Few Hollywood filmmakers are as respected and powerful as Steven Spielberg. So when the Oscar-winning filmmaker speaks, the industry tends to listen.
Spielberg - who brought the world such blockbuster hits as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park - made waves a couple years back when he (and his old friend George Lucas) made a bold prediction that cinema's affinity for high-budget fare would eventually lead to major changes in the way films are made and distributed. Now the director has returned to address his feelings about other elements of the business.
In an Associated Press interview, Spielberg was asked if he still holds to his previous statement. Not only does the filmmaker reveal that he still sees the writing on the wall, he specifically calls out Hollywood's current glut of superhero and comic book-inspired releases as one genre that is bound to burn out at some point. Here's what he had to say:
"We were around when the Western died, and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn't mean there won't be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns. Of course, right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I'm only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us."
While Spielberg's words may incite wrath on the part of audiences who revel in films like this summer's Avengers: Age of Ultron, the fact is that there are some signs that audiences may be tiring of over-the-top spectacle. Although superhero films (well, except for Green Lantern and Fantastic Four (2015)) are still consistent moneymakers, the past few years have brought in several of the biggest and most expensive box office bombs in movie history. That list includes John Carter, The Lone Ranger, 47 Ronin, Jack the Giant Slayer and R.I.P.D. In fact, this year alone has already seen two new additions to those ranks, namely Jupiter Ascending and Tomorrowland.
That being said, it does seem a bit contradictory for Spielberg to harp on the dangers inherent in such big-budget fare while he is attached to some of the more overblown films in recent memory. After all, he continues to produce the Transformers films and, of course, was actively involved in this year's monstrous Jurassic World, which reportedly cost at least $150 million to produce (and grossed more than ten times that at the global box office). Moreover, his discussion about the survival of superhero films - while a topic that we've explored in the past - may be a bit outdated.
We've already seen indications that comic book films are adapting to the industry. Rather than focusing on the same old "superhero origin" formula that defined the genre throughout the 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s, films like The Dark Knight and Guardians of the Galaxy have proved that both DC and Marvel are smartly tailoring their material to tell different types of stories, with those two films serving as a crime drama and space opera, respectively. Even next year's crowded slate will see the further popularization of the big-screen comic book team-up film (as popularized by The Avengers) and the introduction of more R-rated superhero films into the mix.
That is to say, perhaps superhero films - much like Westerns, at least according to Quentin Tarantino - can continue to adjust with the times, too.
Spielberg's next film, Bridge of Spies, hits theaters on October 16, 2015. Meanwhile, Deadpool, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse are all slated for release in the first half of 2016.
Source: Associated Press