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"Superhero fatigue" is back

Flopping big-budget movies makes the idea credible again

Anybody remember how Green Lantern faired?

The return of the phrase "Superhero Fatigue" Variety

“Superhero fatigue” is a phrase that tends to make devoted movie lovers swoon with rapture. If you’re someone who cares about movies, who cares about cinema, the very prospect of superhero fatigue inspires you to think: Yes! There’s hope! People will get tired of this shit! But let’s be honest — that’s probably wishful thinking. In the last 20 years, led by Marvel but by no means limited to Marvel, comic book movies have infiltrated our culture and our consciousness to the point that they’re now part of who we are.

Since the Christopher Reeves Superman film from 1978, big box office superhero movies have been part of the mainstream cinematic universe, but it took time (and the development of CGI special effects) to make it possible for the momentum of the last two decades with dozens of films being offered.

But the standard is the same, over the years since Superman, superhero movies have cycled in and out of popularity (and the big box office numbers that draws Hollywood to try and get in on the river of cash a popular superhero film can generate) and the pattern is pretty simple. When the Reeves' Superman sequels got silly or poorly made (#3 and #4), they faded in box office pull. The same with the original cycle of Batman films, the first three did well but the legendary Batman and Robin, though it made money, put the whole series on ice until Christopher Nolan came along. There are other examples (Spiderman #3 from Raimi, the third X-Men movie, etc) but what is happening now is that same cycle except multiplied through multiple film series from both Marvel and Warner.

With the DC films, the warning that "you've got to make better movies" has been the standard remark from many film critics since at least the first Suicide Squad film (which did alright box office in spite of the critical slagging), but it looks like time is running out for both Marvel and DC, the productions have gotten crazily bloated and overdone, and the CGI, which was the vehicle that made it possible to finally get the Jack Kirby-style of visual imagination on screen in an effective way, has now become a place where money and ideas go to die (and to be made boring through sameness).

My suspicion, based upon watching the trend in superhero film quality over of the last six or so years, is that too many people in Hollywood have been pulled into making superhero films because that's where an amazing amount of money is possible. The superficial ideas that Hollywood has about what even is a superhero film is flawed and, to put it bluntly and in line with the same generic remarks I hear from other comic book fans, Hollywood just doesn't respect the material enough. With the amount of cash they're blowing now on failed big-budget hero movies, they should skip respecting the material and move straight into fearing the material. If they don't adhere to the fundamentals, or can recognize they can't even understand what those fundamentals are (which seems evident in too many TV show adaptations and in the more recent films), they shouldn't move forward until they've got that down.

The Flash film that is currently crashing at the box office is based upon a "proven property" as old Hollywood used to say about adapting plays and novels, that is, Flashpoint the comic book and Flashpoint Paradox the animated film version. Instead of carrying through on respecting their source, they've thrown out some of the most important storylines and brought in their own patchwork quilt of stuff. Since The Flash has been in production for years and years and there are probably multiple cuts of the film containing a number of departed cast members, it is likely the production simply got out of control and went into repair mode and could never get out of it (between the demise of the "Snyderverse" and the Ezra Miller scandals in the press, the production had more to battle than just losing its grip on the source material, but I think that is exactly where the problem of gettign a successful theatre-run began. It surely isn't in marketing, you can't utilize online media without knowing The Flash is now out and on screens. Caring it's out has become the problem.)

With a long string of money-losing superhero movies now piling up behind a different string of announced superhero projects for the future, the production companies with superhero films already "in the pipeline" must be getting really nervous that the party is over, and every dollar spent going forward is looking more and more like a dollar that won't be coming back.

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Original Page June 26, 2023