Entertainment

The Risk of Superhero Burnout

ScreenCritics Andrew explores the potential for Superhero burnout – are audiences heading for cinematic fatigue over their super powered heroes?

Over this past few years it been almost impossible to miss the sheer glut of superhero films that have been released in the cinema. From Iron Man to Batman vs Superman, X-Men to Kick Ass, there’s been a sheer bevy of these films to excite audiences with characters that we either grew up reading about or discovering for the first time. But a potential pitfall of all this is, due to the sheer amounts of these films coming out, are we in danger of getting superhero fatigue?

Now if we were just to look at this question from a purely economical standpoint, it’s clear that the general population is still very much in favour of this genre with Marvel and DC continuously breaking the bank with the numbers their pictures take in. However as history will tell you, this boon of a specific genre can exist purely in a bubble and sooner or later, people will tire and begin to look for something new, eschewing the favoured genre in the process.

Back when motion pictures were in a somewhat golden period in the 1950’s and 60’s, westerns were all the rage and an almost sure-fire way to make money as well as keep people packing into the pictures. After a few years though, due of the sheer amount of these movies being released, everybody started to get a little tired of them and soon the old west become a somewhat ironic genre in its desolation with crowds soundly ignoring cowboy pictures for something different and new to their eyes and ears. Westerns have never really recovered from this either even to this day, with only a handful of titles making back their money and quite a few essentially becoming a niche title due to the general lack of interest so becomes a risky proposition for studios to fund as they do not see a guaranteed return.

The same could be said for gangster movies which had a renaissance of sorts in the late 1980’s and 90’s thanks to the popularity of Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola. Now whilst these films have not had as big a downfall as westerns, they are no longer the powerhouse genre that they once were with fewer of these being at the forefront of audiences minds bar a few examples such as True Grit (a remake in itself) and Django Unchained.

The main issue that can be seen with superhero movies is simply the sheer volume of them that are being released currently and with even more scheduled for the coming years, it can all get a bit much for the casual viewer to intake. A few superhero films can be great popcorn fodder for general audiences, but there is just far too many to choose from and for those who have to live on a tight budget, this will cause them to have to forgo certain titles due to this and miss out on a social experience as well a potential great tale. Not just that but the simple fact is that people could easily simply get sick of seeing the same storyline or characters being released one and time again and eventually no longer begin to care what happens so when a new film comes out, they skip it entirely. We’ve seen an example of this in the Spider-Man franchise which is currently on its 3rd reboot since 2002 and audiences generally were disinterested in the last release with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just a few short years ago in 2014. Sony have now had to gain the support of the Marvel machine to try and bring life back into the character they so heavily rely on as a franchise and tent pole character for the studio.

In the next eight months alone we have a cavalcade of superhero pictures still to come with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Wonder-Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Justice League and Thor: Ragnarök all due to be released and with this type of line up becoming the norm on the cinema schedules for the year (and that’s ignoring the other pictures we’ve already had this year), it could simply be too much for some. Next year looks to be just as busy, if not more so and as long as these films continue to bring in the revenue the studios crave, then these films will keep being produced.

There are some small signs that audiences are starting to look elsewhere for different titles and tales to be told and unique films now being a more desired property. Due to the sheer dominance of the super-hero genre, there has been an obvious decline in counter-programming being released at the same time frame as these franchise pictures. Years ago the industry revelled in the prospect of two major motion pictures going head to head vying for audience’s attention in somewhat friendly competition, but now many of these other titles are simply moved to an alternate date so as not to falter right out of the gate and have the best chance they can. Several titles released earlier this year that saw success such as Split and Get Out would not have had nearly as much success as they did if they had been released the same day as a Marvel or DC movie, at this point it’s almost a fact to state that.

What bears the question though is this, how much is too much? I myself am someone who shivered with excitement when a large number of these titles were announced to be released on the silver screen and have on a number of occasions gone to midnight releases and bled the bank account dry just to witness these stories. But as time goes on and the calendar gets continuously cramped, I find myself personally getting less and less enthused when one of these films is on the horizon and that’s a sad feeling to have. The cinema is a brilliant place where we witness wonderful tales in front of very eyes that can at times be hard to believe are real but transport us away, and to lose that feeling of anticipation and excitement would be a great shame.

Superhero films do not need to go away, far from it as they are a type of picture that can finally be released how they were meant to when first conceptualised thank to modern technology. However the industry needs to be extremely careful that they don’t overfeed the audience to the point that they no longer want to consume these films. It’s a fine line to walk so let’s hope these studios don’t tip the balance too much otherwise yet again it will become too much of a good thing.

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