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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

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Marvel fatigue: The death of the classic superhero movie

It’s undeniable that the superhero film has enjoyed a golden age in the last several years. Of the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time, four are a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but audiences are becoming increasingly jaded with the classic superhero movie.

“Madame Web” is the latest in a string of duds for the superhero movie genre, and many critics claim that it’s the worst superhero movie yet. But even before that, the film made an embarrassing low box office debut at only $4.3 million in the first six days. Despite being released during a relatively slow month at the theater, the masses spoke, saying they no longer care for superhero films.

The flops have become memes, making them almost as popular as the good films, starting with “Morbius” and the infamous “It’s Morbin’ time” tweet — a meme that caused Sony to re-release the movie in theaters, only to have no one go and see it for a second time. 

Despite the last three years having more superhero movies per capita, they are no longer the momentous events that they were pre-pandemic. When I was in middle school, there was maybe a new superhero movie twice a year, but in 2023 alone, there were three films out in theaters as well as 21 episodes of television. The MCU has become so interconnected that the plot of one film can barely be understood unless you’ve also seen the other 30 movies and two seasons of television, leaving only the true devotees to continue to enjoy the franchise.

Superhero movies have been slowly bleeding money from their studios for several years, yet these series are planned so far in advance that there is no time for much thought to be put into the movies anymore — it just needs to be pushed out so that the newest Disney+ series makes sense.

DC has been able to pivot in the 2020s to make more artistically driven superhero films such as James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” and Matt Reeves’ “The Batman.” They are making films meant to stand alone instead of being part of a larger universe, making these movies stronger since they don’t exist as just another rung on a never-ending ladder. But Marvel seems to keep chugging right along because superhero movies have made money in the past, they assume that the same formula will work. 

In the new decade, audiences have moved beyond the classic superhero movies. The most successful superhero movies in recent memory are “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” The two films break from convention by being animated and more stylized than the average superhero film, and they also take the time to deconstruct the idea of Spider-Man that we have been shown for the past 20 years.

If studios (Marvel, in particular) cannot pivot to modern audiences’ tastes, they will likely continue playing in empty theaters and be memed to death.