Special Features

The Check-In: Have You Reached Superhero Fatigue Yet?

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.


Meet 2018:

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.

There are 8 confirmed superhero movies due next year with the possibility of more depending on what Fox does with its June and November “Untiled Fox/Marvel film” release slots.

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 SHIELDThe 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.

Source: CNET


  1. Wait…you dropped AoS in 2016? Go back to it! Now!!!!!! Season 4 was the best they ever delivered, and it contained one of the best episodes which aired in TV EVER! It’s legendary!

    Okay, I said this before, but it bears repeating: You can’t really compare the Western with the Comic book movies. For one, when Western were big, there were hundreds of them released every year, not just by Hollywood, Italy, Germany, EVERYONE was doing some version of the Western. Two, the Western is in itself a very limiting genre. And three, a very, very big part of the downfall of the Western was the sudden realization that to glorious days of colonizing the West might not have been that glorious after all. Hence the typical tropes of the Western went to immigrate into other genres, where you could use them without having to worry how to portray native Americans without addressing what the settlers actually did to them.

    As you said yourself, the Comic book “genre” is more flexible, and it can easily reinvent itself again and again to fit into the needs of the current audience.

    Me personally, well, I dropped all of the CW shows, but less because they were Comic book shows and more because I have limited patience for the typical CW BS. I am still a dedicated watcher of Agents of Shield….the Netflix shows always were and always will be a mixed bag for me, but since they are on Netflix they are great for a boring weekend. Runaways was a let down, but I look forward to Cloak and Dagger. I have good feeling with this one.

    On the movie side, well, there I am still where I always was: I will watch what looks good to me…meaning I am part of the audience which makes the difference in revenue between something like Justice League and Infinity War (which I watched twice, btw, and I don’t do this all that often). Just like I do it with every other genre.

    Here is the thing though: I don’t really feel the need to watch most movies in Theatres anymore. It is exactly the block busters and a few selected movies which are more on the artsy side (including some animated offers) which I feel I have to see in theatres to get the full experience. The drama of the week though, that one works in TV just as well. Meaning the one movie I sought out to see in theatres last year was “Loving Vincent” outside of the MCU movies.

    So the notion of block buster fatigue is BS. Blockbusters are the main reason why cinemas have a good chance to survive. The notion of Comic book fatigue is even more BS, especially when it comes to the MCU. The audience is invested in those characters, it won’t suddenly stop wanting to watch them. Deadpool is different. In the case of Deadpool, it wasn’t really the character which was the draw, it was the humour (which isn’t my thing, btw, so no, Deadpool 2 is not something I will necessarily see).

    Anyway, this year there is only Cloak and Dagger and whatever Netflix releases (Luke Cage, I think) on the TV side left, on the movie side there is Ant-man and the Wasp and Into the Spiderverse IF the movie gets a good review. And I naturally won’t miss out on Incredibles 2 and Wreck it Ralph 2 if I can help it. Otherwise I have an eye on The Nutcracker (because I happen to lovelovelove the ballet), and Mama Mia 2, which won’t be good in any way, but it might be fun. All this is very manageable.

    But skipping Aquaman or Venom doesn’t mean that I am in any way tired of Superhero movies…quite the opposite in fact. But I will go for what I perceive as the right kind of Superhero movie and/or Blockbuster.

    Helps that I never was into Star wars anyway, though. Or most of the other typical blockbuster franchises. So there is less danger of me getting in any way overwhelmed.

    1. We are in full agreement. I handle this so called fatigue by just not going to see every single superhero movie that gets released. I’m not interested on all of them. Just a select few, and I take a break, and see something else. I also plan out my Summer movie viewing several months in advance, and stick to my list.

      Plus, I counter my Summer movie viewing in the winter time, by I indulging my “serious movie” side, and checking out the Oscar contenders.

      It all balances out, really.

      I just watched Deadpool. Next on my agenda, The Incredibles, and Jurassic Park sequels!

      1. I always have a list of movies which I HAVE to see (this one is pretty short), a list of movies I will see if the reviews are good and otherwise, it is just a matter of opportunity. This Summer there won’t be a lot of movie watching anyway…it’s World Cup Time!

    2. I didn’t most of this because I am in 100% in agreement with your AoS comment. the only show I will still watch week to week. Truly an amazing show. Based on that alone, I agree with the rest of post.

      1. Yeah, it is so sad that AoS doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.

        To summon up the rest of my post: I just pick and chose what I watch, like I have always done, and that makes the Superhero output very manageable, because only roughly half of it is actually good enough to warrant my attention in the first place.

    3. “Wait…you dropped AoS in 2016? Go back to it! Now!!!!!! Season 4 was the best they ever delivered, and it contained one of the best episodes which aired in TV EVER! It’s legendary!”

      Just to be clear, I did say “within a year.” I didn’t stop watching all of those shows at the same time Doctor Strange came out, more Doctor Strange was the first sign of my superhero fatigue and it soon spread to me growing tired of AoS, Flash, and Arrow. I ended up quitting Flash first, Arrow second, and AoS last. That means I did actually watch all of last season and even picked up the first 3 or 4 episodes of the most recent season, enough to know they’re in a future where Quake might have destroyed the Earth. It wasn’t that it was bad; I was just ready to explore new characters and new stories, moving to shows like The Exorcist, Halt and Catch Fire, and The Leftovers. There are only so many TV-watching hours in the week.

      1. Now I am kind of impressed that you even managed to drop AoS after the season 4 it delivered…I mean, SelfControl might be my favourite TV episode ever….it is certainly a contender.

        I currently have a hard time finding TV shows worth watching. My taste is a little bit weird I guess….

  2. With special effects reaching the point of being indistinguishable from reality, as long as the stories continue to be interesting, I don’t see myself getting tired of superhero movies any time soon. I’m certainly not there, yet.

    I still watch The Flash and Arrow, but it’s become a bit of a chore — not because they’re superhero shows but because the stories have become tedious.

    There are so many interesting stories from the decades of printed comics, they won’t run out of ideas any time soon. The question is whether they can convert them into interesting, engaging, and somewhat believable movies.

    1. “not because they’re superhero shows but because the stories have become tedious.”

      I dropped in to watch Paul Blackthorne’s last episode and was reminded of how little I actually missed Arrow. It just reached a place for me where I couldn’t keep watching the show progress through small variations on the same old stuff.

    1. For me, I wouldn’t go as far as “FOR LIFE!” maybe more “For however long Kevin Feige is in charge.” Once he goes who knows what will happen to the MCU, which they’ve got planned out well into the next decade. Of course, Feige has nothing to do with the Marvel shows, which is largely why I’m a bit more selective with those. Runaways, couldn’t get all the way through the first season. Probably skipping Cloak & Dagger. But I dig the Netflix Marvel shows.

      As for the other Marvel movies happening at Fox and Sony, I will always want to see an X-Men movie. I just will. X-Men and Batman are my first comic book loves. Granted, I’m not exactly expecting the new X-Men movies to be amazing. I’m just duty-bound to see them. As for Venom and Silver & Black at Sony, I might need to see the reviews on those first. Venom at least has my attention with its cast of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate, and Woody Harrelson.

      And, of course, Ryan Reynolds is just perfect as Deadpool.

      1. Well, yeah. I’m not THAT hardcore. No interest in Runaways. Venom looks awful. I wasn’t planning on bothering with Cloak and Dagger either, though I’m getting a little curious with how much praise it’s getting already.

        Just imagine though, after this next X-Men movie we might actually start getting Marvel Studios X-Men. Ohhh I hope so.

  3. I personally feel a little bored with them. Of course I am more a fan of horror and fantasy movies. But I did grow up reading the comics and do re-read them at times. I find the movies to be overly generic, except for Guardians.

    1. I’m not quite bored of them, in general, more bored of the same ole, same ole. A really traditional superhero movie with a tragic origin story and a white dude in tights and a cape delivering vigilante justice wouldn’t do much for me right now. But Wonder Woman gave me a rather familiar story with an unfamiliar lead, Black Panther weaved social commentary and afrofuturism, Ragnarok was just straight-up superhero team-up craziness, Infinity War unprecedented spectacle, Legion – the FX show -took a David Lynch approach to comic books, The Punisher was like 2/3rds Marvel: Homeland and 1/3 vigilante action, Logan actually took shirt seriously and put forth Oscar-caliber work, etc. Plus, I am so invested in the MCU characters at this point that even when they deliver a movie I don’t love I’m still happy to see the characters again.

      But a lot of the variation I’ve described looks to others like new layers of paint slapped on to the same old toys. At a certain point, you do look up and just wish they’d stop making so many damn many of them on TV and film, and I get starting to feel a tad bored with it all. I was righ there with Doctor Strange not too long ago.

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