With the record number of superhero movies hitting the box office and several on the way, I have to ask myself if such a thing as superhero overload exists. The so-called superhero hangover could simply be the result of giving audiences too much at one time and by a lack of the wow factor.
This summer saw four superhero films released and. while they have done respectable at the box office none of them have exactly set box office records.
“Thor” has done well worldwide and so has “X-Men: First Class, but neither were box office dynamos and X-Men made less than the previous films in the series. “Green Lantern”, has underwhelmed at the box office as has “Capt. America” which is only recently earned its budget and a little more thanks to the combined worldwide box office.
Of course when all of these films hit DVD the studios coffers are likely to fill as this is where a big chunk of a film’s revenue is made from these days. That being said, it’s tricky to ask a studio to invest in a $150-$200 million movie when the box office seems to be contained to a select audience.
Yes there are rare films such as “The Dark Knight”, which set box office records and become cultural phenomenons but not to be too morbid, the very tragic passing of Heath Ledger which so permeated the news gave the film a mainstream awareness allowed it to transcend beyond the series fan base.
So as we look to 2012, we see new films from “The Avengers”, “Spider-man”, “Batman”, and “Superman” on the horizon. While I expect these films to do well, I have to ask myself if perhaps there is a an indifference falling over fans which is being reflected in the less than expected box office for recent superhero films.
One such reason obviously must be the down economy. Fewer people can afford to go to the movies as often as they have in the past, so naturally there saving repeat viewings of the film until it arrives on home video.
Another reason is the fact that perhaps were getting too much of a good thing as with so many hero related films you do not have a chance to build up the frenzy to make the film an event.
Another reason is that sadly moviegoers have been burned far too many times on superhero related movies. For every one that knocks it out Park from a creative and financial standpoint, there are scores of bad movies such as”Supergirl”, Elektra”, “Catwoman” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” that fail to deliver.
One of the big reasons comes with dashed expectations. With decades of storylines needing to be compressed into two hours, it’s nearly impossible to deliver all that the fans expect. Add to this creative license such as Joel Schumacher’s nipples on the bat suits, and you can see how easy it can be to alienate the fan base who clearly knows what they want and in this day and age of the Internet will wildly let anyone know when their expectations were not met.
Some studio execs believe that hard-core fans really don’t account for much of the box office, as I remember one telling me when “Serenity” drastically underperformed despite numerous packed test screenings. The exec said to me that the hard-core fans talk a very big game but one it comes time to put their money down in support of product their often the last ones to show up. As a result, why should we risk hundreds of millions of dollars for a product that they’re only going to complain about and not support in the end.
I think scripts aside Hollywood has become so enamored with giving a CGI effect filled superhero films that they’ve forgotten what made the characters so popular in the beginning. The characters sprang to life from the pages of comics which were nothing more than paper and ink creations. It was a dynamic characters, ongoing story arcs, and adventure month after month that kept people returning to their favorite comics.
When Christopher Reeve took to the screen is Superman it was truly in awe inspiring event. At the time audiences had never seen effects to that level and we truly did believe that a man could fly.” Superman” also benefited by a severe lack of big-screen superhero competition. By the time Tim Burton brought “Batman” to the screen the “Superman” films have run their course but it did set the stage for the onslaught of superhero films that followed.
When I saw the superhero films this summer I was not exactly blown away by the plot of any of the films. While naturally I do not expect an amazing plot for a film based on a comic book there were very few twist, turns, and surprises as they pretty much followed a formulaic plot of origin, introduction of villain, fall from grace or conflict, and redemption in a climactic final battle.
I had to say to myself many times that I’ve seen it all before and better. No matter how many explosions and special effects you put on the screen if I’m not deeply involved in the story, nor care about the characters you’re eventually going to tune it out as I’ve been saying for years that summer films to become nothing more than elaborate special effects showcases in most regards.
So the challenge for the studios is to both step up their game and take the time to do it right, give us fewer films but with better quality, or expect a continued slide at the box office.
Despite what studios believe, audiences are not stupid and they know what they want and in tough economic times like this they will not support an inferior product.
it is said that familiarity breeds contempt, the films that have offered audiences something fresh and respectful to the source have often been the ones that have reaped box office gold. There is more money to be made from doing it right then to trying to put your own unique stamp on it and trying to pull the wool over and audiences eyes with lame 3-D.