like a trailer for what’s to come. It makes people feel the need to see a movie they may not care about. I’m sorry but Ant Man and Captain Marvel will struggle to carry their own movies into sequel territory. The films have come to reflect the way comic books operate, which is precarious territory given that the comic book market is suffering from over saturation as well.
The measure for fan wants and needs should be carefully balanced. Given the poor performance of Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman, in an effort to rush through projects and cram as many characters and plot points as possible turned the majority of people away from DC movies. Acknowledging this, change occurred in Wonder Woman, focusing on the elements that make the character great, while telling a grounded tale. The overwhelmingly positive response to this film is a wake up call for the studios to reconsider what makes a true superhero film. The standalone film should not be ignored if there is a good story to tell and focus on building the character, rather than pushing forward to the next film.
Is This Ragnarok For The Superhero Genre?
I personally love the superhero movies coming out, but even I’ve started to grunt and moan at some of the scheduling and amount of movies coming out. It seems like one huge superhero blockbuster gets released one week, and a few weeks later the next is released. It is becoming daunting. We even get trailers for a movie six months out, before the studio has released its upcoming movie. We got a Thor trailer in April before Spider-Man: Homecoming was released in June.
Superhero fatigue would likely not be such a problem if it was just Marvel and DC releasing movies, but given the other companies building their movie universes as well it’s going to become too much. The superhero boom could soon come crashing down due to overwhelming exhaustion and growing stale on unique ideas, which makes me sad as a good superhero movie like Captain America: Winter Soldier or Iron Man are really enjoyable. Even if the boom comes crashing, the resiliency of the superhero genre is bound to come back to the forefront in a new manner. One thing is for sure, there is no sign of any comic book studio slowing down, we can only go along for the ride.
What are your thoughts on the state of superhero films? Are you enjoying the increasing release of comic book films, or are you getting over it? What do you think needs to change? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know in the comments.