Super-Saturated: Claims of superhero movies oversaturating the film market are overblown

by Anjay Saklecha, Winged Post Copy Editor

It’s amazing how far we’ve come since Bryan Singer’sX-Men” hit theaters in 2000. Viewed by many as ground zero for the comic book movie era, its success ushered in a new wave of blockbusters that included Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” series, launching in 2002; Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, which started in 2005; and the dawn of Marvel Studios “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (MCU), with the release of “Iron-Man” in 2008. While there may have been some hiccups along the way with not well-received box office films such as “Daredevil” (2003) and “Catwoman” (2004), the groundwork was laid for superhero movies to become the next “thing” in Hollywood.

Four of the biggest studios in the industry—Disney, Fox, Sony and Warner Bros—have their hands on this lucrative pot of gold and in most cases are using films to emulate the comic pages.

Warner Brothers, producer of DC comics, announced that there are seven DC adaptations scheduled from December 2018 to June 2020, with Marvel Studios also announcing for eleven movies from 2018 to 2020. This development won’t stop the studios from dipping into the sci-fi, fantasy, and action genres during this time as well. With so many “event” projects vying for audiences’ attention, celebrities such as Steven Spielberg and Mark Hamill and critics from NYTimes and Rotten Tomatoes say Hollywood should recognize that the time for romantic comedies and horror films may be over.

But is it over?

Hollywood works in cycles, with a different type of film being the number one option for moviegoers over specific time periods. Right now, many consider this to be the “golden age” of superhero movies, much like the 1950s represented the glory days of the Wild West genre.

The idea of the marketplace overusing superheroes sooner rather than later is brought up frequently, but fans of superhero films rightfully point out that comic book adaptations are no different from romantic-comedies or action flicks in that there will inevitably always be films of multiple genres in a year.

2017 saw nine high-profile superhero films (after six the year before). In the grand scheme of things, is that really that many?

While it is arguable that superhero companies have written characters that seem to have evolved to a more modern work of art, with, of course, new special effects and costumes, superhero films achieve nearly the same success in the box-office, no matter whether it is critically well-received.

For example, while I’m a huge fan of DC comics and loved characters such as Batman and the Flash as I was growing up, I found “Justice League” (released Nov. 2017) to be quite underwhelming and predictable. But the truth is that “Justice League” still grossed about $652.3 million.

Just last year, box offices saw the sequel to the new trilogy of the galactic saga “Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi” gross more than “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Justice League.” Clearly there’s still room for other types of cinemas. That’s why studios are still green lighting these projects amidst all the superhero business: superhero flicks may be “the thing,” but they’re certainly not the only thing.

It’s easy and understandable to think that the influx of confirmed superhero dates will have some drastic effects on the Hollywood system — but as long as the studios play their cards right, business will likely go on as usual.

There may not be enough movie money to go around to make every single Marvel and DC film a runaway success, but glance at the domestic chart for any given year and you’ll see a wide variety of films among the highest-grossing.

In the end, the argument on whether superhero movies are taking over the Hollywood industry boils down to the market. With so many similar-minded films going after the same demographic, the law of averages is going to play into this and everything will take care of itself in the long run. As it’s always been, audiences will dictate with their money, choosing which films they are interested in.

This is how the movie business has worked for decades, and with people interested in many types of films, the box office charts will remain as diverse as ever.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on February 5, 2018.