I’m sorry, I’ve just never gotten into it. Not once has a superhero movie turned me into a starry-eyed child. This will NOT be another long-winded puff piece on Black Panther, Deadpool, or those wacky, wacky Avengers. Instead, let’s take a step backward and try to figure out how much longer superhero flicks are gonna continue to chew up most of the box office, leaving some of us to sigh with annoyance every time a new cape-based trailer hits the screens.
So why have they clicked so well, not just with U.S. moviegoers but nearly every major movie market on the planet?
3 of the top 10 biggest worldwide box office openings in recorded history are superhero movies, and two of those three are Avengers movies. Meanwhile, the characters themselves and their stories are nothing new.
We’ve always been in love with these spandex role models. I mean, come on, some of the characters date back as far as 1938. By appearance alone, superheroes are familiar and comfortable. Even our cultural perception of what a ‘good guy’ looks like has a lot to do with the masked men and women from our favorite childhood cartoons.
Next up: even superhero movies with a tone of gritty realism still pull off escapism pretty easily. The heroes are always likeable, and the bad guys are never relatable. In fact, the biggest, baddest guys are enormous space aliens who barely even look humanoid. The enemies are not hunger, war, or discrimination, but instead congealed, simplified versions of the world’s most serious concerns. And more importantly, a singular figure who is unambiguously evil saves the audience from having to deal with the complexities of good and evil in each person. It gives people a break from the horrors of planet Earth while still giving the satisfaction of that ancient conflict between good and evil.
So it makes a lot of sense that these movies have such a huge force in the wide world of cinema. But after a meteoric rise almost 20 years in the making, how much longer can the hype last?
Heavyweights Marvel and D.C. both have long lists of titles slated for release in just the next few years. And as long as they keep making oodles of cash for the studios, they’ll keep getting greenlighted. And as long as these movies keep telling emotional human stories in supernatural worlds, the public will stay interested, and will still feel obligated to see the latest chapter, even if it features characters they’ve never heard of, because the extended universe concept turns many disparate characters into one big net: “You don’t like Ant-Man? Here come the Guardians of the Galaxy. You like them, right?”
Bottom line: This train has no brakes. These are an entire generation’s favorite popcorn movies and the studios know it. The massive potential of trotting out these old, ingrained characters for dozens of outings was seized at just the right time. And pretty often, the results are genuinely entertaining. If you’re like me and you’ve never been swept off your feet by any of these flicks, it’s probably time to shrug and make your peace.