The BIG Question: Are Superhero Films Dying A Death?

This time round, The BIG Question looks at superhero films. Is the modest box office take of latest effort The Green Hornet a sign that the genre is losing some of its appeal? Are we over-saturated with production after production? Or is this just a one off, in which case how well will the forthcoming crop of major comic book movies fare? As ever, our bulging formspring postbag produced a selection of great insights.

filmsavior - 'January release date speaks VOLUMES in studio confidence. The true test will be May-Aug with the onslaught of comic book films'

missvictoriadee - 'I'm personally a little sick of comic book adaptations period. Time to come up with a new crime fighter'

isavedlatin89 - 'We've come to a point where relatively B or C-level comic heroes aren't economically viable. This has NOTHING to do with a genre... It's a Green Hornet thing, not a Superhero thing.'

Cyberschizoid - 'Only fanboys have really heard of The Green Hornet so the general public is not really interested. If it was WONDER WOMAN however, that would be a different story!'

AshFoo - 'the film was all style and no substance... As a die hard fan of comic book adaptations, I'm hoping that The Green Hornet is a one off.'

hypnogoria - 'as a recognised character The Green Hornet just isn't in the same league as the big names from the Marvel and DC Universes... given that both the actor and director both have the capacity to irritate some folks, they could be losing the movie a few ticket sales'

TerrilynnS - 'I'm not entirely sure it's "superhero" fatigue at all - but rather indicative of a greater fatigue of rubber-stamped action films that contain no real plot or depth of character and are more a showcase for computerized special effects'

jebutlin 'I think it's a way-off before comic book adaptations die out. If they continue giving the films to people like Nolan, Snyder, Aronofsky, Vaughn then I think we could see a new batch of 'proper' films with superheroes in.'

middnight - 'The epic comics such as Spider-Man, Superman, The Incredible Hulk will always have a large fan base when brought to cinema'

DeeBee12 - 'I think it's more to do with how fierce the competition is at this time of year, but as with every trend the comic book adaptation one is definitely on its way out.'

Univarn - 'I think 2011 will be a year to really define what we will and won't put up with... I guarantee Marvel is on its hands and knees praying it lasts at least one more year.'

komaljverma - 'Over saturated indeed. Ps - can we have some kick ass female superheroes please? That would be somewhat refreshing at least'

The Verdict: A number of people point out that the January release date didn't help The Green Hornet in its quest for box office glory whilst one or two also point to the fact that the film's production was 'troubled' with re-writes and cast changes - all of which are indeed factors which may have contributed to the mediocre numbers. There are a number of voices though pointing out that they either are already getting bored of superhero films or feel like they might in the future: studios will have to step up their game if they want to hold our attention past the traditionally high-grossing Summer months and in to 2012.

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  1. gah...I understand that this article is an attempt to drum up a consensus on superhero films but using The Green Hornet as an example is misguided since it is not a 'superhero' film in any way. It's roots are in radio/serial adventures (like Indiana Jones films or The Lone Ranger) but appears to have been lumped in with the rest. Granted there have been comic books but he's not associated with DC or Marvel. I think Sony have just jumped on that particular bandwagon to sell the film (but it might have the opposite effect)

    To be honest how would you define the superhero/comic book genre? There's very little to actually define them by- there's a huge difference tonally and visually between something like Iron Man and A History of Violence but both are based on comic book characters. If we're talking about actual "super" heroes then I'd argue we haven't seen as much of them as we think we have.

    To belatedly come to an answer I don't think they are dying. I, unlike some commenters, don't see the Hornet's release date as a sign of quality especially since Studios will have to get use to spreading out their films across the year instead of jamming them in one small period which will only lead to severe financial repercussions. If anything superhero films are on the verge of evolving and being a little more post-modern and commenting on the 'genre' (like Kick Ass, Mystery Men, Watchmen, Defendor, Super etc) instead of more classically told origins. We'll still get origins like Thor and Captain America but (hopefully) they'll fold in something different with mythologies criss-crossing and expanding.

    To be honest I'm not bothered (despite the length of this post!) because they make money both theatrically and in ancilliary markets and studios will continue to produce them. So long as they are good and fresh enough to stave off saturation I wouldn't mind watching more of them. If interesting directors like Kenneth Branagh or a Cronenberg or Mendes can operate in the 'superhero'/comic book field then I'll like to movies like the ones they've made from similar directors.

    ...Just so long as it's not in 3D :) -apologies for the length!

  2. These questions are meant to encourage a response (and I know this one particularly links to a lot of people's tastes) so no problem with the lengthy comment/answer - they're always welcome!

    Having said that, I don't agree that THE GREEN HORNET isn't a 'superhero' film. It's very much marketed as such and although it doesn't primarily come from a comic book source (and therefore perhaps isn't a 'comic book film), I believe he does tick all of the other boxes.

    You make a good point on the IRON MAN/A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE divide but that point only serves to prove my point above; which one of the above two would you say THE GREEN HORNET is closer to? It's almost certainly IRON MAN.

    I think your point about films like KICK-ASS and WATCHMEN is brilliant and I agree... but that's simultaneously why I'm also worried about the future of the genre; THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA just don't look like the innovative, 'new' superhero films that the above two are and I'm worried that they'll hold little that we haven't seen (apart from the obvious in terms of new characters to the universe).

    Good versus Evil stories will always be told but I guess where this post comes from is my increasing apathy towards those stories being told in a typical superhero universe. A couple of recent superhero efforts have, quite frankly, bored me (SPIDER-MAN 3, IRON MAN 2) but I guess I still hope the forthcoming ones can pull something new and exciting to keep the medium alive and me (and you!) interested.

  3. Well, consider: most of them get released either in summer or in January, when people are most vulnerable. Or...

    I had a point, but then I forgot.

  4. Let me know if it comes back to you. Did it have anything to do with wheelbarrows this time?!