Superhero Fatigue: When Do We Abandon the Fortress of Solitude

American mythology has been adapted within the inked pages of our comic books. Superheroes such as Captain America and Wonder Woman are our modern day Greek Gods.  Men, women, even alien, we aspire to emulate them whether it be physically or morally. Since 1938, these legends have been ingrained into Americana and admired by the masses to the point of  fanaticism. In 2008, when Robert Downey Jr donned the iron mask of billionaire playboy Tony Stark, our heroes made a significant leap and vast change in the direction of the superhero film genre. Since Marvel’s Iron Man, there have been 34 superhero movies (based off of comics and graphic novels) with 23 of those being Marvel properties alone. There has been a massive influx of comic book based films in the american cinema and proves not to be slowing down anytime soon. Marvel and D.C have films planned well into the year 2020.

Which begs the question, when will our Gods fall by the wayside? Are the hoi polloi becoming exhausted from their intense devotion?

We are in the “golden age” of superhero movies. These stories are no longer falling under one category like they have in the past; the generic CGI action genre. They are now charming coming of age tales, political thrillers, and even crime dramas. These are films with massive budgets that are consistently breaking box office records despite rising ticket prices. I won’t dispute that these movies are incredibly entertaining. I have bought the movie tickets and the Blu-rays. I loved these stories just as much as anybody, but as of late I just no longer feel an urgency to see these films. It is hard to deny that a majority of these movies are starting to become homogenous. Some interesting plot points are being explored here, but how often can I watch a white male mid-to-late 30s save [insert city here] for the 100th time.

Hollywood works in cycles, and no film category has managed to sustain quite as well as the superhero. For example, look at how quickly the YA dystopian novel turned movie genre burned out. The Hunger Games was a massive success causing a huge push for films starring 20-year-olds fighting a totalitarian government.  In a matter of a few short years, these movies are coming into mediocre success the later we get into their life cycles. Allegiant, the latest film in the Divergent series, ultimately stumbled at the box office this weekend, scoring an 11% from the critics. You could go even farther back to the Hollywood Western, which was popular for several decades till falling in popularity around the 1960s. A superhero’s biggest weakness is fame, and that is a finite substance in Hollywood.

This industry won’t magically become unpopular overnight, but eventually, audiences may begin to experience fatigue. I am suffering from superhero fatigue myself, especially since most of them are somewhat interchangeable as far as plot and structure go. Where these movies start tasting like manufactured frozen dinners, often relying on reboots/remakes to maintain audience interest. Personally, I believe for these films to continue in popularity, there needs to be a cutback of making safe choices. This genre needs to see diversity, originality, and risk taking. In our new golden age, Wonder Woman is going to be the first female superhero movie we are getting and her story is as old as the rest of the boys.

Chronicle (2012), is one of the few entirely original films to in this category and was met with massive success proving you don’t need big name characters or a huge budget. Deadpool (2016), is our first R-Rated anti-hero film proving to movie studios you don’t need to keep it PG-13 to achieve billions of dollars. The Black Panther is being portrayed in the new Captain America movie as the first major black superhero. However, movie studios aren’t willing to take these risks all that often, leaving us with characters we have seen time and time again.

Superheroes are Gods, comic books their bibles, movies their preachers, and audience members their devout followers.  By the time I am 24, there is planned to be at least 24 new superhero movies coming out. We aren’t counting television programming and Netflix originals, solely movies.These universes are expanding considerably, thanks to modern technology and the trend of guaranteed success. But by 2020, will audiences still be sticking around for the after credit scenes, will they even be showing up at all?  Or will atheism, rejection of our legends, soon begin to enter even the minds of the most devout due to the fatiguing of over-saturation?

Shannon McHugh