Writing that sentence is like stabbing my inner 12-year-old with a rusty fork, but it’s true. All great things must come to an end, and superhero saturation is coming to an all-time high.
The superhero movie renaissance of the past 15years arguably began with Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” film of 2000. Since then audiences have been privy to two direct sequels, two Wolverine-centric spinoffs, and two almost-reboots of the X-Men franchise, leading us into three more films (“Deadpool,” “Gambit,” and “X-Men: Apocalypse”) slated for release next year.
That list itself should be enough for any comic book fan, but it wasn’t. Somewhere along the line studios (particularly Marvel) tapped into something powerful. That something powerful brought us three of the highest grossing films of all time. And that’s great! Nerd culture is front and center, and I couldn’t be happier that the same entertainment I longed for as a child is now the stuff of box office gold.
But somewhere along the line, too much of a good thing really does become too much.
A glance through IMDB reveals that there are seven superhero films slated for release in 2016. Seven. And that number is just increasing. Marvel is upping their studio’s production from two big films a year to three. DC is trying to follow suit, producing ill-advised sequels and “sidequels” to the disappointment that was “Man of Steel”. We’re getting a “Gambit” movie, people. Let that sink in for a moment.
Quantity isn’t the only thing that’s being affected here. Quality is taking a hit, and will no doubt continue to take a hit, as studios continue to crank out more and more money movies. The upcoming Batman/Superman movie is a guaranteed financial success. But critically? It’s a coin toss. And this overambitious DC/Warner Bros. plan leading up to, and beyond, a Justice League film is playing with fire.
Negativity aside, let’s talk about the successes. After all, there’s a reason people flock to the theater every summer to see a Marvel film. If you’ve forgotten what that reason is, think back to the most successful ones – the Iron Man films, “The Avengers,” and even (to a lesser extent) “Guardians of the Galaxy.” There was something enthralling about the first Iron Man film, with the way it placed us into the reality of Tony Stark and asked us to side with an almost-anti-hero whose anti- kept bringing us back for more.
“The Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” have that spark of creativity to them, too. There’s something wonderful about an ensemble of people against the world fighting for something greater. Sound familiar? We can only see teams of superheroes duking it out on the screen so many times before we notice we’re seeing the same thing again and again. We need movies like Guardians or the first Avengers, that bring something new to the story. Or else we get The Fantastic Four 2… to be released June 2017.