Martin Izzard on why superhero fatigue isn’t going to become a thing…
Every few years, there’s an excitement that builds around what Marvel Studios is going to announce is coming next. We’ve had that this weekend, with confirmation of what will make up Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The plans include several episodic shows for the new Disney+ streaming service and a whole slate of new films. As expected, fans in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con were given plenty to whoop and holler at. And whoop and holler they did.
In all their announcements however there wasn’t anything to actually see – just details of what’s in store in 2020 and 2021, but fans were sitll left jumping up and down with excitement at the idea of what’s to come. This is a testament to what Marvel has done with the MCU. They’ve built something more than a franchise that people like. They’ve created an interconnecting universe of characters and storylines that fans want to feel a part of and know inside out. And they’ve done it to such an extent that their fans lose it over a slide with some logos on it.
This reaction to what amounts to minimal news begs the question: where’s this superhero fatigue that we’re all supposed to have been hit with? There are of course people who don’t care about these movies and I know that because my wife is one of them. She keeps asking me how they can keep making films using the same pool of characters and why they all make so much money.
And the answer is in the pedigree of what they’ve already achieved. A Marvel Studios ident at the beginning of a movie tells audiences everything they need to know. If it’s there, you know the filmmaking and storytelling that follows it is going to be of a certain level. And while not every entry into MCU canon is going to knock it out of the park, they all hit a minimum expected level of quality.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a good example. It’s not as good as many (any) of the other entries into this movie universe but stills sits head and shoulders above almost anything submitted to the comic book movie fandom from the likes of the DC Extended Universe.
So I’m calling it out here; superhero fatigue isn’t a thing and it’s not going to be. Bad filmmaking fatigue on the other hand, is. Audiences have been spoiled by Marvel Studios who have arguably now surpassed Pixar as the studio with the best hit-rate when it comes to successful movies.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a great example of how Marvel has dominated the box office even after coming off of the heights of Avengers: Endgame. It was unclear whether a smaller-scale movie was going to be enough to satiate audiences until the next phase of the studio’s activity kicked in. And then it goes and makes a billion dollars at the box office.
But it’s also not all about Marvel. To assume as much would be unfair. Superheroes have become such a thing in modern entertainment that they’ve sprouted their own sub-genres. We’re about to see The Boys on Amazon Prime Video, a gritty exploration of what superheroes would look like in real life if they became corrupt and Netflix has just renewed The Umbrella Academy which is based on a comic book by My Chemical Romance lead singer Gerard Way.
It’s not just contained to comic book characters who fly and shoot lasers from their eyes either. Recent years have seen TV programmes like Limitless – a show based on the Bradley Cooper film of the same name. It’s not based on a comic book and isn’t a sensational blockbuster movie, but instead a weekly law enforcement procedural show about someone given extraordinary abilities.
Superhero fatigue isn’t a thing because the term “superhero” no longer means one singular thing. The first thing you likely think of is a big budget team-up movie like The Avengers or Justice League but the term has grown to smaller explorations of fantasies around people with the ability to do things others can’t.
What these movies, TV shows and comics give audiences is the ability to connect with something that lets them explore their imaginations. And that’s not something that’s going to go away.
From the first time people saw moving images on a screen when they thought a train was hurtling towards them, audiences haven’t been fatigued by exploring something they previously thought impossible. So why would they be fatigued just because one movie studio is capitalising on audiences’ imaginations?
Of course some people might feel as though there are too many superhero movies. But it’s their choice to go and see them just as it’s the choice of the millions of people who have just made Avengers: Endgame the highest grossing movie of all time.
If you’re one of those people who enjoy explorations of superhero ideologies, carry on and keep getting excited by a slide with logos on it. Because the other option is pretending to be fatigued by something you’ve got the choice to watch.