Thursday, 21 July 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #768: Death Of The Superhero?

Looks like some clever little brain-boxes are telling the Hollywood studios that they should prepare for the "death of the superhero."

Basically what these chaps are saying is that the major studios must get ready, because the superhero franchises they depend on for so much are going to die out on them and leave them with nothing.

Well, I'm not going to deny it. The superhero movie could die out very
easily, so let's take a look at the cause of death.

1. OVERUSED: Once you go beyond the big names of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, you're dealing with characters that are only on the fringes of the mainstream cultural zeitgeist. Sure some films outside that inky trinity have caught on big like the X-Men and Iron Man, but they succeeded on merits that went beyond their comic book origins. The first 2 X-Men played more like well done science fiction movies, and the first Iron Man fed on the audience's desire to use advanced technology to punch terrorists and the people that enable them into putty.

However, flood the market with characters from the aforementioned fringes who don't fulfill those "beyond comics" needs, plunge into the comic's more obscure mythology, or just repeat was done in a movie made less than a decade ago, and mainstream audiences start to feel like they're being left out.

2. OVERPRICED: Here's a question the studios should have asked themselves: Does every comic book character belong on the big screen?

Some might have played out better on television. Some might have done well as just a comic book. The belief that every superhero needed a movie with the budget the size of the national debt of Portugal was probably extremely misguided. Green Lantern, with its long complicated and often cosmic story-lines might have worked better as a sci-fi TV series like Star Trek instead of a movie with a budget sometimes estimated at $200+ million. The film failed to break even by any stretch of the imagination, but they're still going ahead with a sequel, because they don't know what else they can possibly do.

3. UNDERWHELMED: Another problem with this dependence on big budget movies is that the source material is suffering. You'd think that big movies should have won over new readers, but it didn't. Mostly for reasons I've discussed repeatedly in this blog. The major companies that own the two biggest comic publishers Timer Warner and Disney have done some less-than-half-assed attempts to woo new readers. All these companies wanted were more big budget movies, and more merchandise for the pre-existing fanboys to gush over, and who gives a crap if anyone reads comics anymore.

There was a time when comics sold in the tens of millions of copies every week. Nowadays if an issue sells a few thousand they think it's the bloody second coming of the Golden Age.

That's not a way to run a railroad.

So the superhero could very well die, and soon, on the big screen and possibly on the page, and unless something drastic is figured out, there won't be any comeback.

5 comments:

Gary T. Burnaska said...

If a superhero movie is done well then the movie will make money. We seen a glut of really substandard films based on 3rd tier characters.

zongrik said...

This is an important comment, in the world of movies.

From what I've been reading, since Hollywood execs are no longer movie types, and are MBAs they are so concerned with the bottom line, that they cannot see or take chances on new creativity, and merely want to take a chance on something that already has proven itself, such as a comic book character/franchise.

Hominey Grits said...

Do superhero movies pass in and out of vogue in a cyclical fashion?

Nate Winchester said...

That picture is horrifying yet hilarious.

I'd try to keep up a facade of faux outrage but I'm laughing too hard.

Nate Winchester said...

1 more thing:

Green Lantern, with its long complicated and often cosmic story-lines might have worked better as a sci-fi TV series like Star Trek instead of a movie with a budget sometimes estimated at $200+ million. The film failed to break even by any stretch of the imagination, but they're still going ahead with a sequel, because they don't know what else they can possibly do.

How much do you think release schedule plays in all of this (I've been meaning to bug you about this question for awhile). Now, I've become a Green Lantern fan after some fantastic stories in the comics, but even I was horrified when I saw that WB was going to release this movie one week before Pixar released Cars 2. P-I-X-A-R. I wouldn't release the Dark Knight or Batman 3 anywhere close to the Pixar juggernaut. It reminded me when Disney released the 2nd Narnia film between the release weekends of Iron Man & Indiana Jones 4. Why do studios do this? For better or worse, James Cameron has shown that movies released in winter can be blockbusters just as much as summer and we often hear about how movies released in "dead time" of spring/fall end up being "surprise hits".

It seems obvious to me: a lot of these other hits are being released when there's very little competition (and certainly no Pixar to be seen). Why don't these people play their release dates smarter? (heck, Green Lantern would have worked pretty good as a Christmas season film since the holiday's colors are red and GREEN)