Are We Approaching The End Of The Superhero Movie Trend?

Between now and the end of 2022, there are currently fifteen known superhero movies scheduled for release by either Marvel or DC Comics. In addition to that, c for currently unknown superhero movies, making a total of twenty-six films starring comic book characters set to hit our screens over the course of the next three years. That’s an average of one every three months.

For the sake of those of you who like to know the details, here’s the full list of the known films that you have to look forward to:-

  • Shazam (released April 5th, 2019)
  • Hellboy (April 12th, 2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (April 26th, 2019)
  • Dark Phoenix (June 7th, 2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far from Home (July 5th, 2019)
  • The New Mutants (August 2nd, 2019)
  • Joker (October 4th, 2019)
  • Birds of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (February 7th, 2020)
  • Bloodshot (February 21st, 2020)
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5th, 2020)
  • Morbius (July 31st, 2020)
  • DC Super Pets (May 21st, 2021)
  • The Batman (June 25th, 2021)
  • Suicide Squad 2 (August 6th, 2021)
  • Aquaman: The Sequel (December 16th, 2022)

With such a packed schedule, this may seem like an absurd question to ask, but are we approaching the end of the golden age of superhero films?

Growing resentment

To those of us who love superhero films, it’s hard to understand why other people dislike them so much. After all, the narrative to most of them us the narrative to any classic story; good faces evil, good wins, and everybody goes home happy. They also allow for a scope and scale that aren’t permitted by a more ‘domestic’ drama, blending the best elements of science fiction and fantasy with twists of romance and human emotional tales.

To others, though, they’re budget-sapping blockbusters that dominate release schedules and occupy space that could be taken up by more ‘meaningful’ movies. That feeling of resentment doesn’t just exist among the cinema-going public either; it extends to some of Hollywood’s best-known performers.

Last year, Jodie Foster attracted some press attention when she compared the prevalence of superhero movies to fracking; stating that while they may achieve the best result for right now, they damage the earth in the process. Presumably, in her metaphor, the movie industry could be substituted for the earth. Mark Hamill of ‘Star Wars’ fame has added his voice to the criticism, as has legendary director James Cameron, who commented that he hopes Hollywood gets ‘Avengers fatigue’ soon.

It seems puzzling that actors and directors would hit out at enormous productions which presumably help to get their colleagues well-paid jobs, as well as generating vast profits which then fund the production of other movies. But is ‘Avengers fatigue’ a thing? Are we running out of new superhero films to tell?

Returning to the same well

If any of the criticism is valid, it may be the idea of franchise fatigue. There’s no doubt that when the final ‘Avengers’ movie is released this year, it will be a box office sensation. It may even go on to become the largest grossing box office movie of all time, and unless serious mistakes have been made in production, it’s going to be fantastic. It also feels like the right time and place to end the franchise; or at least the current narrative. There’s no more that the characters can do. The stakes can’t be increased, and there will be no further stories left to tell.

Looking back at the schedule of releases, there are some familiar names there – names that are approaching the point of becoming tired. How many Spider-Man and Batman films have we seen in the past twenty years? How many more do we need to see? How many spin-offs from the X-Men world are we truly interested in? How many different iterations of the Joker?

There’s a lot to be said about the theory of diminishing returns; the point at which the value or quality of the product becomes less than the value of the time and energy that goes into making it. The theory is most prevalent in the gaming industry. If you visit, your strategy must be to take out more from the online slots than you put in. If your luck isn’t in, there comes a point where you’re sending good money after bad and losing more in the process. You have to know when you’ve taken out all the money you’re going to win, and have the bravery to step back and walk away from the game. That point may soon be coming for the superhero movie industry; the point where millions of dollars are still being invested, but the jackpot simply isn’t coming out.

Judging the public appetite

Based on the release schedule, it may be that we’ve already crossed that threshold. We expect the major franchises to be successful. We’re less confident that the public has the same level of interest in ‘DC Super Pets,’ ‘Morbius’ or ‘Bloodshot.’ It may be that we’re wrong – and we hope we are – but when all the major comic book stars have had multiple outings in recent years, and you’re left with fringe characters, you’ll eventually make a film starring a character that the audience doesn’t know and won’t care about. At that point, the bubble has burst.

Right now, it’s clear that we’ll still get a steady stream of superhero films for the next few years. After that, the picture is less certain. If the movies start to tank, and the studios back off, it might be the case that the production line stops rolling and the current era ends.

If that happens, we’ll try not to be sad about it. We’ve had a great run of movies for almost two decades, and seen characters hit the big screen that we never dreamed would have the chance. Not only that, there are worse things in the world than a pause. A pause allows people to think, and reflect. A pause allows new ideas to breathe, without the pressure of having to come up with a great new script every twelve months.

They say a change is as good as a rest. When it comes to the movies we love, a rest may be as good as a change.

The Superhero Movies Of 2018, Ranked From Worst To Best

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Superhero Cinema 2018 Black Panther Avengers Thanos The Incredibles Aquaman2018 has gone by too fast. It seems like yesterday when the beginning of the new year was upon us, and the advent of having so many superhero movies hitting theaters seemed like a dream come true for every fanboy and fangirl. It's also funny to look back and remember that although we ended up with a whopping nine major theatrical superhero movies, we almost had eleven. Sadly, Fox delayed both Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants to 2019 instead.

Even with those two films delayed, 2018 was still a massive year not just at the box office, but for the continued advancement of the genre on a number of levels. Whether it was through the cultural significance of a film like Black Panther or the exciting animated adventures of Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there was no shortage of exciting superhero stories told on the big screen this year.

Here are the theatrical superhero films of 2018, ranked from worst to best. You can start the gallery by clicking "Next."

9. Venom Venom Tom Hardy Eddie Brock Marvel Sony

Yeah, Venom is an interesting film to say the least. Many have doubted Sony and their plans to create their own universe centered on Spider-Man villains that is said to be "adjacent" to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially after what happened with their proposed plans for a shared universe set within the canon of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man films.

What director Ruben Fleischer brought to audiences is this bizarre, clunky, yet surprisingly entertaining throwback to the early 2000s era of superhero cinema. It has major narrative and technical flaws that keep it from being legitimately a "good" film beyond some moments of ironic brilliance, but Tom Hardy's performance is one of the most entertaining comic book movie performances put on screen in a long time.

8. Ant-Man and the WaspAnt-Man and the Wasp Avengers 4 Marvel

It's pretty hard to follow in the footsteps of such a massive crossover event like Avengers: Infinity War, but the microscopic (yes, pun intended) scale of Ant-Man and the Wasp is a nice lighthearted cleanser after witnessing Thanos' decimation. It falls short of its 2015 predecessor, but director Peyton Reed still brings in some entertaining sequences that are a nice blend of action and comedy.

Both Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly have great chemistry, and the entire climactic chase sequence is pure delight.

7. Deadpool 2Deadpool 2 X-Force Fox

2016's Deadpool was the surprise hit of that year. While many hardcore comic book fans were excited to finally see a proper iteration of the Merc with a Mouth, the industry was particularly surprised by how mainstream audiences embraced Ryan Reynolds as the beloved antihero of the Marvel Universe.

Deadpool 2 continues that trend of self-aware comedy mixed in with the badass action directed by David Leitch. Unfortunately, the film falls into some of the trappings of a "more of the same" type of sequel, but put on a bigger scale. The film certainly could've benefited from a more clever script beyond just making everything bigger than the first. While the film never recaptures that lightning-in-a-bottle that the first film had, it still holds its own with some great character moments and perhaps the best mid-credits scene of all-time.

Plus, the additions of Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) add more to the irresistible tone that Deadpool brings to the big screen. Overall, a decent sequel.

6. Teen Titans GO! To the Movies

Teen Titans GO! To The Movies

It's kind of funny that Teen Titans GO! To The Movies is as entertaining as it is. Sure, the film is still targeted towards younger children that tune into the series on Cartoon Network, but the film is a surprisingly clever send-up of both the superhero movie genre as well as a hilarious tribute to the lore of DC Comics seen through the eyes of the Teen Titans themselves.

Also, the fact that the film ends with a stinger that teases the possible return of the original Teen Titans series justifies its existence in more ways than one.

5. Aquaman Aquaman

Aquaman is a much-needed win for the DC Extended Universe. The franchise received its biggest win in 2017 with Wonder Woman but unfortunately hit a massive roadblock with the disappointing Justice League. As it turns out, all the DCEU needed to do to get back in the right direction was to add water and filmmaker James Wan into the mix.

Wan really goes all out with this film. This is a visually stunning adventure film on both land and sea that really leans into the inherently cheesy nature of the character while simultaneously turning Aquaman into perhaps the most badass superhero in the DCEU thus far.

Some may be turned off by how campy Aquaman can get at points, but it's hard not to get swept up into the fun when you have Jason Momoa having the time of his life.

4. Incredibles 2incredibles-2-pixar-disney

It has been 14 years since we were last acquainted with the Incredibles. Thankfully, they haven't missed a beat even after that long, long wait for the most-requested Pixar sequel of all-time.

It's great to see Brad Bird bounce back with this exciting sequel after the earnest, yet disappointing mess that was Tomorrowland. Here, Bird is back on his element as a brilliant storyteller and is adept at further developing these characters.

Seeing the entire family in these hilarious and death-defying circumstances is so enthralling, particularly in the film's climax. Also, everything involving Jack-Jack and Edna Mode are some of the funniest sequences of animation that Pixar has ever done.

3. Avengers: Infinity WarAvengers Infinity War Thanos Marvel Studios

What else is there that needs to be said about this 2018 film? It really is the most ambitious crossover event in cinematic history, and it has sparked an entire year-long conversation about what our surviving heroes will be doing next after all the chaos.

Anthony and Joe Russo accomplished the near-impossible task of balancing out dozens of larger-than-life characters in this kaleidoscope of comic book beauty that leads to some of the most epic battles ever brought to the big screen.

Also, with Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, it's going to be interesting if that film has a moment that tops the pure awesomeness that is the scene in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) arrive on the battlefield in Wakanda.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseSpider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Who would've thought that an animated Spider-Man movie that features Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham on the big screen would be the best film centered on the webhead since Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2?

Leave it to the minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller along with the incredible creative team to bring us a true love letter to the character that would make Stan Lee and Steve Ditko proud. Yes, Peter Parker will always be our original Spidey, but this film proves that the best part about being Spider-Man is the fact that he/she can come from anywhere despite their personal background and circumstances.

1. Black PantherBlack Panther Marvel Disney Ryan Coogler

As big as Avengers: Infinity War was, it's harder to find a 2018 movie that has had as big of an impact on the popular culture than Black Panther. But beyond the cultural significance that comes with such a film, Ryan Coogler crafted a powerful, touching story about legacy, family, principles, power and purpose.

It's hard to log onto the internet sometimes because the world is in such a chaotic place. But Black Panther represents the power of storytelling and why seeing more diverse characters and stories on the big screen matters.

Films like Black Panther remind us about the power of cinema. It can unite audiences together despite their differences and can also inspire us to be better people. All those reasons and more are why Black Panther is the best superhero film of 2018.

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Heroic Staff

Heroic Staff

Heroic Special Activities Division Agent Trainee Program