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The Death of Comic Book Movies?

  • Culture

By Nathan Hay, BA Social Anthropology

Caption: Marvel has failed to captivate their audience lately in the same way they once did


Superhero fatigue. With every new Marvel movie, the phrase does the rounds on social media. Since the pandemic began, Marvel Studios notably opted for a quantity over quality approach, churning out project after project… but it looks as if they failed to recognise the standard that they themselves set with the Infinity Saga, spanning from the first Iron Man movie to Avengers: Endgame. The constant output of comic book movies in the past few years has been hard to miss, but seeing as the hype surrounding them diminishes more and more with each year, the question stands – are Comic Book Movies (or ‘CBMs’) finally dying out?

When asked, many people say they’re “just tired of superhero movies” with the most common reason being the “bad writing.” The quantity-over-quality approach hit the writer’s room like a ton of bricks. Given much less time per project than in previous years, they can be cleared of some blame, but at the same time, it’s evident that people are getting bored of the famous ‘Marvel formula’ that applies to nearly every project. The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” really seems to have expired for CBMs, with more unique and adventurous projects like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Black Panther 2 excelling in the public eye, and more formulaic approaches like that of Thor: Love & Thunder and Ant-Man: Quantumania falling short of success. Expectations have remained high since the Infinity Saga’s epic conclusion, and perhaps Marvel has thus become a victim of its own success. 

Outside of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve witnessed the repeated box office failure of Sony’s Marvel Universe, as well as the gradual collapse of the DC Extended Universe. Again, the issue of writing comes into play, with predictable plots and poor dialogue running rampant, failing to retain the casual movie-goer’s interest. Sony’s Morbius and Madame Web both fell flat at the box office, and 2023’s The Flash, Blue Beetle and Shazam! Fury of the Gods all underperformed domestically for the DCEU. A common occurrence in CBMs these days is for the filmmakers not to take as much inspiration from the comics as they arguably should, instead pumping out plots they believe will make them money over ones that will keep fans actually interested. Disney has begun releasing new Marvel content, especially in the form of TV shows – essentially throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks, which has lost a lot of casual fans. Many of the devoted fans, however, have a hard time defending these actions.

There are some exceptions to the overall consensus of comic book movies at present, so it’s more than worth seeing what made them tick. For Spider-Man: No Way Home, there was a huge nostalgia factor involved, bringing Tobey Maguire’s and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men back to the big screen alongside nearly all of their respective onscreen enemies – the seemingly lifelong debate of who was the greatest Spider-Man was momentarily shoved aside to witness peak multiversal fiction. Additionally, if there was ever a movie for Marvel to pour its heart and soul into, it was Black Panther 2. After Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing, the choice to elevate Letitia Wright into the titular Black Panther role, replacing Boseman’s character, was accompanied by a heartfelt, relatable theme that felt as grounded as the MCU has been in a long time. This movie was made to mean something and it was translated well.

“This is the beginning of the end for comic book movies”

Ultimately though, the exceptions are just that: exceptions to an overwhelmingly negative majority. Marvel Studios have been delaying projects as of late to spend more time on them, conducting rewrites and reshoots to get what they want. Some may observe that as being too little too late, with the occurrence of reshoots and rewrites exposing fundamentally weak foundations, and those people would be right to think that. People are warier and more pessimistic about comic book movies, and although die-hard fans will always try their best to support them, fewer and fewer people are watching the new content; deeming it irrelevant in an oversaturated superhero market. Unless Disney, Sony, or Warner Brothers are able to turn this around, then it stands to reason that this is the beginning of the end for comic book movies.

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