Superhero Endgame.


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Batman and Superman, the archetypical superheroes

Superhero movies are dying. Critics are turning on them and audiences are tailing off. It isn’t crisis time yet, but the one genre that has sustained Hollywood since the early 2000s seems to be on the wane.

Is that really surprising? Put bluntly the market has been over saturated, movie after movie year after year. The two big companies, Marvel and DC, keep pushing more and more content and ever larger franchises, people are just getting bored.

The same thing has happened before. During the 70s and 80s there was the slasher boom. Make a cheap film about a homicidal maniac killing people for no good reason, and you were guaranteed money. Most were forgettable, but there were the memorable franchises and characters. Even a couple of crossovers.

During the 90s the interest in slashers started to wane, although late in that decade the genre was given a shot in the arm by the ‘Scream’ franchise. ‘Scream’ directed by ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ creator Wes Craven poked fun at itself and the genre, a move that other franchises would follow.

That same sense of poking fun at the genre has been seen in Superhero movies. Most notably the Marvel franchises ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ in both cases carrying this irreverent tone over from the comics they are based on.

DC were less successful with ‘Suicide Squad’ although are trying again with a stand alone movie for everyones favourite villain The Joker. Critics are again mixed and while it is sure to make money, it might not live up to expectations.

The big difference is that slashers were generally cheap, made on a budget and meant to maximise profit. They were not the multibillion-dollar behemoths that Superhero movies have become. When slashers declined Hollywood simply moved on to something new.

However as well as the huge budgets another part of the problem is that modern Hollywood fears originality. A new property means risk and uncertainty and over the last 20 years Hollywood has become very risk averse. Movies are not creative endeavours they are investments meant to make a large profit in a short amount of time.

It’s the reason that we see so many remakes, reboots and sequels. They have something tangible to base the the projections on. They know audiences will gripe on social media but they will pay up and watch. The more you can be sure of the return the more likely your film is to be made.

This is also why Superhero movies are a goldmine. They have a built in fanbase many characters have over fifty years worth of stories and they all interconnect. In fact you have to wonder why it took so long for both Hollywood and the publishers to catch on. The print side of things is worth billions and those same people will eagerly hand over their money for movie ticket.

While Superhero movies will be with us for many more years, and there are other characters yet to be used, Personally I can’t wait until DC make a standalone film for Dogwelder, a disturbed crimefighter who welds dead dogs to wrongdoers. I mean after ‘Aquaman’ it’s the next logical step isn’t it?, the peak is over and audiences want something new.

That isn’t to say that Hollywood needs to put down the comic books, just yet. Throughout I have deliberately used the term Superhero, but many comic books and graphic novels do not feature superheroes.

’30 Days of Night’ the last decent vampire movie was based on a comic, as was historical romp ‘300’ and political thriller ‘V for Vendetta’. Graphic novels and comic books that don’t feature superhuman characters saving the world from evil also have huge built in fanbases so perhaps the next wave of comic book movies will have a lot less spandex.