A Possible Problem With Superhero Franchises?

It’s ok, mankind will be saved and we can all breathe a sigh of relief! Marvel Studios have recently announced a raft of movies to take us up to 2019 and this announcement has led a writer in the Observer newspaper, Edward Helmore, to ask how many more superhero movies we can take (the article can be found here). Along with Marvel’s plans, you have other studios with their own franchises either continuing or coming on stream, with the article quoting a figure of thirty comic book inspired movies that are currently announced as being in the pipeline. That is a lot of superhero (and supervillain) action and, when taken with the number of movies in this genre that have already been released, could Mr Helmore have asked a very interesting question? Here is my take on it.

The major studios will always go where the reliable money is, and in recent years that has been where the superheroes hang out and, if not the superheroes, instalments of other franchises (I’m thinking things like the Transformers, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter, etc.). My fear with all this is that original films will die out as the studios stop taking risks but I guess you can’t blame them, it is a business after all. However, with the cost of production these days, especially with CGI intensive films like these, you have to wonder what will happen if the bubble truly bursts for this genre. With multiple films in planning/filming/post-production at any given time, do the studios have enough money in the bank to see them through what could be some very dark times should the audience appetite for these films fall abruptly. There was a time when westerns ruled the roost, and how many of those are made these days? Likewise, to a lesser extent, war movies.

With regard to audience appetite, this can change at any point and for various reasons. Too much of the same thing can result in fans getting bored and, with these franchises that were very popular comic books and graphic novels first, there is always a danger that a director will take one liberty too many with the characters and stories, resulting in the audience abandoning the films. I admit that I was getting a little fatigued with the whole superhero/comic book inspired genre. I had never rushed out to see the Wolverine movies, the Iron Man 3 film disappointed me (despite it being a major box office success!) and I have yet to see the second Thor and Captain America movie instalments (which is a shame as I hear these are very good movies). I had started finding these movies just too formulaic, with few surprises, and a little bit too much about the CGI and not so much about the story.

As I have already said, I found the Iron Man 3 film a disappointment, so much so that I thought the whole genre was on a downward slope! It was then with no little trepidation that I went to the cinema to see the recent Guardians of the Galaxy movie, especially as I had seen the trailers with the talking raccoon and monosyllabic tree. I should not have worried as it was probably one of the best films in this genre that I have seen, with the perfect mix of story, action, humour and CGI. For me, it has completely changed my views on where all these franchises were taking us and I feel a lot more positive about the future plans of the studios.

From my point of view it is good that the studios have announced a lot more new franchises along with further instalments of existing ones, as this will help prevent the old becoming stale, and the crossover movies also help in this respect as it is always enjoyable seeing the interactions between the main stars. How it all actually turns out, I guess only time will tell.

Article written by Robert Colbert (2014)

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