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Are superhero films about to die?

Superheroes.jpgIs the superhero genre close to death? It seems that Matthew Vaughn thinks so and that's one of the reasons why he's doing X-Men: First Class it would seem, to get a big budget superhero film made just before the genre dies out.

I must admit I can't wholly agree, Superhero films have been around since, well since forever. We were talking about The Shadow the other day and bear in mind that the first film version for that was 1940. Dying? I don't think so. Slowing down to a healthy pace? I think so.

Right now the problem is the usual one, a studio delivers a film that can be put in genre X and looks like it's going to do well so other studios hire writers, buy properties and get projects going in the same genre, and before long everyone's making similar films.

If a studio sees their project return money then they might think about a sequel, and perhaps another one, as they want to mine what the can from the franchise and the character, and if a number of films from different studios follow suit we're suddenly sitting with a ton of films from the same genre all rolling out to the cinema one after the other.

That's where we are now. The problem with this is that there's not a great deal of quality control and it takes the real fans of these projects to push through the good films, or a director/producer with real power and control to stop the studio just churning out something really quickly to cash in on the success of other films and the genre as a whole. As a result, we get swamped with a lot of poor, or half made films and the quality falls to the side or seems to be few and far between.

However what will happen then is not that the genre of films will die, but that the production of them will die down. The studios will find something new that's the latest bandwagon and start making those films instead, and so the people who want to make superhero films are only those who really see something in the story and see some quality. Since there's no wave of success of others to ride upon each of the films has to really fight for success, and we get back quality.

For me that's the important part, and why wouldn't you want anything less? Quality, not quantity, and if the studio system finds something else to leap upon and moves away from superheroes, then quality will come back to the fore. It's not as if we'll never see another superhero film again, and surely that's the kind of environment that Matthew Vaughn would want? It certainly is what film superhero fans do.

Speaking to L.A. Times Hero Complex, Vaughn says:

"It's been mined to death and in some cases the quality control is not what it's supposed to be...People are just going to get bored of it...the genre is going to be dead for a while because the audience has just been pummeled too much."

I agree with that bit, people will get bored of the poor quality and the studios will move on, that's where the quality comes back. I'm not sure the genre will die, I think we'll see people continue to make them, it's just the constant stream of Hollywood films will die down.

"I think we've kind of crossed the Rubicon with superhero films...I think [the opportunity to do one], it's only going to be there two or three more times."

I don't think it's that final. What we could be left with are more intelligent superhero films, films with lower budgets seeking something new to hook audiences in, rather than just rolling out another character in a suit with a big name actor to play the role.

What gets me is that the situation with the superhero genre after this point, when the studios move onto another genre to mine to near death, is perfect for Vaughn, that's what he did with Kick-Ass, made an independently funded, lower budget, and rather clever superhero film, why wouldn't he like the genre when the studio system walks away from it?

The other thing to remember is the amount of material available for adaptation, if you're not sure about the comic world, just walk into your nearest comic book store and marvel (boom-boom) at the amount of comics there. By no means has the surface even been scratched with the amount of interesting and clever stories that could be adapted.

Could the quiet period also see a resurgence of the classics, the superheroes that have thrived when others weren't even around? I'm thinking Superman for a start, and Spider-Man, because I've already written off the Hollywood attempt at a reboot which I think is doomed to failure. There's no doubt though that Batman is going to take a break, not because of the many superhero films on the go, but because he's just had the best incarnation on screen ever and the third film is bound to cap an excellent trilogy.

What do you think? Are you tired of the superhero film? Is there anything more you'd like to see from the genre, and are Hollywood just taking the populist American and second rate superheroes and throwing them on screen so they can to make the most cash out of this period before it all runs out? Is the superhero dead?



Isn't just about every blockbuster action movie in essence a superhero film?

That said, their time is very likely up - although not forever, and hopefully not before Joss Whedon's Avengers film.

Marvel in particular is doing a very able job of saturating the market, which is never a good idea. Although the Dark Knight and Iron Man franchises are near-perfect popcorn material, there seems to be a bunch of lower-quality B-movie action about to hit our screens (hello, Green Lantern). While comics nerds will be in heaven for a while longer, average moviegoers aren't going to tolerate that kind of nonsense.

Superb Ben, I was wondering if anyone would bring up that point.

The Dark Knight is the perfect example of this, it's a thriller first and foremost where the characters happen to be wearing rather flamboyant costumes, to me that's where the success of the film lies, and it shows that superhero films are just like any other but with the areas of costume and action turned up just that little bit extra.

You summed the situation up perfectly, it's the lower class superheroes that are about to pour onto the screens that could be about to cause that problem.

Do you think it can recover though? Will the superhero films keep going?

No genre will ever die.

Movies about special effects with minimal character definition and plot thrown in will always flood the market around summer time.

If that film makes X profit then it will copied and/or a sequel will be made.

Hollywood(Production houses) are a business first and foremost and their decision making will always appear strange.

A well thought out, professionally acted and edited film with interesting characters(read:Inception) will always be the correct genre to make.

If somebody in holloywood is reading my post, then please make films about interesting people and interesting stories. At least just for one summer :)

I think Vaughan is right that the market is saturated...but then so were Westerns in the 1950s and it didn't stop the studios churning them out by the bucketload. At the moment, they still make money, regardless of the specific film's quality.

Only when there's a big cultural change (and there will be, 'cause these things are cyclical) will the "superhero genre" fade from prominence. But it'll be kicking around, ripe for resurrection. Arguably, the movie Western didn't fully mature as an art-form until the post-Ford era, when Peckinpah, Leone, Eastwood and others were able to subvert the established rules, and I think that's where superhero movies are heading. The top tier of the genre (Nolan's Batman films) are probably already there.

SuperHero films wont die, and it's a hit anytime, everytime and forever..as long as there are children and Superhero fanatic adults.


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