Just looking back at the last two years, you’ll see that we’ve had great films and television shows that stayed faithful to comic books and provided necessary social commentary. In 2014 there was Captain America: Winter Soldier, which delved into governments and their trustworthiness, then in 2017 we got Logan which many critics agreed raised the bar for superhero films by providing a poignant story about cynicism and fighting for something more through characters we could actually relate to in spite of their superpowers.
Those are a few films that provide evidence that the popularity of superhero films won’t be dying down anytime soon. It’s why studios are so heavily invested in them. So much so that it almost seems as if they’re ignoring other genres. Studios and the audiences themselves, in fact. Last year saw the release of Dunkirk, a war film directed by Christopher Nolan. In terms of marketing, it was pushed as well as you’d expect, though still not as intensely as films such as Wonder Woman or Spider-Man: Homecoming. It certainly didn’t generate nearly as much hype though it did end up being the year’s top-grossing original film.
It’s slightly odd to see when you consider that barely a decade ago, superhero films were still not as common and films like Inception and Black Swan were getting far more attention. Films like those are still being released, but they’re not getting as much hype because our attention is on the next superhero blockbuster with another one just around the corner.
So are creators like Jodie Foster right in saying that there’s too much of it? Has cinema and television become oversaturated with superhero media? It looks to be that way, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly won’t stop meaningful messages and character explorations from coming through in elegant ways. Just look at Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy which placed focus, not on elaborate battle sequences but on character growth and development as well as criminal psychology.
There are plenty of directors that understand that, including Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn, who in a statement, expressed his understanding of Foster’s point of view and his desire to create spectacle films with soul.
The truth of the matter is that people love superhero films and because of that, those films have indeed flooded screens. They’re incredibly popular…right now. But cinema will change as it has always changed. In the 60’s and 70’s the fad was spaghetti westerns, then space dramas took over. For now, superhero films reign supreme, but that’ll inevitably come to an end sooner or later. The eloquent art films will get to shine again eventually.
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