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The True Villains of the Superhero Franchise

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s underdeveloped plot lines based on maximizing profit. In the last ten years, there has been a massive influx of superhero films hitting the screen. It used to be an exciting experience when they finally revealed the next actor or actress to put on that classic spandex suit, but it’s getting redundant. Hollywood kept us in suspense, limiting the amount of superhero films to about one per year. Now, a new hero is introduced on almost a monthly basis.

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching two super-humans go head to head in fight that determines the fate of the universe. Who doesn’t? However, these films are losing their originality. Superheroes continue to be churned out for the sole purpose of making a profit. As a junior pursuing a BBA in Marketing at Drury University, and an avid film buff, I find the state of current superhero movies concerning.

The Investment

Currently, it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to create the next big superhero flick. And that’s before advertising! Though many of these producers are able to make a return on this kind of investment, it’s starting to become extremely risky.

James Mangold, director of Logan (2017), spoke to Vulture about the problems he sees with current superhero films. He says, “You sit and watch these movies and start to zone out, despite the fact that you’re watching shots that cost $100,000 per second go by.” That’s insane. He then goes on to say “The money they’re making is getting closer and closer to how much they’re costing. This devil’s bargain of it doesn’t matter that we’re spending so much because we’re making so much is getting closer and closer to the point where it’s getting frightening.” At what point are movie studios going to realize that pumping these films out on an assembly line is only eating into their profits? When a consumer becomes disappointed with one, they are likely not to try another for fear of wasting their money.

Quantity Over Quality

The major problems I see studios facing is not just the quantity but the quality. Not in the sense that the visual elements of these films are sub-par, or the acting is necessarily bad. The problem is the writing. Specifically, creating dialogue that not only fails to challenge movie goers, but also fails to focus on themes that make people think.

Actor Simon Pegg relayed to Radio Times his frustration with the way superhero films are being manufactured. Pegg says, “Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilized by our own taste. Now we’re essentially all consuming very childish things—comic books, superheroes… Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously.” I believe that films like these are beginning to dumb down audiences and create an illusion that the only way to make a good film is through flashy special effects.

There is nothing wrong with action films. Sometimes as an audience member, it is nice to just sit back and watch something blow up. At the rate superhero movies are being produced, however, it’s beginning to create a status quo that robs cinema of its ability to evolve. Indiewire deputy director and chief critic Eric Kohen states, “I get it. Watching unreasonably powerful people engage in banter while doing impossible things is a hugely rewarding fantasy. At the same time, I have issues with these kind of movies playing such a massive role in the way we relate to the art form.” I believe that even if a fraction of the same money that is used to create these films were invested elsewhere,  the American film industry could create more films that will truly stand the test of time.

Superheroes Have Feelings Too

Audiences want to feel. They want to relate to the characters on the screen. Most importantly, they want learn from the conflicts and the trials that these fictional characters face. Film has and will always be a medium that helps shape our ideals, culture, and perspective of the world. Unfortunately, many recent superhero films lack this kind of depth. The villain is the money. The damsel in distress is the franchise. All we need is a hero.









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