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Warner Bros.’ CEO Gives Us An Excuse to Talk About Superhero Fatigue. It Won’t Be The Last Time

Some people might have been feeling it beforehand, but pretty much ever since Warner Bros. pulled its “Surprise! Here are the crap-ton of DC movies we’re putting out through 2020!” and Marvel countered with its “Oh, screw you guys right in the ear! Here’s our list of movies due out by 2019!” superhero movie fatigue seems to have officially set in. It’s actually kind of hilarious on one level because everyone, including me, has stepped to the table to ask, “Are there too many superhero movies?” when, in fact, there were only five such movies released last year (Captain America, Spider-Man, X-Men, Guardians, Big Hero 6), and you can really quibble over whether Guardians of the Galaxy or Big Hero 6 truly deserve to be grouped with the others. That’s the same number of superhero movies we got in 2013 (Thor, Kick-Ass, Wolverine, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3). We’re actually taking a bit of a break this year, 2015 only serving up Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Fantastic Four. It’s next year (when we get Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, Gambit, Doctor Strange) and the years after that everyone is really worried about. And that’s before you start worrying about the assorted heroes and villains currently overtaking TV with Arrow, Flash, Gotham, Constantine, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD this season and Supergirl and an untitled Arrow/Flash spin-off next season.

Even with all the comic book TV shows currently in development, only one superhero show is at the pilot stage, the Melissa Benoist-starring Supergirl

As such, the people responsible for making all of these films and TV shows are going to be answering the “Are there too many superhero movies/shows?” question for the next couple of years. The latest example happened yesterday when Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara made an appearance at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco. He pretty much re-stated the company line (same for Warner Bros. and Marvel) on the topic which is that as long as there is variety in the worlds these films explore then superhero movie fatigue will continue to just be a thing a lot of journalists and cynics on the internet complain about. Well, he didn’t say that last part, but he definitely said the stuff about the need for variety.

The current 2015-2020 timeline for comic book movies, updated to reflect Marvel/Sony’s deal for a new Spider-Man. Found at

This is one of those things that can sometimes separate the comic book readers from the non-comic book readers when it comes to worrying over superhero movie fatigue: Just because these things share a common type of source material, comics and graphic novels, doesn’t mean they have to actually be that similar. Fox’s Deadpool is going to be a dark comedy with a fourth-wall breaking protagonist, Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad is going to be a heist movie focusing on glorified villainous mercenaries, Marvel’s Doctor Strange is going to be something close to a fantasy story about dueling magicians. Those are three different genres that you wouldn’t otherwise group together, but we do because they’re all comic book movies just as we group Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier together even though those are very different kinds of movies albeit ones with eerily similar if not entirely identical plot structures.

So, yes, you should theoretically be able to stave off superhero movie fatigue by ensuring a consistent variety in the types of worlds you explore (frankly, rebooting Batman and Spider-Man again isn’t helping that cause), and you’d damn well better finally get around to adding in more diversity (please, no more white guys named Chris). Tsujihara agreed, arguing, “You have to take advantage of the diversity of these characters,” before pointing to CBS’ female-fronted Supergirl and the forthcoming Aquaman movie as ways to widen the demographics of super hero fans. He stopped short of pulling a Stephen Colbert-esque “Look, we have a black friend now!’ by touting the African-American-fronted Cyborg movie on the way, although we know Marvel has its own counterpoint on the way with Black Panther. The two companies also have competing female-fronted films, Wonder Woman for WB, Captain Marvel for Marvel.

Of course, there are those who just find this all funny.  Found at

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tsujihara also broadly characterized the tone of the DC shows/films as dark and edgy versus the lighter Marvel show/films. That does inspire thoughts like, “Hold on a second. Have you ever actually watched The Flash or Agents of SHIELD?” Dark and edgy describes SHIELD, at least the current version of it, far more than it does The Flash, and whatever edginess Gotham has is usually unintentionally funny.  Plus, Netflix’s version of Marvel’s Daredevil is going to be a very grim show.  But, really, “light” vs. “dark” or “edgy” seem like empty marketing terms, and the old “DC is serious, Marvel is fun” party line is broadly true and definitely seems to be the guiding force behind the films at this point. What exactly that might do to superhero fatigue – What if all DC movies are as self-serious as Man of Steel? – is anyone’s guess, although the obvious guess is that it won’t be good for business.

American SniperOf course, Warner Bros. is more than just the company that owns DC. In fact, they’re riding high right now on the colossal, money-printing success of American Sniper. However, you could probably find no better indication of how married the major studios are to their current business models than Tsujihara waving away American Sniper as a mere “outlier.” Rather than use that as excuse to explore more war movies he re-iterated that Warner’s film business is built around three pillars: DC, LEGO, and J.K. Rowling. Why? Because those are easier to market to a global audience, joking “You don’t have to explain what Batman v Superman is.”

Ultimately, it all comes back to what Ted Hope told Flavorwire last year. He’s the author of Hope for Film, CEO of the VOD site Fandor, and producer of such films as The Ice Storm, Happiness, and American Splendor. Like so many others, he can’t imagine this bubble won’t burst eventually, especially now that Marvel’s shared universe approach is being emulated outside of comic book movies, “It feels incredibly vulnerable to me. Look, I’m surprised the superhero stuff has the legs that it does, but you look at what Warner Brothers and Marvel have mapped out, you add into it all of the Universal monster movies and all these others platform plays, and you better hope that nobody’s taste changes for the next five years, you know? That’s not a diverse portfolio!”

So true. But…can we just talk about how good Avengers: Age of Ultron looks? Maybe this will all have burnt to the ground before we ever get to 2020, but that seems so far down the road. Can’t we just enjoy how good some of these movies look right now?

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Source: Variety


  1. I would be very surprised if the line-up for the upcoming years doesn’t thin out a little bit. It already did when Sony and Marvel paired up, knocking effectively all the Sony movies from the schedule aside from the Spider-man movie which got a pre-existing spot…so one movie a year less to worry about.

    Unless Fanst4stic turns out to be an awesome movie, I dare to predict that Fant4stic 2 will most likely not happen. It won’t pull the big box office numbers on the name alone. And even though “Days of Future Past” was a success, I think the X-men franchise is shortly before imploding. At one point in the upcoming years the whole mess of sequels and prequels and changed timelines will become so complicated that Fox will decide to wipe the slate clean, perhaps even wait a few years and then start anew.

    DC’s entire slate hinges pretty much on the Success of Dawn of Justice and Justice League. If the audience doesn’t like Aquaman, there won’t be an Aquaman movie (though the movie which I am the most doubtful to happen is actually Cyborg, followed by the Green Lantern reboot…and obviously, I am not the only one).

    The only studio which I am convinced will mostly stick to their plan is Marvel, and I doubt that the popularity of the MCU will wane anytime soon. Because what the other studios preach is what they practice. The MCU is not one Franchise. It is multiple Franchises which are connected to each other, in some cases even very loosely. People who normally don’t watch the MCU might watch GotG 2 nevertheless,

    There have been multiple comic book movies every year since the 2000s started and the studios realized that they finally had the technology needed to bring all those Superpowers properly on screen. That’s a bubble which won’t burst anytime soon. Not as long as the movies are worth watching.

    1. Ultimately, this will all sort itself out. We saw how quickly plans can fall apart after Amazing Spider-Man 2. Pretty much everything outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is highly suspect at this point, although I am a bit more optimistic about the future of X-Men than you probably are. Still, it’s a lot of “MCU” seems to know what it’s doing, but good luck to everyone else because we’re not so sure about you.

      1. Well, Marvel has the track record. It’s not like all their movies are good, but they are all at least decent. And everything feels so planned out…even their “diversity”. I might be wrong, but GotG felt like a weather balloon, as if they wanted to test if the MCU is stable enough that it gives previously mostly unknown characters the push they need. Inhumans was obviously something they already considered when AoS started, because they have laid the groundwork for that from the very first episode onwards. They can adapt, but they have a really good idea in which direction they intend to take their universe.

        I doubt that Fox ever plans further than the next movie and DC seems to go in multiple directions at once.

  2. I just realized that we will get the entire Infinity War sandwiched between Justice League.

    As you mentioned, the continued success of these films relies heavily on them being different genres. It allows them to appeal to different audiences. Also like you mentioned, these movies due to the simple fact that they are based on a comic ties them together. I honestly believe that if the studios want to avoid burnout and let this last longer, they need to break away from that thing that bonds them. These movies need to be thought of not as comic book movies, but connected movies. Breaking away from that stigma will be a long hard journey though.

  3. Although the same number of comic book movies got released in 2013 as in 2014, the media was saturated with trailers, teasers, announcements, pop culture convention appearances, McHappy meals, wearable merchandise, etc. Now, we have to be oversaturated with more of the teasers, trailers, announcements, pop culture convention appearances and unstantiated rumours of forthcoming a lot more *products*.

    Also, I am too lazy to do more than 5 minutes of googling but suspect that marketing/advertising has increased to further oversaturate things.

    I wonder how much of this is Disney’s fault. They spent nearly a $1 billion for Marvel and over $4 billion for Star Wars and inevitably need to make that money back. However, they seem to be in a desperate rush to do it before the comic book movie market falls out. I wonder how much of this desperate rush is caused by themselves though.

    I also wonder:
    a) how much Star Wars saturation (and particularly movies) there needs to be regain their investment
    b) what the ratio of profits is expected from films/merchandise/other for each of the franchises and
    c) if there will be a Marvel/Star Wars crossover.

    1. “Although the same number of comic book movies got released in 2013 as in 2014, the media was saturated with trailers, teasers, announcements, pop culture convention appearances, McHappy meals, wearable merchandise, etc. Now, we have to be oversaturated with more of the teasers, trailers, announcements, pop culture convention appearances and unstantiated rumours of forthcoming a lot more *products*.”

      All true. A mere numbers game ignores how much the ever-present hub of news surrounding comic book movies and super saturation media campaigns for each individual films contributes to our general malaise.

      “I am too lazy to do more than 5 minutes of googling but suspect that marketing/advertising has increased to further oversaturate things”

      This isn’t really what you’re talking about, but The Hollywood Reporter ran an interesting piece over the summer about the rising marketing costs for all movies, with tentpole films now costing $200 million in global marketing costs, up 33% from 2007. That’s one of the many reasons that Hollywood is obsessed with China – advertising there is almost completely free since “The government’s China Film Group pays for and runs a campaign, relying almost exclusively on the Internet since few moviegoers watch television.”

      I looked all of the Disney/Marvel stuff up once before, and at that point I found multiple finance articles which seemed to assume Disney had made back its investment in Marvel due to box office, toys, and increased stock value. I have no idea about Star Wars, though.

  4. What are your thoughts on Ant-Man? Will it be another “eh” superhero film like ‘Green Lantern’?

    1. There are so many reasons to think Ant-Man will be an “eh” superhero movie. They essentially fired the original director/writer, Edgwar Wright, who had been with the project longer than Robert Downey, Jr. has been Iron Man. The new script was written by their leading man, Paul Rudd, who’s admitted he’s probably the wrong guy to write this kind of movie. They’ve taken away the most notable thing about Ant-Man in the comics, i.e., Ultron, and given him to Tony Stark for an Avengers movie. Similar to Green Lantern, they’ve cast a very likable guy as the star, but at least Ryan Reynolds had been in a Blade and X-Men movie before. Paul Rudd’s never done this kind of thing before. In fact, it’s been a long time since Paul Rudd has even played anything calling for sincerity. Evangeline Lily has admitted that after they fired Wright and re-wrote the script they kept the script away from her for several months because they knew it wasn’t good enough yet, and since she hadn’t signed her contract yet she could walk if the script sucked. And all of that is even before you get to whether or not a movie about a guy who can shrink himself really small and use a fancy helmet to control ants is just too silly for words. Or how rushed their production was, starting filming just 9 months before the release date.

      Yet despite all of that I am oddly optimistic about Ant-Man. For one thing, the expectations don’t seem particularly high meaning it’s more likely to surprise than disappoint. For another thing, I really like Paul Rudd, and not just because he loves the Kansas City Royals as much as I do. I also liked the first teaser-trailer, and really dig the idea of this being a bit of a family drama, which feels like something kind of new for the Marvel movies. But, ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy has shown me that I should never doubt Kevin Feige. Outside of that one Hulk movie and Iron Man 2, nothing Marvel Studios has done has indicated they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. So, I’m trusting in their track record. I think Ant-Man will probably be closer to Thor: The Dark World than Iron Man 3, Guardians, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’m expecting it to just be pretty good, not great, but I will be surprised if it’s really, really bad.

      I wrote more about this elsewhere on the site, but the above about sums it all up:

  5. It does seem like a terrible idea for all of the movies to have been laid out like they were. Sony really did it first with their Spider-Man movies, before immediately starting to change their mind on the entire project with Amazing Spider-Man 2, before you ever get to the Hack and the Marvel deal. If all that movie planning had been behind the scenes, we might have never known, or only had rumors about it. Well, except for the Hack. The Hack is the real outlier…

    But then DC followed suit, and then Marvel. And already DC has been making title changes and shifting movies around, and Marvel has done the same with the addition of Spider-Man. So for one thing, we might not be feeling nearly as much “comic book fatigue” if we didn’t KNOW that all these movies are coming. And, even though we think we KNOW they are coming, that could all change because of any number of factors – biggest of all being financial flops.

    I think that the Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros movies are most likely to change. Something about the Marvel Studios movie phase system, and the Disney backing, has me thinking that their movies are pretty much going to happen – though still, they may get shifted around more! My other Marvel evidence: they really seem to be releasing Ant-Man this year, despite all of its problems…

    1. Until Marvel has another artistic misstep like Iron Man 2 or financial disappointment like The Incredible Hulk, we have no reason to doubt them because all of our common sense arguments against anything they’re doing are undercut by the ever-present sports-esque argument where you point to the scoreboard (be it financial based like BoxOfficeMojo or critical like RottenTomatoes) for empirical evidence that they clearly know what they’re doing. Not a single other entity out there has earned that trust or benefit of the doubt. The only one of them who’s even on any kind of positive streak right now is Fox with The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past, both of which seemed at least generally liked and did well internationally.

      You are right that a lot of this superhero fatigue is tied to simply how many of these things have been announced through 2020, with our fatigue sometimes failing to take into account just how many of these announced movies will probably never actually happen.

      1. I now can’t remember if it was this post or your post about a Star Trek series (I think Star Trek but eh), but you talked about how the studios that most have a plan coming together are the Marvel one, the Star Wars one, and the Disney Animated/Pixar one. All of which are Disney properties. So really, Disney has things figured out, and everyone else right now wishes they were Disney. Which is something that’s been true for various points throughout Disney’s history!

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