Wakanda forever, Black Panther.
Hey Infinity War, I’m still not feeling so good. Hah. Storyline reference.
Deadpool 2. Meta! Fridging! Jokes! Crazy marketing! Oh, what about that post credits-scene! Amiright?
Good times. As Ron Burgundy would say, “we are laughing.”
Cut the shit!
[Abrupt record scratch]
Are you as sick of these movies as I am?
Whoa. Talk about hot take whiplash. Where the heck did that come from?
Sorry. I was just channeling CNet’s Daniel Van Boom for a second. He recently ran an op-ed declaring “It’s official. Superhero fatigue syndrome has set in” and then proceeded to explain how he is personally tiring of not just so many superhero movies but Hollywood’s year-round blockbuster strategy. “If every film is the next big blockbuster, no film is the next big blockbuster,” is one of his better lines in the piece. I recommend giving it a read, but you’ll excuse me if I’m suffering from serious deja vu over here.
Superhero fatigue? Really? What is this – 2015, the days when WB’s CEO, Steven Spielberg, Dan Gilroy, Alejandro Inarritu, Matthew Vaughn, and cynics on the internet, myself included, looked at Marvel and DC’s release schedule and saw the perfect recipe for a classic case of Hollywood killing something great through overexposure and clueless imitation. As Spielberg put it at the time:
Right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I’m only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.
The massive success of Deadpool just a year later was seen by some as confirmation of the superhero fatigue hypothesis. Sure, the film broke records and became bigger than Jesus, at least at the worldwide box office, as Deadpool jokes in the sequel, but Deadpool is a reaffirmation parody of the superhero film. Historically, a genre only turns in on itself and indulges in self-mockery when it’s ultimately starting to wear a bit thin. A sudden turn toward self-aware humor can prolong the life cycle of a genre by a couple of years (or actually bring it back to life, as Scream did for the slasher), but it’s usually the beginning of the end.
Thus, the Deadpool franchise has become the routine excuse the internet uses to talk about superhero fatigue.
But, but, but…ticket sales have never been hotter! Here’s this little jawdropper of a box office observation from THR: “Revenue to date for Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther and Deadpool 2 account for 31 percent of all 2018 domestic box-office revenue, and 57 percent of revenue generated worldwide by the top 10 Hollywood titles. That’s an unheard of share. For example, Hollywood studio superhero titles accounted for 14 percent of domestic revenue last year and, in 2016, 15 percent.”
What the shit! How can there be fatigue for a genre which has doubled its domination of the domestic market in just two years? Infinity War and Black Panther are still setting box office records and have joined the conversation of the highest-grossing films of all time, regardless of genre, and Deadpool 2 is currently outperforming its predecessor internationally.
Yeah, but we’re not even halfway through 2018’s superhero movies yet. There’s still [deep breath] The Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Teen Titans Go to the Movies!, Venom, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and “My man!’ himself – Aquaman. Of those, Teen Titans is another straight-up parody, probably even more so than Deadpool 2.
Are you ready for all of that? Or starting to feel a bit weary?
I’ve been there before, the “weary” part. Many found Doctor Strange to be a delightful, trippy departure from form for Marvel Studios, but at the time I saw a warmed over Iron Man movie. I’ve since re-watched it and come to appreciate it more, but in late 2016 I just needed a break from Marvel’s formula. Within a year, I also stopped watching most superhero TV shows, including Agents of SHIELD, The Flash and Arrow.
Then the superhero landscape opened up and gave me Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Legion, Thor: Ragnarok, The Punisher, Black Panther, Infinity War, and Deadpool 2. There’s been enough different, in terms of tone, genre, and representation, in there to win me back.
History says the superhero movie will go the way of the western. But here’s the truth: we are in unprecedented territory here. No genre has ever exerted this much control over the Hollywood ecosystem for quite this long before. All the historical examples people point to, such as the western, never made this kind of mind-spinning global money nor were they subjected to such extreme hype cycles nor did they have to contend with the chronically distracted audience that is the average 2018 moviegoer, all of which makes the superhero movie’s success all the more impressive.
Moreover, a western is a western, a slasher a slasher, a rom-com a rom-com, but the superhero genre is arguably not even a genre but instead a set of ideas and tropes that can be grafted onto any number of other actual genres, such as the heist movie (Ant-Man), political thriller (Winter Soldier), space opera (Guardians), etc.
Logic says this can’t go on forever, and the number of people who have serious issues with Infinity War and Deadpool 2’s very, very comic book-y conclusions indicates a backlash could be building. Plus, I do wonder if the kids who’ve grown up on the MCU will start to drift away post-Avengers 4 since that will be the series finale to the version of the MCU we’ve known to this point. My nephew is one such kid and he’s starting to sound weary when he talks about how old he’ll be when Guardians 3 finally comes out (which, really, screw you kid – you’ll still only be 14 when that happens). But until we start actually seeing any of this reflected in box office, superhero fatigue is still mostly just something we talk about online. It’s not that the fatigue isn’t a real thing, though there are those who dispute its very existence; it’s more than it hasn’t risen to the level of being a serious problem. Not yet.
That all being said, this – from Slate’s superhero movie calculator – sounds insane to me:
So, where do you stand on superhero fatigue in 2018? Are you an acute or chronic sufferer? Or are you still totally immune? Let me know in the comments.