Last year, studios released eight superhero films. Not only did we get new movies but new superhero TV shows like LUKE CAGE and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. Plus new seasons of superhero TV shows like DAREDEVIL, THE FLASH, and GOTHAM premiered on a range of networks and premium streaming services.

Since only 2012, there have been at least thirty superhero movies and fifteen superhero television shows with much more on the way. With that being said, there can be no question that we are living in the golden age of superhero adaptations. However, ever since superhero movies began producing box office gold, people have predicted a coming of superhero fatigue.

Director Steven Spielberg predicted in 2015 that interest in superhero movies would fade over time. Now, I worship at the altar of Spielberg and understand his point. Nevertheless, I believe that the last two years have proven that there are ways to maintain audience interest in these movies. Here are some ways movie and television studios can fight superhero fatigue.

Make The Stories Different

2012s THE AVENGERS is perhaps the movie that made superheroes the kings of the blockbuster. The 1.5 billion-dollar-grossing movie depicts six superheroes fighting to save the world from an alien invasion.

The First AVENGERS film made over 1.5 billion dollars at the global box office — Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

THE AVENGERS is no doubt a great movie, but countless superhero movies have copied its formula since then. For example, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, SUICIDE SQUAD, and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON all involve plots where the world is at the risk of destruction. Furthermore, several of these movies copy the device from the first AVENGERS where a beam of light shoots into the sky. This plot point, known as “the sky beam” by fans is an example of how movie studios have recycled the same plotline over and over.

It gets repetitive when heroes are constantly fighting to protect the world from massive CGI armies. That is why certain writers have written different stories to make their superhero projects seem fresh. DAREDEVIL, the Netflix series, gained acclaim and popularity for focusing on crime level action instead of going for the usual epic approach done in the MCU’s movies. Then there was CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR which cleverly had the Avengers fight each other instead of an exterior threat. Both projects found ways to put heroes in different situations that felt new.

The Need For A Change Of Tone

The greatest juggernaut of superhero movies right now is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starting with IRON MAN, the MCU has established a fun and adventurous yet family-friendly tone for its films. This has worked for the MCU since the quality of their movies has remained consistent over its nine-year run.

READ: Meanwhile The DCEU has struggled with its tone for some years. Find out why here!

However, keeping a constant tone is dangerous for any franchise. The darker EMPIRE STRIKES BACK followed the original STAR WARS. The car racing FAST AND FURIOUS franchise changed to an action series beginning in FAST FIVE. On the other hand, many of the MCU’s sequels (besides the Captain America ones) were criticized for being too similar in tone to the first in the series. Even GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 was seen as less original than the first installment.

On the other hand, Fox has been releasing superhero movies with completely different tones. Last year, Fox released DEADPOOL, an R-rated comedy. Then they returned to traditional superhero films with X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. This year the studio came out with LOGAN, an emotional and dark drama.

Deadpool and Logan were two recent superhero movies by 20th Century Fox. Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Meanwhile, though the DC Extended Universe films have been mixed in reception, they profit from having a distinct tone from Marvels. DC’s films have lacked some of the playful and family friendly elements seen in Marvel movies, but that has not influenced their box office receipts.

Every single film in the DCEU, no matter its critical reception, has been a box office hit. I believe this is because certain theater-goers have grown tired of Marvel’s consistent tone and DC has had success by providing an alternative tone. In this way, The DCEU functions as counterprogramming to the previously MCU dominated genre.

Put A Spin On Things

Spielberg predicted that the superhero genre would fade much like the western genre. But there are some that argue that genres never fade away but meld with other genres. For example, many people argue that STAR WARS has the traits of a Western despite being a science fiction movie.

Superhero movies have followed this trend by combining genres. The film CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER is in many ways a 70s thriller while LOGAN is a western. There are so many genres within the superhero comic book world to explore, and it seems like studios are just now realizing that.

READ: Fatigue shows no signs of affecting Wonder Woman. Check out our review here!

WONDER WOMAN and SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING both found success this year. This is because they involve elements that people have never seen before. For WONDER WOMAN, we have never seen that character on the big screen nor have we seen a great female-led superhero film. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING  has the curse of being the third iteration of Spider-Man on the big screen.

However, Marvel Studios has cleverly combined a John Hughes high school coming of age movie with a traditional superhero blockbuster. That is a fresh new angle that audiences have never seen in a movie theater.

Final Thoughts On Superhero Fatigue

I do not think that if the studios play it smart that superhero fatigue will be a major problem for studios. All they need to do is continue to release intelligent, interesting, and different new superhero projects. We need fewer X-MEN: APOCALYPSE or AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and more LEGION or GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; and I think that studios are learning this.

Marvel Studios recently released their trailer for next year’s BLACK PANTHER. I was ecstatic after watching it. Everything about from its lighting, tone, and focus on Afrofuturism seemed so different. It is especially different from what has come before it in the MCU. Projects like this are critical to fighting superhero fatigue.

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