5 Ways To Avoid Superhero-Movie Burnout
We’ve almost hit the halfway mark this year and have already been doused with a plethora of Superhero Movies. Superheroes got a boost starting out in February with the much anticipated movie by Marvel Studios, Black Panther. This laid the groundwork this year for a flood-gate of movies in the same genre. Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Aquaman, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, and Incredibles 2 are all on their way. And that’s just this year.
In the past few years we have been pummeled with so many from the Comic universe the questions begs, when is too much, too much? Though subjectable, anything not in moderation could be considered too much. I for one, enjoy a piece of cake now and again. However, if I sat down and ate the whole thing in one setting, I’d probably throw up. So how do moviegoers and movie executives, maintain that gentle balance without, well throwing up?
1. New + Old = Hit
The Black Panther movie did phenomenally well this year pulling in $1.338 billion worldwide. But they couldn’t have landed so well without a structured and systematic introduction to this new character to pique your interest. Marvel does the right thing and suggests new characters to the audience by mixing them in with popular and previously well-established theater-wrangling icons. For example, Black Panther is first spotted making a scene stealing debut in Captain America: Civil War. Captain America and Iron Man were already much beloved and rooted veterans of the universe allowing Marvel to dig deeper into T’Challa’s journey and creating an interest a new character that could stand alone in his own movie.
Marvel audiences come back time and time again, because their curiosity gets the better of them. How great was Spider-man in Civil War? His boyish charm and sense of timing instantly made me wish for more Spiderman screen time. I got my wish in 2017 with Spider-man: Homecoming that grossed over $880.2 million worldwide.
2. Money or Substance
If you are making superhero movies just to make money at the box office, your audience will know. Trust me, this couldn’t have been more obvious to an audience as it was with Suicide Squad (Rotten Tomatoes 27%) and Justice League (Rotten Tomatoes 40%). In Suicide Squad there is a talented cast, but the movie fell victim to the plot, or lack thereof. The characters are distracting and disturbing and as a moviegoer you have a hard time caring about them. Yes they are the anti-superhero, however, if you can’t vest a little empathy into a character, you will have zero apprehension in letting their characters live or die.
Justice League was doomed from the start. After JUST establishing Wonder Woman as a box office smash, they decided to make an all encompassing movie and throw in Aquaman and The Flash. DC was hoping you’d dig it as just much as one of their competitors Avenger movies that Marvel seems to pump out so flawlessly. The sad part is, we might have have dug it; and all of its “superheroness”, if DC would have gotten their formula it in the right order. I had no vested interest in Aquaman or The Flash, but felt familiar with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Possibly, what would have worked is introduce The Flash or Aquaman into an end credit of Wonder Woman like they seamlessly added her into the ending of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Which by the way, Wonder Woman made $821.0 million at the box office because DC stuck to the superhero formula (see first paragraph, New + Old = Hit).
Diversity can be introduced in many ways into a superhero movie. Gender diversity is a great way to target a new audience that might not normally ventured out for a superhero flick. For years moviegoers had been told that only men could possibly save the universe. But with introductions of superheroines like Wonder Woman, Black Widow and Ms. Marvel they have completely upset the Meta.
The world’s population is almost half men (50.4%) and half women (49.6%) according to countrymeters.info. So why in a virtually split world would you limit an audience to just one gender? Women like movies just as much as men, and when they are able to feel empowered by them, it makes it all that more intriguing.
DC made the smart move of thrusting Diana Prince to the helm of her own movie, as will Marvel follow suit with Ms. Marvel. Paving the way for furthered gender diversity in film, not just limited to the comic world. Marvel saw the potential in Black Panther this year, making it the highest grossing film by any black film director ever. Wow. It still gives me goosebumps that the superhero movie genre is paving the way to help embolden americans young and old, persons of color and white, males and females to embrace diversity because it’s inherently who we are and where we all come from.
Diversity can also be thought of as a diversification of each sub movie genre within the grander Superhero Movie Genre. For example, Marvel does not make the same tired movie over and over again. Think of Ant-Man, at its core, it’s a heist movie. Captain America: Winter Solider is a classic spy film. Spiderman: Homecoming could even be compared to a John Hughes film like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or a coming of age saga.
This style of diversification helps Marvel not throw all their eggs into one basket. Though each film has the feel of a Marvel film, they are all intrinsically different, making them more intriguing past first glance.
Knowing your target audience age and where to pull at the heartstrings is vital in achieving audience eagerness for the next superhero release. Weaving in a feeling of nostalgia, without becoming overwhelming is an art. Avenger’s: Infinity War masters this brilliantly.
Star-lord calls Thanos “Grimace.” For those who missed out on the glory days of McDonald’s commercials, Grimace is Ronald McDonald’s purple, milkshake-stealing frenemy. Tony isn’t pleased with the Peters constant pop culture-referencing ways, but that doesn’t stop him from using a nostalgic diss when he meets Star-Lord. He calls Star-Lord “Flash Gordon,” which was super appropriate since the ’80s hero was also abruptly sent to space. It seems Tony Stark likes to watch Nickelodeon in between babysitting Spider-man because the first time he sees Ebony Maw, Thanos’ herald, he calls him Squidward. Movies that subtly incorporate the old and the new keep the audience laughing and wanting more. (There’s that formula again, New + Old = Hit).
5. Renewed Interest
Just when you thought they might wear you out on Superhero movies, a movie comes along that makes you want to go back and review or study what you may have missed. I have to admit, after seeing Avengers: Infinity War on opening day I have rented or streamed Captain America: Civil War, Ant-man, and Guardians of the Galaxy . Why? Why did I go back and submit myself to possible superhero fatigue? It’s simple, Marvel made a movie that had so many direct connections with all of their films, I wanted, strike that, I NEEDED to make sure I didn’t miss a thing before the next installment of the storyline, possibly in Ant-man and The Wasp set to be released on July 6, 2018. It’s this level of writing that leaves the viewer speculating and wondering, if they’ve missed something that might be pertinent to the current storyline. In the week following Avengers: Infinity War release, Black Panther’s numbers had an uptick at the box office, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon saw an increase of movie rentals for the Marvel movie franchise. This couldn’t have been by accident, but if it was, it’s a happy accident for Marvel Studios.
So there you have it. As I hear the call of the internet screaming, “I am so over superhero movies!” I can also hear the call for more. This genre isn’t going to die out just yet, it’s locked in there with Genre’s like: Thrillers, Comedy and Sci-Fi. The trick is delivering the overall story to the audience and keep them guessing, theorizing and uncovering new ways to keep those seats warm, the popcorn flowing and most of all avoiding burnout.