More than forty comic book movies will hit theaters in the next six years alone – and while this past year only saw the release of three mainstream superhero movies, 2015 is the calm before a prolonged storm of origin stories, team-ups, spin-offs and reboots. Despite record-breaking box office turns for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the past year also saw record-breaking losses for Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot – along with a decent but unremarkable performance from Ant-Man.
After more than a decade of blockbuster superhero movies, with countless more on the way, moviegoers are becoming increasingly selective about which comic book films they’re willing to invest theater-ticket money on – rather than lining up at the cineplex for every single superhero adventure that Hollywood could churn out. No doubt, there have always been a few under-performers (example: Elektra, Catwoman, and Punisher: Warzone); however, 2015 marked the first time since The Avengers smashed box office records (and made Marvel Cinematic Universe films must-see pop culture staples) that a solo MCU tale failed to break $500 million at the worldwide box office – raising the question: are audiences beginning to suffer from superhero movie fatigue?
Even though Superman Henry Cavill has plenty of reason to be confident that his forthcoming Batman V Superman movie will be a hit at the box office, the actor recently weighed-in on the notion that moviegoers are souring on the increasing influx of comic book movie adaptations hitting theaters each year.
Specifically, while promoting The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the actor was asked about the perception that Hollywood is flooding the cineplex with superheroes – when there were actually more spy genre movies this year than comic book adaptations. You can watch Cavill’s response below – in which he essentially states that cynics are always going to attack what is most popular.
In case you can’t watch the video above, here’s the full quote from Cavill:
“I think it’s anything which is prevalent and on top people are going to complain about. At the moment, the superhero genre is the most prevalent genre out there despite the fact that the spy genre is so strong this year. But that’s just the nature of it. It’s one of those decade long genres, the superhero thing, which is going to keep on going and people will complain about it all the time, of course. The secondary genre each year will change, and this year it just so happened to be spy.”
Discussed multiple times on the Screen Rant podcast, and in editorials here at the site, it’s apparent the superhero genre is not going anywhere – at least not any time soon. As Cavill indicates, it’s “one of those decade long genres” – one that, thanks to shared universe storytelling, is positioned to be around for a very long time.
However, one thing that Cavill doesn’t address – and will be instrumental in the genre’s success longterm – is the development of sub-genres under the larger superhero movie umbrella. Filmmakers have already started exploring ways to ride the comic book film trend while also differentiating their work from increasingly formulaic origin stories (see: Kick-Ass). Ironically, Ant-Man was initially positioned, via a decade of development under Edgar Wright, to be a subversive spy movie – that happened to feature a size-shifting hero capable of communicating with ants.
Yet, as many readers already know, Marvel and Wright couldn’t see eye-to-eye on the project, and Peyton Reed was brought in to complete Ant-Man – which, in spite of its success, became a poster child for comic book movie fans and casual moviegoers alike who are beginning to feel superhero fatigue (since the film adhered closely to Marvel’s origin story formula).
Similarly, after touting the “untold story,” the amount of redundant story material in Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man reboot made it hard for Marc Webb to truly deliver a film franchise that broke free of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. The joint venture between Marvel and Sony to bring Spider-Man into the MCU, as part of the third iteration on screen in ten years, makes it clear that studios have begun to realize that even if claims of superhero fatigue are exaggerated, there is a need to mix the genre up.
On the flip side, DC has been able to see what worked and what didn’t work on the Marvel side before launching their own shared universe, one that forgoes origin stories in favor of throwing viewers into an established world, where legends are already taking shape. As a result, it’s easy to see why Cavill would be optimistic (or at least hopeful) that the superhero genre will be on top for decades to come and dismissive of critics who believe there are too many comic book movies in development – since the actor is locked into playing Superman for several more years (at least).
Fortunately, it does seem as though studios are making changes to ensure the superhero genre isn’t just a steady stream of colorful origin stories, followed by darker sequels, followed by team-ups, since audiences will soon be treated to an increasingly diverse set of comic adaptations on the big screen – from the supernatural (Doctor Strange and The Sandman) to zany antiheroes (Suicide Squad and Deadpool) to powerful leading ladies (Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel) among other sub-genres under the full superhero genre.
Hopefully, with filmmakers experimenting with different storytelling formulas and a greater range of diversity (both in casting actors and onscreen fictional powers), viewers will experience less fatigue – since they’ll be treated to a wider variety of film offerings… that just happen to feature superheroes.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is now playing in theaters.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016