I don’t know what’s going on anymore!!! Superhero movies today.

So, I just saw a bunch of trailers for new movies coming out. Batman vs Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad. And in every one of these, we see some flashes of people in costumes, and the whole internet goes nuts. People start namedropping: OMG it’s Black Panther, OMG it’s Doomsday. And I have just no idea who any of these characters are, but the trailer suggests that we should remember or recognize them.

This whole superhero trend is now officially losing me. It went from exciting movies about basic characters whom most people were familiar with, such as Batman, Superman and Spiderman, to ensemble movies that try to cram as much characters and lore into it as possible. It starts to remind me of Dragon Ball Z. Every time, there is a bigger enemy. And then a different hero shows up, and the world is halfway destroyed. And then an even bigger bad guy shows up. And so it goes on and on.


I award you 10 internet points for every character that you can name.

I just don’t care anymore. A character isn’t epic because it carries a certain name. A movie isn’t epic because it shoves in characters with names that are supposed to carry epic storytelling with them. Epic storytelling rests on our emotional involvement, and that involvement is generated and safeguarded through good plotting and character development. An obscure superhero name does not provide a shortcut to that feeling.

Remember, the name Anakin Skywalker does not guarantee a good movie. Neither does the name James Bond. If some doofus in a leather suit shows up in a Superman movie and is called Captain Awesome, that doesn’t make him awesome. Show us that we should care. Show us WHY we should be excited. Avengers: Age of Ultron already made these mistakes and hence lost me a bit. The trailer built up this Ultron villain as if he was the baddest bad guy and that I should care about it. Then, the movie shows a wisecracking robot who got his ass kicked and that was that. More like the week of Ultron. The name Ultron didn’t have any connotations for me, it didn’t mean anything, and after seeing the movie, it still doesn’t.


I am a meaningless power fantasy.

And then another weird red guy shows up who shoots a laser from his forehead. I’ve no idea who that was (later, I learned he was named The Vision) and frankly, I felt a bit of secondhand embarrassment for some of the older folks in the theatre who were lured to the movies with the prospect of seeing a nice action movie. Creating superheroes a dime a dozen does not equal good storytelling, but is more like a childish power fantasy.

More is less, and less is more. The more superhero characters are shoved into these movies, the more they start catering to a smaller and smaller audience. The next few years will see an overload of superheroes, with diminishing returns for the production companies. Many people will burn out, lose interest, and a smaller and smaller group of aficionados will be excited about some obscure Heroman of the 11th Dimension. This process has already started this year.

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15 Responses to I don’t know what’s going on anymore!!! Superhero movies today.

  1. swanpride says:

    I read the same thing three years ago, two years ago and last year (which was imho the strongest in term of comic book movies, with Winter Soldier and GotG just killing it). I am sure I will keep reading it for at least the next five years. One day it will be true, because everything has to end eventually. But I doubt that it will happen before Infinity War 2 has his theatres.


    • Well, everyone has their own point when they get tired of it, and the thing is that the frequency of releases is going up dramatically coming year. In 2016, there will be Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, Gambit? It’s a lot. More people will get tired of it, and more will post the same blog entries.


      • swanpride says:

        We get more rom-coms, action movies and comedies every single year. Or, to use a better example, they are less Comic book based releases than there are animated movies each year. And the situation is similar. When CGI made animation suddenly profitable and everyone got into the game of doing them, some studios succeeded, other failed, others have scaled back the number of releases per year.

        It is more the coverage which is a lot, not the comic book movies in itself.


        • I understand your point that there are much more animated movies or action movies per year than comic book movies, and it’s a valid point. Still, it feels like a different situation to me, because the comic book movies are building up cinematic universes. In the process, the individual movies get crammed with more and more characters and cross-connections, and it makes the whole superhero-trend messy and over-saturating very quickly. It is like a monolithic block that is pushing itself forward, instead of say, ten separate animated movies.


  2. Remco says:

    See, here is the thing. You are not familiar with these characters because comics are a rare sight in our country. Donald Duck rules supreme with next to no competition. And most cartoons do not reach our shores either. We lack a lot of the nostalgia that drives these movies.

    But in many places in the world comics are a big part of pop culture, and there are an amazing amount of comic related TV programmes. These characters you are unfamiliar with are not unknown to the rest of the world. They are not characters that were lost in obscurity until Marvel/DC decided to make a quick buck.

    You say that a character isn’t epic because it carries a certain name, but it kind of is. To many people these characters bring back a lot of nostalgia and positive memories. Whether every iteration of a character is good, that’s a different story, but the name itself definitely holds a lot of value. It’s like putting Spielberg on your film. Not every Spielberg movie is great, but his name alone makes you feel intrigued.

    And these big collaborative superhero movies are possible because of the precedent that has been established by the previous movies. Why do you care? Because you already bonded with these characters during the previous movies (and childhood memories of comics and a cartoons). And yes, you will not understand everything unless you watch/read everything else, but how is that different from anything else. Movies these days are so filled with references and easter eggs that this has pretty much become the standard.

    Now, I do sort of share your sentiment regarding DC. Not because I do not want to watch their movies, but because they do not take the time to properly introduce their characters to us. They are using somewhat lesser known characters (or completely change existing ones – I’m looking at you Bull’s Eye) and it seems as if they are more busy trying to play catch up with Marvel rather than establish a firm and intriguing cinematic universe. Though they are doing a hell of a job with their TV universe.

    Considering the ongoing success of superheroes in both movies and TV series I do not see a burn out coming any time soon.


    • I understand your point that these comics are not well known where we come from. And I thought about that before writing about this, and I don’t really buy the idea that the rest of the world is intimately familiar with all these characters. Now, I might be wrong, I don’t really know because I am not in America. But I think that even in America, superhero comics is a subculture, like star trek, and that the Marvel and DC movies are now digging beyond that threshold where most people haven’t heard of this or that character. And I think that the point still stands that the movies are catering to a smaller and smaller audience.

      You’re right to say that names of characters convey expectations. I am familiar with batman, and I have certain expectations about him for the Batman v Superman movie. But I think this is false value, and the epicness breaks down once you are unfamiliar with a character. It’s like peeking through the haze to see what is underneath. I wasn’t familiar with Ultron, nor with Thor, nor with Scarlet Witch, nor with a handful of other characters, and after one or two movies with them, they still don’t mean anything to me. They’re just names and capes. To me that is a sign of bad storytelling.

      But I think this is not necessarily the fault of the movie writers and directors, but a fault within the whole superhero way of storytelling. When you need to keep inventing new heroes and villains to keep things interesting, that’s cheap. It means that there is no real story. I think this burn out is going to come, and I think it will be because of this problem. It’s a hero/monster of the week problem, that in the end shows how superficial the whole setup is. Now, other series like for example the James Bond series has the same problems, but they’re not releasing 8 James Bond movies a year.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Remco says:

    I disagree with your assumption that superhero movies are catering to a diminishing audience for several reasons.

    First of all, the growth in sales of comic books. It is higher than it has been in twenty years. Last year over $835 million was made selling $4 dollar comics. That is a shit ton of comics. And we have not even touched digital sales, that would add another $100 million.

    Kids are bombarded with cartoons and toys. Teen Titans, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., to name a few. You bet that a lot of them will remember these character until far into their adulthood.

    The adult audience gets treated with a bunch of live action shows such Gotham, Arrow, and The Flash. Minor characters such as Daredevil and Jessica Jones have TV shows that are breaking barriers. Even Supergirl just got the news that it is getting more episodes. Supergirl! It’s every girl drama, only with bad CGI and superpowers.

    If anything, the target audience is getting bigger and bigger since exposure is unavoidable. I doubt shows like The Big Bang Theory would have been so succesful if comics and superheroes were just a minor subculture. The novelty would have died off quickly. No, this is mainstream. Star Trek, or even Star Wars, is minor compared to Marvel and DC.

    And it is true that name recognition is false value, but here is the thing; that does not matter. The influence and expectation is already there. It takes a long road filled with disappointment before you start to think – you know what, I’m going to skip the next Batman film. I’m not going to buy Nike. I’m not going to eat a Big Mac.

    You’re saying that you were not familiar with Ultron, Thor, and Scarlett Witch. You might see a robot, a Hemsworth, and some chick. Others see one of the arch-villains of Ant-Man and the Avengers, the God of Thunder himself, and the daughter of Magneto. Thor and Scarlett Witch have been in an incredible amount of comics and TV series.

    Look, I’m not saying that everyone knows about all of them, or even care about all of them. But they do not have to. If you are fanboying over only one of them, DC/Marvel has done its job. You will want to know more and watch other movies out of curiosity. And bringing smaller characters into the fray means pleasing a lot of fans, while also attempting to keep things fresh. It might feel unlikely now, but you might really like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Wonder Woman, or Deadpool.

    I agree that many of the movies are the same, I have complained about that myself, but, then again, we watch a lot more movies than most. Superheroes moves have become a hype since the release of Spider-Man. And we are getting them in increasing volumes. But I think that has more to do with the still growing popularity. Every hype comes to an end, and this will be no different, but I just do not see it happen within the next two-to-three years. People are still too excited.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ok, I buy your point that the enthusiasm is generally still going strong, and that the current hype is also enlarging the audience. For today and for the future. I can only fear that you are right that the hype will continue for the next few years.

      And I also think that the way Marvel and DC are handling the adding and removal of minor characters in a wrong way. You see, this is one reason why I wrote the original blog entry and why I keep going on about that a name doesn’t make a good character. One reason why I am frustrated with Ultron is that I know that a large fanbase considers him an iconic villain, but the movie introduced and killed him off within a two-hour span, and I am left wondering: was that it? It was just a generic robot. So, apparently I will have to read the comics to get a sense of why Ultron is considered iconic, because the movie fails to communicate that. That is why I can’t take it seriously if a new trailer builds up all this hype for a new name. I fear that with Batman v. Superman, that movie will see a handful of new characters including Doomsday, and I get the impression from the fanbase that that is another iconic villain. But judging from the trailer, it’s just going to be a CGI troll that will be killed off within an hour after his appearance. I can’t take anything away from that. I don’t want movies to give me only a suggestion of epicness based on the name. I want to be convinced, and I want the movies to speak for themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Remco says:

        I am not sure if you can expect that from the movie platform, and especially in the superhero genre. To create really well-developed characters in only two hours is exceedingly difficult. The Joker from The Dark Knight was able to pull it off because he has no discerning background – Nolan did not have to waste time explaining his background and motivations, but that is hardly something you can repeat. It worked because it was The Joker. Most characters need backstory and motivation, and that takes a lot of time. This is where TV series excel. The rise of Penguin in Gotham took an entire season, if they would cut that to a 15-30 minute short story it would not work.

        And then there is the audience. I do not think the majority of cinema goers that attend superhero movies go to watch an intricate story. They go because they want to see their favourite hero punch someone, or something, in the face. Repeatedly. And Ultron and his mini-me’s got punched a lot. He was voiced by James Spader and had a couple of one-liners. That’s what the majority of people want, so that is what the studios deliver. This is not the same audience that goes to watch 12 Years A Slave or Bridge of Spies.

        Having said that, on a personal level I do agree with you. I fear that Batman vs Superman is going to be a complete mess. Too many new characters, Doomsday as the villain of the week – or even worse, an Amazing Spider-Man 2 Rhino moment, and I am not okay with Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor. I believe you are familiar with the phrase “It’s so dense, every single image has so many things going on”, both trailers invoked this very thought when I watched them. They want to tell so much that I doubt that they will be able to pull it off in even something that looks like a coherent fashion.


        • Well.. I do expect more. Better characterization doesn’t necessarily have to be more background story. I think better dialogue and better acting would help a great deal. Especially in the marvel movies, I think both heroes and villains are very bland. I really think they could be so much better, and I fear that the writers are also looking through nostalgia glasses.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. ribblle says:

    I am freshly disappointed by civil war, but look forward to suicide squad. Small characters nobody cares about can actually die, and the scenery can change (no clue why all the captain america movies look like they were filmed in the same location). Guardians of the galaxy, deadpool, both surprisingly good movies, and they won’t get away with pulling the same shit with the same characters for a entire franchise.


    • Yeah, I think that one or two characters should have died in civil war. That would make the whole mcu more exciting. As for the future movies, I think people are demanding greater quality in superhero movies now. That’s a good thing. hopefully they stay fresh.


  5. Back in 2010 I already put a post on my blog claiming the superhero genre was exhausted:


    As the post shows, I wasn’t the only one. But I never imagined the boom would go this strong, this long. (Just like I didn’t think zombies would be so big for so long.)

    This has proven a very strange century indeed, both those trends locked in during the early 2000s and still very much with us.


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