Back in the 90s when the Simpsons was funny there was an Episode where Homer went to Hell for eating a forbidden Donut. As his punishment he was forced to eat all the Donuts in the world. This was hilarious to an easily pleased generation of kids who had yet to see South Park, Family Guy and Big Momma’s House 2. It also raised the issue of over saturation. Like Homer had too many Donuts I think we now are getting too many superhero films, and they are becoming less super.
In the 90s and even in the 2000s Superhero films were not as frequent. This was due to the big budgets involved and the limited special effects available. However, watch Batman Begins, Spiderman 2, the Matrix (does this count?), Blade and even Batman Forever and you will find more plot and character development than most of the recent offerings. This was a time when the people involved in making movies wanted to produce something which the core fans would enjoy first and if the wider audience caught the hook then even better.
Then, sometime around Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins something changed. Hollywood realised that Superhero Movies were big business. Over the next few years we went from typically getting one, much anticipated, superhero movie year to what we have now. In the past 12 months I have seen more superhero movies than Ive seen episodes of Eastenders. There are far too many. So far Ive seen Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Deadpool(This one is good). Soon we will have the next X-Men Movie, The Sucide Squad, Dr Strange, A Wonder Woman Movie, A Black Panther Movie and so many more from the Marvel and DC Universe that I can’t keep up. I fully expect to hear about an Aunt May Movie or an Alfred the Butler Movie real soon. Stan Lee has done so many cameos lately he can now only get up one flight of stairs unaided. We have reached peak superhero movie, and its not super anymore. Just look at how excited Michael Fassbender is to be in another superhero film.
The point of Superheroes is that they are meant to be unique and different. If there are too many of them and we see them on the screen every week the magic disappears. The two latest offerings we had were Batman vs Superman and Captain America: Civil War. I actually thought Ben Affleck was a great Batman and Bruce Wayne but he was in a terribly scripted film. While there are so many problems in that film to discuss here the main problem was character overload. I know it was meant to be a launch pad for a new DC Universe but Batman and Superman fighting can dominate a movie all by themselves. No need for Wonder Woman to jump in or random laptop pics of the Flash and Aquaman to be tediously squeezed in. I can just see the Suits in Warner Bros putting pressure on all involved with production saying, “screw the plot, sell more toys” and “I don’t care that the reason Batman and Superman are fighting doesn’t make sense just make sure we get enough shots of Bruce Wayne in UnderArmour and drinking Chateau Margaux wines”. No wonder Ben Affleck looked depressed while promoting this film. He, more than anyone is aware of the major flaws in the movie.
The new Captain America movie is better. It has more of a plot, better action sequences and the reason Iron Man and Captain America are fighting makes more sense. But again there is superhero overload. While each of the new characters gets introduced in a much more fluid and logical way there is just too many. Marvel has the big hitters like Iron Man, Captain America and now Spiderman with the Hulk and Thor somewhere on that metaphysical superhero substitute bench in the sky. But who cares about Hawk Eye Black Widow and most of all who cares about Bucky?* There are far too many randomers in the Marvel Universe. I’d love to see Hulk come back in the next movie and get rid of them all.
I just hope if there are going to be more superhero films that the people behind them will take more care with the script. I hope the writers realise that the characters they are writing about don’t really belong to them. They belong to the fans and while they can accept certain liberties being taken with the characters they don’t like the feeling that they have been duped by a marketing campaign into parting with their hard earned money for a product that doesn’t match its hype.
For inspiration the writers for Marvel and especially DC should look to JJ Abrams and Star Wars. He knew what the hardcore fans expected and sought to please them first before anyone else. As a result he made a film which has fitted into the franchise perfectly. When I watched Rey and Finn Escape from Jakku in the Millennium Falcon I finally understood what the hype was about. For a brief moment I was a Kid in 1977 going to see Star Wars for the first time. This is what I expect from the writers superhero movies. Its a tough job but you get paid a Gazillion quid to write them. So don’t put out a film that you aren’t proud of… No Pressure.
*A few years ago I went to see Captain American: The Winter Soldier. Central to the plot was a Mysterious Masked man (winter soldier) who was out to assassinate Steve Rodgers. The whole film we sat there waiting for the big reveal. ‘Who is the Winter Solder?’, ‘This is going to be Huge’, ‘Has Matt Damon or Brad Pitt done a secret cameo?’ Then it happened. The Winter Solder took off his mask to reveal that he was…… Bucky Barnes. ‘Bucky who?’ Cried out the Audience. He should have kept his mask on. Turns out Bucky was a random, blink and you’ll miss him character from the first Captain America movie. I didn’t care about him then and I don’t care about him now. To this day I still can’t accept him as a big deal which the Marvel Cinematic Universe seem to be trying to tell us he is. The sooner Thanos flicks him into oblivion the better.
A very detailed criticism of this article came from the guys at ‘Don’t forget a Towel’. Thanks guys and I’ll take it on board
We are all for differing opinions, but where you lost us was your explanation for not liking/caring for The Winter Soldier. It’s fine that you’re not as familiar with the source material of the Ed Brubaker run of Captain America comics where the Russo Brothers drew from; but we couldn’t back up that he was/is a throwaway character that audiences don’t know or have any attachment towards. The Winter Soldier film is one of the best comic book movies ever made, and it is that way a lot in part due to the reveal at the end of Caps attachment to his best friend that he’s known his whole life and thought was dead. This also played perfectly into making Civil War more cohesive; especially with balancing the original Mark Millar/Steve McNiven comic run, but also with being tied to only using MCU characters and not having any access to The Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc. that are owned by other studios. Weaving a plot of intrigue, action, and also very personal to the main character was a task that was no small feat; and much of that was due in part to the relationship between Cap and Bucky. Like I mentioned previously, we don’t mind differing opinions, but we believe that yours was too off base to be something we could post on the site. We encourage you to continue to watch more, delve further into the comic book source material, and create more engaging articles. We are at the time of a comic bubble that could pop soon enough; but not because of films like Civil War and The Winter Soldier. – Team DFAT