Superheroes are a big part of our day-to-day lives. Not ones with actual superpowers like incredible strength, laser eyes, flight, and so on, but people who capture the concept of what it means to be a "super" being. Whether it's kids talking about their real-life superheroes, pet owners "dressing up" their companions in superhero costumes, or makeup artists transforming people into superheroes, our society has a fascination with the idea of having powers greater than that of a "normal" human. This is in no small part due to the prevalence of comic books in our culture for many decades, and it's all reaching a fever pitch now that Hollywood is fully obsessed with the cash cow that is a superhero movie.
Of course, the superhero movie has been around for a long time, even as far back as 1941 in the form of a 12-chapter serial story called Adventures of Captain Marvel. And in the late '70s and 80s, DC's Superman and Batman had a string of high-profile films that became a big part of pop culture. It wasn't until the turn of the century that things really picked up, though, starting with the Tobey Maguire-led Spiderman films and Christian Bale-led Batman trilogy. Then in 2008 Iron Man launched us into the current Age of the Superhero, with interconnecting standalone films that set the stage for epic team superhero flicks like The Avengers.
Now with DC yet again relaunching Superman and Batman into a different superhero film universe, and Marvel constantly expanding its own both through movies and TV shows, it's becoming clear that because these projects are such a commercial success, we're just going to keep getting more and more of them. Such a reality begs the question: does this mean Hollywood is just going to become one big superhero movie?
The short answer is yes. Maybe not literally — there will (hopefully) always be original stories that make their way to the screen. But in a threatened industry like film, which people are turning to less and less due to the options available through online TV streaming, studios want to put their money in movies as close to guaranteed hits as possible. Today, that's the superhero story, even if it's already been told a hundred times elsewhere.
Inevitably, some sort of superhero fatigue will set in, if it hasn't already. It's unclear to what extent this will have on ticket sales, though. At the end of the day, all audiences really need is something fresh, which can be as easy as introducing a new villain, a couple new good guy heroes, or just the same characters in a reboot featuring younger actors. For example, we're on our third Spiderman in a decade, and while people aren't totally pleased with that, they keep paying to see it.
The most likely scenario is that superhero films become their own sort of James Bond — whoever dons the mask is almost irrelevant. It's the characters themselves that matter and a slightly new take on them every so often will be more than enough to keep the masses coming back. Like it or not, mainstream Hollywood is more and more one big world of superheroes. We're just spectators to their powers.
Cover image: marvelousRoland via Flickr