Genres have a heyday. Gangster films had the 1930s, the Western had the 50s and 60s, and soon we may add the Super hero film and the 2000s to that list. While we are now in the 2010s (the decade we will call the teens anyone?) it still takes a while for us to cast aside the remnants of the decade before. For examples look at TV shows and movies from the early 80s and 90s and tell me they do not seem like they were made in the 70s and 80s. I can see a time when people think back nostalgically to the days when we had a flood of comic adaptations and telling their grandkids about how great it was to go see so many superheroes brought to the screen just as our parents and grandparents can talk about the Westerns they saw at the cinema growing up.
Of course I am not suggesting that we will see the genre disappearing all together but if patterns of film tastes stay true we will see it ceasing to be the dominate genre at the multiplex and I think it’ll be soon. It was last year that like an apocalyptic preacher heralding the end of days I foretold the end is neigh for the comic book movie and I was wrong. It seemed so clear to me; The Amazing Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises, and Marvel’s Avengers all hitting over the course of a few months, saturation point for superheroes seemed well in sight. Instead, all of these films were big successes for their respective studios and meant that sequels, spin offs, and reboots are sure to follow.
This year alone will see Iron man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Man of Steal hit cinemas and that is without even thinking of the films in production and pre-production now and will only reach our screens in another year or so. If they are hits, even more adaptations will get the green light as the company executives see we are still hungry for more.
I think what happened was I was a few years out. Perhaps, like the Western, Superhero movies will last a couple of decades rather than one before the decline hit. Nevertheless, it will hit. It may just take another few years for audiences to decide we are sick of so many of them. Like a spoiled child sick of playing with the same toy, we will demand something new. It will only need a couple of these juggernauts to run aground with audiences for the money men of the studios to decided they need to find something that the audience wants to see more than heroes in capes and masks.
But will the decline be such a bad thing? Now when we see a Western hit the cinema screens it is because it has taken a fresh approach to the genre, has an interesting tale to tell, or in some cases has a good gimmick. We are not being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of similar, if not identical, Cowboy films featuring the same stars, playing the same characters just with a change of name. We get Westerns like The Dollars Trilogy, Unforgiven, Tombstone, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Just maybe when superheroes stop ruling the cinema they will get their own examples like that, films that are more about doing something interesting and new than just giving the people the same stuff with a different name and that has got to be something for us all to look forward to.