As it has grown in popularity, the superhero film genre has received its fair share of criticism, namely that these types of films will only be popular for a short time. Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy referenced the "tsunami of superhero movies" last year and, more recently, director Steven Spielberg spoke about superhero movie fatigue as well. However, with more than 25 comic book properties set to hit theaters by 2020 and seven alone to arrive in 2016, including Captain America: Civil War, it's safe to say that superheroes have carved out a substantial niche in Hollywood.
Captain America: Civil War star, Chris Evans, has been a part of the rise of the superhero movie genre, first as the Human Torch in 2005's Fantastic Four and then as Marvel Studios' Steve Rogers/Captain America. While promoting his directorial debut, Before We Go, Evans was asked to respond to Spielberg's comments about superhero films going the way of the western.
In another part of the interview with Collider in which Evans spoke about extending his time as Captain America, the actor also speculated that superhero movies have seen a recent increase in popularity due to the technology available to filmmakers. He said this is true for not only comic book adaptations, but fantasy films in general:
I certainly think that given the fact that technology has finally advanced, they’re always going to be looking for other films to match their technological accomplishments. Any film that can incorporate these larger-than-life characters and fantastical locations and plots, the technology wants to prove they can do it so whether it’s superhero film or fantasy in general, that’s going to surge for a while.
As for how superhero movies will adapt to the industry inundated with so many comic book properties, Evans continued on to say that superhero fare can have staying power so long as filmmakers go in with a fresh approach:
In terms of superhero in general, existing properties that we know and love, it’s going to be a matter of the tone they strike. You could look at Jason Bourne as a superhero. You could take any superhero movie and if you ground it enough, if you make it real enough—that’s what I think [Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Joe and Anthony Russo] do really well. Certain superhero movies feel like “superhero movies.” Russo movies almost feel like human stories with a little bit of superhero sprinkled in. So you might get exhausted of the larger-than-life powers I suppose, but as long as the filmmakers keep on reinventing the approach and the flavor and the tone, audiences are going to still go.
With so many superhero films already premiering in theaters - and not all with a positive reception - the discussion of whether movie viewers are overwhelmed by the number of suited, superpowered heroes isn't necessarily new. But, as we've discussed in the past, there are ways to keep the genre fresh, one of which is to include hints of other genres within a superhero blockbuster, just as Evans suggests.
Prior to its release, the last Captain America film, Anthony and Joe Russo's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was said to include elements of a 1970s political thriller. Similarly, Peyton Reed's Ant-Man was likened to a heist film. Now, the upcoming Marvel and Sony Spider-Man movie, penned by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, has been called a high school comedy in the vein of '80s director John Hughes. Although Spider-Man won't premiere for another two years and Ant-Man wasn't the best or the worst Marvel Studios film, The Winter Soldier was certainly successful as a fresh and widely entertaining superhero movie.
Already, comic book fans can see this diversifying of the superhero genre across both film and TV. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight and Marvel TV's Daredevil are crime dramas, Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, David Ayer likened Suicide Squad to The Dirty Dozen, Marvel's Agent Carter is a post-World War II drama, and the list goes on. Though superhero films won’t always be as popular as they are now, it seems likely the genre will continue to diversify and, hopefully as Evans comments, filmmakers will continue to approach superhero films with fresh ideas and new takes on the established properties.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.