We live in an age of blockbuster superhero movies. Every major superhero has a movie or a TV show, while even less important characters can star in a Netflix series. Problems worse than any supervillain plagues those movies and shows.
What problems? Why do they happen? Let’s find out how to fix them.
5 – Oversaturation
Spider-Man: “At this point, we won’t run out of stories to tell until 2099, at which point they can just make a movie of Spider-Man 2099!” – I’m a Marvel and I’m a DC
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is almost a decade old. In that time we’ve seen 14 movies, 4 seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 2 seasons of Agent Carter, 4 Netflix series leading to a Defenders series, and planned shows for The Inhumans, Cloak and Dagger, and The New Warriors! And there are nine more full-length movies in production. Holy freaking crap!
And that’s just Marvel.
DC has 5 TV shows and a burgeoning movie universe. And that’s not even counting shows like The Walking Dead, iZombie, and Preacher, which are all based on comics.
People like seeing their heroes come to life on the silver screen. And they make incredible amounts of money for the studios that continue to flood the market. Will any studio boss be the one who says, “Let’s skip the next big hero?”
There is no easy answer. As long as these movies keep making tens of millions, they will keep getting made.
4 – Multiverse Mishaps
Supergirl: “What do you mean you’re from another Earth? How many Earths are there other than this one? Y’know, we’re… Earth.”
The Flash: (researching) “I don’t understand. You guys have Central City, but you don’t have Star Labs. No Cisco Ramon, no Harrison Wells, no Caitlin Snow, nobody who’s gonna be able to help me get home.” – Supergirl, “World’s Finest” (season 1, episode 18)
When Marvel created its movie universe, it was unique. Sure, there had been superhero movie series before, but never interlinked series leading to a crossover movie. It worked, but started a new bandwagon.
There are a bunch of superhero universes. On TV there’s the Arrowverse, composed of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. Sony has their Spider-Man series, which they keep trying to make its own universe. Sony tried to make several spinoffs from Amazing Spider-Man, including movies about Venom and the Sinister Six. They are trying again with Venom and a crossover between Silver Sable and Black Cat.
Fox has an X-Men universe and the film rights for The Fantastic Four. And DC has the DC Extended Universe, which includes Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and all their planned movies.
Universes are a good idea, but there are so many that it’s easy to get confused.
The best bet would be to link the universes. Supergirl and The Flash had a crossover that led to Supergirl becoming part of the Arrowverse so there is precedent.
3 – Grimdark
Superman: “How does it feel, Black? How does it feel to be deconstructed? To be the victim?! To watch your dreams DIE?!” – Superman vs The Elite
Superheroes are meant to be champions, paragons, the ones you look up to. But the one thing people like more than a hero is watching them fall.
Starting with Iron Man 3 , Marvel has been breaking The Avengers. Whether it’s Iron Man creating Ultron and getting people killed, Captain America going on the run to protect Bucky, or Thor losing his hammer, The Avengers main cast are all but shattered.
DC didn’t waste any time breaking their heroes. Look at the suffering Batman endured in The Dark Knight series. Or Christopher Reeve’s Superman becoming a deadbeat dad in Superman Returns. Hell, the most recent DC movies make the Joker seem more heroic than Superman.
Sometimes it’s easier to relate to miserable #$%!-ups than a hero. Or Zack Snyder did it. Seriously, screw that guy.
To quote Superman’s not-deadbeat-dad, “They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way.”
2 – The Vile and the Villainous
The Joker: “All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal, and I’m gonna give it to ’em.” – The Dark Knight
Let’s be blunt, most movie supervillains suck. For every Heath Ledger Joker and Tom Hiddleston Loki, there are a dozen generic evil overlords. I don’t care what characters they’re based on, if they only want power and destruction, they invariably suck.
Loki’s sympathetic backstory helps make him a great villain. Loki was jealous of his brother Thor but went mad after learning his heritage. The Joker character works because of his charisma and over-the-top depravity. He doesn’t have a backstory and doesn’t need one. But who cares about Malekith the Accursed, Ronan the Accuser, or Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor?
Supervillains tend to die at the end of the movie and only exist for the heroes to fight. Why bother caring about someone who will be dead in two hours?
Care, damnit! From Kilgrave’s creepiness and Joker’s insanity to Kingpin’s fury and Luthor’s cunning, they succeed because they’re more than evil, they’re villains .
1 – Know When to End
Iron Man: “Banner and I were doing research.”
Captain America: “That would affect the team.”
Iron Man: “That would end the team! Isn’t that the mission? Isn’t that why we fight? So we can end the fight. So we get to go home!” – Avengers: Age of Ultron
The ending is the hardest part of any story. We’ve seen superheroes grow from a niche film genre to surefire success. We’ve seen an arms dealer become Earth’s Mightiest Hero, a god learn humility, and a sickly kid become a legendary champion. We’ve seen their misfit alliance battle alien invasions, insane robots, and evil gods. Soon, we will see the Avengers wage war against Thanos, the Mad Titan, with the fate of the universe at stake.
And then what?
Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of the decade-old Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Marvel is already planning other superhero movies set after Infinity War. Where can they go from there? How can they expect people to stay interested after such a cataclysmic event? And how can anyone remember the details in 23 movies, 4 seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 2 seasons of Agent Carter, 4 Netflix series leading to a Defenders series, and planned shows for The Inhumans, Cloak and Dagger, and The New Warriors?
People don’t want it to end.
Infinity War would be the perfect place to end the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it looks like Marvel’s current leaders want to milk the franchise. Will the franchise lose touch with its fans? Will it soar higher than ever before? Will the old guard fall, leaving room for new heroes? Let’s find out.