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Are There Too Many Superhero Movies?



The present obsession of Hollywood with superhero movies can be traced directly to the beloved superhero movie, Spider-Man (2002). Although superhero flicks were made before this movie as well, they were quite rare, and far between. All that changed with Spider-Man. This movie singlehandedly showed the Hollywood producers how they can squeeze out every ounce of fascination that kids, as well as adults, had for superhero comics by showing their favorite superheroes saving the day. What has resulted is a disturbing obsession of the producers with every comic character they can get their hands on. You switch on your TV, only to discover a new groundbreaking superhero movie that is guaranteed to make at least half a dozen records at the box office. But, to paraphrase a supervillain, when everything is a blockbuster, nothing is.

Lately, many people feel “overburdened” excitation. We can only get so excited about superhero movies when every other movie being released is a superhero movie. But, you know that within a week or two all those water cooler discussions will be on this very movie itself, and you grudgingly convince yourself that you “want” to watch the movie, just so that you are not left out of those discussions. Now, two questions demand answers here. How many superhero movies will it take for people to get sick of them? When is it going to stop, if ever?

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Let’s find an answer to the first question. DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. have together released 14 comic based superhero movies, which doesn’t even include the animated movies – and it’s only going to catch more momentum. Between 2017 and 2020, they will release 8 more movies featuring various characters of the Justice League. Marvel’s list is even more impressive. It has released a total of 39 movies since the beginning of this century. By the end of 2019, that number will be 49. Phew! That’s a lot of superhero movies. Mind you, this tally does not even consider all those TV movies, direct-to-video, animated movies, and short films. It is humanly impossible to keep yourself excited for all of these movies, as well as the other movie genres that Hollywood keeps churning out.

Now, the second question is a bit tricky. Just look at the numbers above. These studios are working hard to churn out more than 70 movies in just two decades. Why are they doing it? Obviously, because they are the most commercially bankable movies. The latest Marvel commodity, Captain America: Civil War, ended up grossing $1.132 billion. DC’s Batman vs Superman raked in box office collections that were just shy of $900 million, and yet, its producers felt that the movie performed “below expectations.” A movie earned them close to a billion dollars, and they consider it an underperforming flick. What’s more, that underperforming movie is guaranteed to continue to bring them more money by way of licensing and merchandise. Can you now see where this is going? Why would anyone, who is profit-minded, in their right minds try to invest in riskier business propositions, when there is a wealth to be made in far less risky options! After all, everyone has a right to make profits, right?

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It’s not like all these movies are bad either. Granted, Suicide Squad was a disaster, BvS did not live up to the hype,and Iron Man 3 was crap. Often enough, we do get gems like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Deadpool, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the likes. These movies set an example for how superhero movies should be. But, other filmmakers hardly take any notes.

So, will Marvel and DC finally learn that their misadventures are simply killing the superhero fascination of the comic lovers unceremoniously, and tame the number of flicks they produce? Short answer: no. The thing is that the US audience is not the only target segment for filmmakers these days. For instance, 62% of the box office collections of BvS came from international markets, while the US accounted for only 37.9%. The international entertainment industry is a lot tougher for Hollywood studios than the domestic market. There, they have to compete with the local film industry too. In those markets, superhero movies are an assured success. China, UK, France, Germany, India, Brazil, Mexico, and many more countries are all promising a huge audience, with vastly varied tastes. There is a lot of money to be made, and not enough can be invested to cater to each country’s taste. So, why not follow a general strategy to cater to all those populations.

So, to answer the second question, the superhero movie mania is not going to end anytime soon, even if they won’t perform well domestically. The new trend is that many of these movies are being released internationally, even before they are released in the US. Be prepared to have all your childhood heroes ruined for you. Superhero movies air almost every week on various cable channels, so if you have a Comcast TV package, you can watch these movies all the time!

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