Is Dark Phoenix The End Of An Era?

At the time of writing this article, Dark Phoenix is coming towards the end of its first couple of weeks in the cinema. It opening box office performance was disappointing, and it would seem that the best the film can now hope for it terms of income is breaking even on its $200m budget. That’s not necessarily a surprise – it was savaged by heavily negative reviews before most people had made a decision as to whether to go and watch it or not – but would it have performed any better even if it had met with universal praise?

Dark Phoenix is, by its very nature, the end of an era. It’s the seventh and final movie in the X-Men series, and so is the final part of a journey which began almost twenty years ago. Such has been the backlash against the film that it’s questionable as to whether any future movies would have been planned anyway, but as a full stop, it’s seen the series go out with a whimper instead of a bang. Much of that can be attributed to the poor quality of the script. We feel especially sorry for Sophie Turner in all this, as she was probably already struggling to come to terms with the negative reception to the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’, but it also feels like audiences may finally be tiring of the constant stream of superhero films in their cinemas.

Superhero Fatigue

For the majority of the past two decades, the major blockbuster movies of each year have been superhero films. There have been occasional exceptions to that rule – for example, the new ‘Star Wars’ movies – but for the main part, we’ve been flocking to see characters from the Marvel or DC Universe do battle on the big screen. Nobody reading this will need reminding about the hype that came along with ‘Avengers: Endgame’ just a few short months ago, but that, too, was the end of an era.

More than any other series of movies which feature superheroes, the ‘Avengers’ series was the one that people were emotionally invested in. The films have broken box office records, made billions of dollars for Marvel, and won a new generation of fans for comic book characters new and old. Robert Downey jr will forever be known as Tony Stark. Tom Holland has arguably been a bigger success as Spiderman than anyone who came before him in recent memory. Everyone came along for the journey – and with ‘Endgame,’ that journey finished. There are no more stories to tell.

That’s not to say that there aren’t more movies coming. DC will probably never tire of giving us new takes on Batman or Superman. Lesser known comic book characters like Shazam are getting their own time to shine, and doing quite well with it, but they don’t ‘feel’ like main-event level characters in the same way the best-known comic book creations are. Ask the average member of the public how many superheroes they can name, and most of them will be able to tell you Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Captain America. Most will know the Hulk. If they’re vaguely familiar with the X-Men, they might be able to name Wolverine. Beyond that, we’re down to characters who are a big deal to comic book fans, but mean far less to the public at large. With a lack of familiarity, it’s harder to build excitement for a film.

To put it another way, it feels like we’ve all seen the main event already, and now we’re being treated to performances by smaller acts on smaller stages.


Tell Tale Signs

Outside of the box office, there’s another place you can gauge the level of interest the public has in movies, and that’s in merchandising. It’s also a good way of monitoring the level of confidence a studio has in a film. They’ll only make significant amounts of merchandise if they believe there’s an audience there to buy it. With some of the more recent superhero films we’ve seen outside of the ‘Avengers’ umbrella, there’s barely been any at all. For ‘Dark Phoenix,’ there’s virtually nothing.

Compare and contract the amount of ‘Avengers’ merchandise you can find online against anything you’re able to locate for ‘Dark Phoenix,’ and you’ll see what we mean. There’s even a brand new ‘Avengers’ video game series planned for 2020, giving the films a life beyond the screen (although fans aren’t enthused about the trailer). There are online casino games featuring the stars of many superhero films, and it may be the casino games on UK Slots websites such as Lion Wins which provide the strongest indication of interest levels. Go to any respectable online casino, and you’ll see games based on Superman, the Hulk, Thor, and many more. You won’t find anything for the lesser-known characters. That’s very telling. The companies that develop casino games use themes which they believe will persuade players to spend money on them. If they’re not using a theme, it’s because they don’t believe there’s any money to be made.



It’s Been A Fun Ride

If we are approaching the end of this era of superhero films, then we should all take a moment to step back and appreciate it for the fantastic ride its been. Although fans of more ‘serious’ cinema may mock the idea, we know that we’ve seen some of the greatest movies of all time. We’ve even seen Deadpool make it to the big screen to satirize some of the other films, which would never have been possible if there wasn’t already a massively successful range of movies out there to be mocked.

No good idea ever goes away completely. Right now, there’s a nine or ten-year-old child out there who loves every Marvel and DC movie they’ve seen. One day, they’re going to grow up, and become a writer, director, or producer themselves. They’ll remember how much fun they had watching superhero films twenty years previously, when they were growing up, and they’ll want to provide that same thrill to the latest generation. And it will all begin again.