With Deadpool set to become the latest comic book character to get his own blockbuster film, and several other superhero films set to be released over the next three years, one thing is an absolute certainty. Superhero films are here to stay, mainly because they’re still able to bring an ageing Hollywood a veritable cesspool of profits. Suffice it to say, I’ve gotten sick of it.
Every year it seems as though Hollywood can depend on there being at least three superhero films to bring in lots of money, and this has been going on for nearly a decade. They make so many superhero films, it’s as if the whole cinematic landscape of the 2010’s can be whittled down to one superhero film after another, that is if it’s not some crappy comedy or horror film. The sad part of this is that I know there have been some good films over the past five years, but for most of each year, nearly every film (except Star Wars) gets overshadowed by the presence of the next big-budget superhero film.
In this regard, I think the main reason superhero films get so much attention is not so much the characters, but the merchandise that inevitably generate. Producers can count on kids begging their parents to take them to the cinemas to see their favourite heroes predictably defeating a super villain, and then asking them again to get them the latest merchandise with that character’s name on it. It’s classic Hollywood commercialism, and it’s ruining cinema, or at least undermining film as an art form.
To be fair, the worst offender seems to be Marvel, with it’s Cinematic Universe making sure that the superhero craze lasts through the entire decade. They’re dead set on releasing 3-4 films a year, many of them likely to be yet more sequels, and they keep releasing new merchandise to go along side it, and they never try to innovate at all. Every one of their films tries pointlessly to appeal to a mass audience while still pandering to comic book fans (the fact that Stan Lee cameos in every one of them is already a bad sign). Then again, Marvel doesn’t give a damn about creativity. If they did, they wouldn’t make every one of their movies the same thing thrice a year. They’re all repetitive, excessive, ludicrously expensive hype vehicles designed to sell toys (which would pretty much explain why there’s so many of them to begin with). It’s no different to the glut of Saturday morning cartoons of the 80’s and 90’s, which were basically 30-minute toy commercials.
It’s not as though DC’s films are any different, just that DC has been losing credibility for a few years now, and they might just plummet further with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. With too many characters, an unwelcome recasting for Batman, and an excessive 151-minute length, this film has all the signs of a complete flop, never mind that the film’s only being made to justify the existence of a string of Justice League films, and more merchandise.
Of course, all of this would be less of a problem if the major studios would be more open-minded about making new superheroes who didn’t appear in any comic books before. They’ve made so many superhero films that they must be able to do something new with the genre. It’s too bad that Hollywood studios are completely afraid of trying out new ideas, mainly because in Hollywood, films are a business, rather than an art form. That’s too bad because if the superhero genre has any hope of staying relevant beyond the initial hype, then it desperately needs some new ideas. As long as major studios continue to ignore new ideas, then the genre will continue growing stagnant, and I’m pretty sure we’re not too far from the comic book bubble from bursting spectacularly.