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So Much For The Death Of Superhero Movies

Well, if there’s one sure way of showing critics who suggest that the superhero movie genre is running out of steam that they’re wrong, it’s making sure that Captain America: The First Avenger has a more successful opening weekend than any other superhero movie this year with the exception of Thor (More successful than Batman Begins, for that matter). So does this mean that superheroes are here to stay?

I’ll admit, I was one of those who was convinced that this year’s crop of superhero movies – Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America and X-Men: First Class – was going to be a tipping point for the genre; before we entered the summer season, I was sure that Thor would do well, and then it’d be a case of diminishing returns, with Cap doing the worst of all of them – well, maybe not Hornet, but that wasn’t a summer movie, and you know what I mean – but as soon as First Class opened well and advance buzz on Cap started getting as positive as it did, I started wondering whether the genre had somehow transcended the usual genre glut rules and successfully become a mainstay. And then, last week, both Entertainment Weekly and Deadline Hollywood individually ran articles warning about the “death of superheroes,” just before Captain America‘s opening weekend proved them all wrong. So: Are superhero movies not going anywhere anytime soon?

The answer, at least in the short term, is “Sure.” This was the risky year for superhero movies as a genre: Outside of X-Men – a franchise that had been critically devalued by X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine – there weren’t any names really recognizable to a mainstream, non-comic-reading audience in this year’s batch of superheroes, and each movie had the additional problem of struggling with the problems of introducing new characters, explaining their origins and mythos and also giving audiences enough of a story that they wouldn’t feel like they’ve been expositioned at for two hours (Not that every movie managed that completely, as those of us who’ve seen Green Lantern know all too well). That audiences turned out in such numbers, and with such enthusiasm, suggests that there’s no sign of “Superhero fatigue” just yet – and with next year’s superhero movies genuinely counting as “highly anticipated” (The Dark Knight Rises? Avengers? Come on, those are gimmes to be massive hits), the genre is safe enough until at least 2013.

What happens then – Once audiences have been given the climaxes of two franchises (Admittedly, one of multiple climaxes, in terms of Marvel’s Avengers franchise, but it’s clearly the thing that the movies have been building to since Iron Man 2 last year) – will be the next stress point for the genre. DC Entertainment faltered with Green Lantern, and there’ll be a lot of pressure on both Man of Steel and The Flash to provide the goods, while Iron Man 3 may prove to be an anti-climax after seeing the character team up with all those other superheroes just the year before. Given the potential promotional overkill that we’re likely to see surrounding next year’s The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers (to say nothing of The Amazing Spider-Man), I’d argue that 2013 should be like 2010… an essentially superhero-free summer, to let audiences catch their breaths and start to miss the colorful sturm-und-drang of the genre.

If this summer has proven anything, it’s that superheroes are a successful genre, when treated sensibly; that it’s not particular characters that audiences want to see, but well-done stories in that general genre and tone – This is the summer that showed superheroes passing from fad to something more permanent… as long as it’s treated with the care and attention it deserves (Part of that really is knowing when to stop overwhelming your audience, which might end up being the part that defeats Hollywood in general, considering its lack of history being a culture that understands the idea of “too much of a good thing”). Do that right, allow the genre to have slow periods to match the four-movies-in-four-months years, and… yeah. Weirdly enough, it really might be the case that superhero movies could end up being here to stay.

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Comments

  • Mikael_lives_here

    You do know that Thor had a bigger opening weekend right?
    http://boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=3221&p=.htm

  • Sknavis

    It was close, but Thor came out slightly ahead of Cap for the weekend. But really… Who cares? I’m not sure why you thought Cap would do poorly, Graeme. I thought the trailers for Cap, unlike some other movies (I’m looking at you, GL), looked great from the start and I was never concerned about it. Thor was a hit, and now it appears that Cap is too.

    What’s the big deal? A good, not to mention fun and entertaining movie is one that will generally find an audience. The whole “death of comic book movies” thing is just dumb. The Batman movies from the 80’s and 90’s got steadily worse with each release, and the Superman movies from a decade earlier had the same problem. But comic book movies didn’t die forever, now did they?

    Even when the market dries up again and/or the movies all start sucking again it’ll be time for a break. But comic book characters/superheroes will make a comeback yet again. If Marvel Studios keeps doing generally strong work, and if DC/WB can ever figure out how to make good movies that don’t only star Batman (crossing my fingers for “Man of Steel”), there can and will still be good comic book movies.

    You don’t hear anyone discuss “the death of comedies,” “the death of historical dramas” or “the death romantic chick-flicks”… Why comic books?

  • Shaun

    I meant to say that Cap’s opening weekend was slightly below Thor’s opening weekend… I wasn’t implying that Thor’s total *last* weekend was somehow higher than Cap’s!

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree.  The genre is not at fault here.  You can’t blame superheroes for the errors of corporate mortals. 

    http://mankabros.com/blogs/onmedea/2011/07/21/dont-blame-superman/

  • Anonymous

    More actual people saw Captain America opening weekend than Thor, however.  Thor played more screens and had a 60% 3D take, plus IMAX.  Cap had fewer screens and did a 40% 3D take with no IMAX.  People paid more money to see Thor, but more people actually saw Cap.

  • Boyblunder

    It’s kinda annoying how there’s always these articles debating and dissecting the superhero genre. Trying tomfigure out if their a fad or here to stay….which is completely ridiculous. The mass amounts of reboots, I think are a fad, one for people feeling nostalgic about the movies and shows they remember from long ago, or even in some cases not so long ago…..but the superhero genre and comic book genre were here to stay ever since the technology was there. Blockbusters are always going after the next big thing, ever since the first big blockbuster with jaws. They try to get as much awe, and big spectacle as they can with the money they have, and the technology. The fact of the matter is that up until 12 to 15 years at the most, then technology wasn’t there to make a ton of superhero movies that looked good! Of course there are exceptions to every rule like superman, and the 1989 batman. But before superhero movies it was action movies, like Rambo and die hard, they offered big explosions, and adventure. That’s much easier to provide then having a flying robot shooting lasers out of his hands, at least a flying robot shooting lasers out of his hands that isn’t laughable! now we can make a watchmen movie, a iron man movie, a spiderman movie, etc. That don’t just look ok, but look pretty damn good, and the ability to do that keeps getting cheeper and cheeper.

  • Jemurr

    Good points, I also get tired of hearing about this. Every single year we get 2-3 or even more superhero movies, most of which turn a profit, and people still debate this. It’s been going strong for over ten years now, but some people will always predict doom and gloom. Meh.

    2013 already has 3 comic movies with set release dates. Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Superman. I’m wondering if Cap continues to do well if they’ll squeeze a Cap sequel for that summer. The Fourth of July is on a Wednesday that year, so they might try the go see Captain America on the Fourth of July angle.

    The Avengers is not a climax in the sense that it’s an ending, actually it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Iron Man and Thor sequels won’t try to top Avengers, but just continue those characters stories.

    This genre will continue as long as people like the movies. In fact I predict that within 7 years the Marvel Cinematic Universe will replace Harry Potter as the top grossing film franchise.

  • http://www.therawness.com T. AKA Ricky Raw

    People like good movies, people don’t like bad movies. It’s that simple. Superhero fans have such a weird inferiority complex about our hobby that we’re always worrying about the mainstream “rejecting” our hobby and by extension rejecting us. It’s so ridiculous. No matter how many romantic comedies or action movies come out, you never see a slew of articles asking if either genre is dead, do you?

    If 4 bad superhero movies came out in a row, by the fourth movie significantly less people would be watching. If 50 good to great superhero movies came out, almost all of them would probably be well received. These articles that evaluate a genre of movies independent of the quality level of the actual movies being released in said genre are ridiculous..

  • Anonymous

    Superhero movies are today’s action movies. Other than rarities like The Expendables, the biggest action movies I can think of are the ones in the Bourne franchise.  Until something else fills that void I don’t see why superhero movies can’t dominate.

  • Rene

    The only people I ever see talking about the demise of superhero movies are self-loathing comic book fans and snobby critics. The general public likes good superhero movies just fine, and is suitably impressed by a superb superhero movie like Dark Knight.

  • Lady’sMan217

    Guys, it’s not that superhero films are in or out, but that good films are in, and bad films are out. Everyone will go see a film they feel connects with them, regardless of genre, or where the original concept came from (ie Comics/Graphic Novels).

  • Mogadishu Jones

    Here’s an idea:  how about concentrating on whether or not the movie is, you know….GOOD instead of worrying about whether it was based on a comic book, a video game, or one of Aesop’s fables?

  • Jaded Devil

    They already announced they’re moving Man of Steel to summer 2013.  And I wouldn’t be surprised to see something else show up then, too…maybe Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man movie?

  • demoncat_4

    guess even cap has his limits and have to admit it looks like it was trying to out do thor and caps box office take  so far shows comic book films have some life left. but sooner or later comic films will falter and movie goers will say enough proably after dark knight rises

  • BoyBlunder

    everytime i see an article on spinoff that interests me, i see another, that is just spectulation and superb overthinking, and no offense. i love this site, i get the brunt of my news on here. but the way i see it is, alot of these sites, are like paranoid girlfriends with low self esteem. they keep asking you if you love them, if they are still as beautiful as they were 5 years ago, and no matter how many times you say yes yes yes, they still freak out and worry about it…comic book fans and geeks in general need to realize that untill we start recognizing that comicbooks, and comicbooks movies, are a medium and not a genre, were never gonna get the respect for our faveorite things that we so desire….and whys that? not because that respect is not there but because some people are too worried if they are the life of the party anymore, instead of realizing that people like you and what you got to offer! (and im not speaking of all geeks. just the ones that do this ridiculous speculation, and worrying about everything frrom the state of the superhero genre, to why reboots are killing hollywood). The massive slump between the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics, didnt even kill the superhero genre. a couple bad reveiws, to movies thats are still killing at the box office, arent even gonna phase the genre.

  • Theflashweasel3

    in a word, and with all due respect: ridiculous!

  • Toneloak

    YMMV, but “superhero” movies are simply the heroes journey from myths. If the heroes journey tale is a genre then that’s news to the whole of fiction writers. A bad story is a bad story. What I think is interesting info to get from today’s audiences is a gauge on their interest in what John Favreau was doing with Ironman 2. He took an established and renowned hero, fully (no scapegoat) compromised him, and tried to build him back up in a none-comedic adult tale. Ironman’s role in Avengers may be the replacement for the latter scene; seeing how I don’t think that came across well enough in the movie. Preparing the character for a fresh start in Ironman 3.

    As for for Superheroes being a genre nah; they are just another style of the same ole same ole.

  • Toneloak

    Yeah I agree these types of articles are pretty high school insecure. These movies sometimes have have that feel too in that they don’t want to step outside the box so as to avoid showing flaws due to experimentation. That’s why I’m advocating for low budget flicks like Green Hornet that tell smaller stories with but some of the same high budget conventions. It’ll allow for a different market focus rather then the whole world (between the ages of minimum comprehension to the age of still capable of seeing) being the demographic every time.

  • Cjorg2

    Superhero films are not a fad and have never been one – they’re a genre in itself.  They’ve always been around.  When will critics like McMillan understand this?  I think they already do – they just like to say inflammatory things to stir up their audience.  And it works for some of the fans, some of the time.

    Will they die out? Never completely, but with every genre the popularity comes and goes.  Case in point – how many big, budget A-list starring courtroom dramas have you seen on the big screen this year?  I can only think of one – The Lincoln Lawyer.  10 – 15 yrs ago you couldn’t enter a cinema without some kind of courtroom drama filling out the theatres.  Now that genre is nearly extinct at the cinema, and exists mostly on the small screen.

    Eventually the same thing will happen to superhero genre films – everything’s cyclic.  The last several years have seen an explosion of the genre.  Eventually cinema-goers will become more picky about what they choose to see in this genre (just like every other type of genre) and film companies will likely respond by making less product, but a lot more carefully, with a lot more quality.  The superhero genre will never “die” and will continue on like it has for the last 30 – 35 years.

    On a sidenote, still love how McMillan admits he was wrong, but still ends his “post” with another general “End of the World is Nigh” comment about the film industry as a whole.  So predictable.

  • Cjorg2

    The Green Hornet had a budget of 120 million – that’s hardly a low budget film.

    Films like Kick Ass and Punisher: Warzone had budgets under 40 million and are considered low budget.  And as we can see, had mixed results both critically and financially.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  • Mythos

    Next year: The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers. Unless the latter turns out to be a suckfest (doubt it, but, you know, it’s always a possibility), there’s no way superhero movies can go wrong in 2012.

    The thing is, those will be the pinnacle of the genre. The big finale of the acclaimed Batman Begins saga and a movie gathering all the household Marvel heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the genre started to decline afterwards; I mean, you can’t go bigger than that, and audiences will know it.

  • Mythos

    Er, the article specifically mentions that Captain America had the biggest opening excluding Thor.

  • Mikael_lives_here

    It was changed. Here’s the original paragraph which you can still see on the Spinoff Homepage:

    Well, if there’s one sure way of showing critics who suggest that the
    superhero movie genre is running out of steam that they’re wrong, it’s
    making sure that Captain America: The First Avenger has a more successful opening weekend than any other superhero movie this year (More successful than Batman Begins, for that matter). 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sage-Ashford/1290900135 Sage Ashford

    This is why I think comic book fans are out of touch.   They don’t even realize how popular their own stuff is.   The death of superhero movies?   With Thor and Captain America?   Really?  I knew what would happen with all four films: People would like Thor, like First Class, GL would bomb, and LOVE Captain America.

    Few of my friends read comics, but I got all of them to go see EVERY film that came out this summer.  Including Green Lantern, which I didn’t even go see. 

    And while I’ll allow for the universe to prove me wrong, logic suggests next year will be just as impressive.  Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises?  Heh.  Superheroes aren’t going away next year.   Wolverine’s the only iffy one, but despite that I have a feeling that it’ll be great too. 

    Also…2010 had The Dark Knight and Iron Man 2.  BOTH incredibly huge, incredibly popular films. 

  • Jemurr

    Yes but I think in Marvel’s case they know that and are not trying to go bigger. Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 won’t try to top Avengers, they will just continue the stories of those respective characters.

    But yeah 2012 will be cool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sage-Ashford/1290900135 Sage Ashford

    Depends.   Studios aren’t going to quit making these films, and I predict Thor 2 and Cap 2 will be hits.

  • RedRiddler

    “Also…2010 had The Dark Knight and Iron Man 2.  BOTH incredibly huge, incredibly popular films.”
      

    No your way off The Dark Knight came out in 2008 not 2010

  • Anonymous

    Superhero movies will always be around for several reasons. First, they make for the ideal summer movie. Big on spectacle, weak on plot and acting. Chris Nolan’s Batman films are the exception. Second, movie studios are always looking for something with a built-in audience. True, most moviegoers don’t read comics and have probably never heard of a lot of them, but they get the basic idea so it doesn’t take much to bring them up to speed. Third, studios love the idea of rebooting a franchise after a few years. It gives them the chance to replace actors who’ve gotten too old or too expensive. Lastly, superhero movies allow for more merchandising. You can make a bad movie but still sell toys, video games, happy meals, etc.