In 2008, the world was first introduced to Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal as Tony Stark/Iron Man, launching a cinematic universe like no one has ever seen before. Twenty-two films in, which features spin-offs, sequels, and a variety of team-up films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed what it means for cinema to have blockbusters. However, with six more Marvel films on the way and plans for twenty-four (that’s right, twenty-four) more on the way, it begs the question: Will the general audience get tired of these Marvel films, and superheroes as a whole?
Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, David Fincher and a plethora of A-list celebrities have come out on the record stating that they do not like the current state of cinema. While many have been kind or respectful with their comments, directors such as Independence Day’s Roland Emmerich bashed the current status of superhero films, even though he was one of the few that influenced how far blockbusters could go.
“When you look at my movies it’s always the regular Joe Schmo that’s the unlikely hero. A lot of Marvel movies, they show people in funny suits running around. I don’t like people in capes,” said Emmerich in an interview with The Guardian. “I find it silly when someone dons a superhero suit and flies. I don’t understand it. I grew up in Germany, that’s probably why.”
James Mangold, the director of the critically-acclaimed Logan, did a podcast interview with The Business and explained as to what he thought of the superhero genre in its entirety. “Tentpole movies in general, they are not movies, generally,” said Mangold. “They are bloated exercises in two-hour trailers for another movie they are going to sell you in two years. There are so many characters that each character gets an arch of about six and a half minutes at best, and I’m not exaggerating. You take 120 minutes, you take 45 of it for action, what are you left with, divide it by six characters, you have the character arc of Elmer Fudd in a Warner Brothers cartoon. That formula is empty for me.”
Although, only a small minority of Hollywood feel this way regarding the superhero genre, other celebrities within the industry such as Kevin Feige, Mark Hamill, and Ryan Coogler have spoken out in defense of the genre.
Kevin Feige, the Executive Producer for all Marvel Studios films, expressed his own opinion in an interview with Variety on ‘superhero fatigue’ and how his company plans to handle it with their films.
“All I worry about are the films that we make and the films that we can control. And nobody would get fatigued more than all of us at Marvel Studios,” Feige said. “We live this, we breathe this 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. So almost every film we make and every decision we make is to keep ourselves interested and to keep things fresh and to keep things unexpected. And so far, as you say, 19 films in, the audience seems to be responding to that.” As of 2017, all of their films so far have grossed as much as $4 billion at the box-office.
Ryan Coogler, the upcoming director for Marvel’s Black Panther, explained in an interview with Fandango how his film plans to combat ‘superhero fatigue’.
“There have been a lot of superhero movies made,” Coogler said. “As a comic book and superhero film fan myself, I feel like we’ve seen a lot at this point. I think that the cultural element of [Black Panther] — and how cultural specificity takes such a big role in the film — that’s what makes it quite unique. I’m excited to see more [superhero movies], but there hasn’t really been a film about a character like T’Challa before.”
Mark Hamill, known for portraying Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, advised on how to improve the landscape of superhero films.
“I don’t know what’s going on with superhero movies,” said Hamill in an interview with USA Today. “They’re fantastic, but I think we’re reaching a point of oversaturation. So that’s why the story is so important, is that the gimmicks and all that, they can only take you so far. That’s what I want, better stories.”
Overall, it seems that the general consensus is that audiences are tired of seeing the same story, not necessarily the genre itself. People love going to the movies to see these characters brought to life, however with good direction and concise story-telling. If last year had Wonder Woman shown as a female-led ensemble, Logan as a western, and Spider-Man Homecoming as a coming-of-age story, audiences will continue to go based on how the films are marketed. The actors alone can’t sell tickets anymore; people have grown to care about fictional characters and how they are represented on screen. People don’t want to see nonsensical explosions, car chases, or buildings being destroyed; they want to see these characters deal with their world and the situations around them. The only way ‘superhero fatigue’ will truly be experienced is if Marvel or other companies run out of ideas, and start recycling the same stories. If that happens, the damage will be significant in terms of profits and it will arrive noticeably fast.