Have Superheroes Taken Their Final Stand?
Since the conclusion of Marvel's phase three of films (let's not talk DC just yet), I've been a little hungover from a decade of superhero fever. For ten years, the public viewership has had a steady IV drip of comic book heroes saving the world from the baddies. It's been all fun and games, but since the reprieve we've had with Hollywood due to COVID-19, I've finally gotten some perspective on things. It might be hard to hear, especially for you die-hard Marvel fans, but I think superheroes have created their own kryptonite and are finally bowing out. Let me explain.
Let's first start with the conclusion of Endgame and the next phase of Marvel. Marvel's concluding film brought audiences to tears as we watched some of our favorite characters take the big dirt nap. It's hard to recover from such losses, and getting fans excited about another ten years of films is even more challenging. We grew to love characters like Steve Rodgers, Bruce Banner, Thor, and of course, Tony Stark. It took time and countless movies to cultivate that love. With phase four on the way, we see a lot of question marks surrounding our old favorites. Marvel will be hardpressed to garner enthusiasm to the heights it was before for the next ten years, especially without its sweetheart, Iron Man. Already we see new films teased that don't include some of the classics and include all-new casts like The Eternals and Shang-Chi (which, I'll be honest, I'm excited for. I'm a sucker for kung-fu movies). I foresee a dip in the excitement surrounding the new wave of films, even more so when you consider that most of the MCU's original fans are ten-years older.
Secondly, let's talk about the clogged toilet in the bathroom known as DC. There's something to be said about going a different direction than the mainstream. Marvel chooses to maintain that classic comic book feel, replete with bright colors and humorous dialogue. On the other hand, DC continues to stumble down a dark alley where hot garbage and rats are its only companions. Whenever we see a new DC film released, we can't help but groan, knowing deep down we want it to work, but it probably won't. Since Christopher Nolan's masterpiece trilogy, going dark hasn't worked for DC. It hasn't because it's too real. Fans don't want to go to the movies to see real, plausible heroes fight terrorists. They want to be transported to unimaginable worlds where green giants smash things with their hands, and Norse gods fight alongside space cowboys. DC doesn't seem to grasp this, and I don't think a reboot of Batman will save them. The fans' trust left the station a long time ago with Suicide Squad, and DC has thrown nothing but crapola at the wall since. It's safe to say DC has been dead in the water, along with their superheroes, since The Dark Knight Rises. Don't expect much from them in the coming years.
My last thought as to why superheroes have potentially run their cinema course is the launch of so many on-demand platforms. In the past year, we've seen Disney, Apple, Netflix, and Amazon all step up their game in the on-demand entertainment department. While it's difficult to compete with Disney's lineup, Netflix and Amazon have poured billions into their studios to bring audiences the very best in entertainment. All have delivered superhero media to the screen, thus flooding the market with more caped crusaders. Disney+ has even brought some of their big-screen stars to home televisions with WandaVision and Loki shows. To me, these are signs of early death. You can make an argument that on-demand studios are producing better content with bigger budgets, but I think it's something more. I think studios are pulling their heroes to smaller screens as they search for the next goldmine genre.
It's hard to say where superhero movies will land in the next ten years. Marvel proved a hunger for such films, and DC showed that they couldn't be too real. The cultural and world psyche were massive players in the past ten years, but as technology progresses and we face new challenges, it will be interesting to see what genre of movies lands home. I think we're finished with superhero films. And that's a good thing. They've saved us countless times, and I believe it's time to save ourselves.