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Blog: Superhero Fatigue Fatigue

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I went to the pictures on Monday night to see the new "Thor" film with my pal Mr S Carter. Steve had got us SUPER posh seats with reclining backs and FOOT LIFTS which was VERY fancy, and the film itself was GRATE. At times it seemed like about 7 different films chopped up and then stuck together, but that's fine, and I was surprised to find Christian Bale doing a DENNIS PENNIS impersonation throughout, but it was a LOT of fun, with plenty of JOKES, lots of CAMEOS, and I had a bit of an old cry in several places too. What's not to like?

Well apparently quite a bit according to THE REVIEWERS who all seem to have been banging on about "Superhero Fatigue" again. This is the idea that people have had enough of superhero movies so won't be going anymore, and it is something that they have been saying pretty much since "Iron Man 2" came out, despite the fact that the films seem to be making about A BILLION POUNDS* every time (*ACTUALLY a billion pounds!).

I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, THE REVIEWERS hate the fact that people go and see films they actually WANT to see, rather than the ones THE REVIEWERS recommend. I mean, there have been about 17 billion Jane Austen adaptations, but you never ever ever hear anybody talking about "Austen Fatigue" do you? I mean, nor should they, Jane Austen is ACE, but even when a rubbish version comes out (like the recent one on Netflix) it doesn't do well because a bad film, and not because of AUSTEN SATURATION.

Secondly, and perhaps more charitably, the last 15 years or so of Superhero Movies have been a NEW THING. There have been successful superhero films before e.g. "Superman" (OBVS) and the first Tim Burton "Batman", but these were all very traditional films with a traditional film structure and though they DID have sequels they tended to be design so you could see them quite happily without having watched any of the others. The new Superhero movies - and ESPECIALLY the Marvel ones - very definitely DO NOT do that. Quite a large amount of the FUN of the new "Thor" movie, for instance, was seeing references to past events, cameos from other characters, or STUFF that toys around with established aspects OR sets up exciting new things. Again, there have been film series before, but these tended to revolve around specific characters rather than be MODULAR like what the MCU is. An exception to this (that I have just looked up to check!) is the GODZILLA franchise which had a whole heap of different movies and solo adventures. As per with TRANSMEDIA stuff, the Japanese got there first, and they do not appear to be suffering from GODZILLA FATIGUE.

The other interesting thing (NB perhaps just for me) is the way that Marvel keep on doing ACTUAL Superhero Movies. It must be very very tempting to go "Hang on, here's an amazing idea - why don't we DECONSTRUCT the superhero movie genre? Eh? No one has ever thought of that before!" and YES ALL RIGHT there is a bit of that going on within the films themselves, but overall the MCU is a series of Actual Superhero Movies that define what Actual Superhero Movies ARE. This is GRATE because when you have a proper established genre like this it means that other film and TV makers CAN then go and muck around with it a bit. For instance, "The Boys" would not have worked AT ALL if it had come out fifteen years ago (i.e. not long after the comic itself came out) when non-comics people weren't familiar with how superhero stories function. Nowadays we have all seen 98 Million Billion Marvel films so GET it completely, but to get there 98 Million Billion Marvel films had to be made in the first place.

Similarly, a really good film like "Mystery Men" did not work AT ALL when it came out because it was based on a comic RIFFING on superhero stories that existed in comics but not really in movies. Even more so, the original "Watchmen" film was lots of fun for people like me going "OOH LOOK that is ISSUE 10 PAGE 4 PANEL 4 how very clever!" but possibly not for everybody else who had no frame of reference for the core idea i.e. "Hey, What If Superheroes Were Real?" If they hadn't remade it AGANE on the telly a new "Watchmen" film would probably be a really good idea!

My enormous hope is that we're only at the START of Supehero Movies - Actual or otherwise - as a genre. Now that everyone understands how they work there's TONNES of space for different sorts of movies, or TV shows, or OTHER media that can start creating whole new stories or even adapting some more of the old ones that similarly comment on superhero stories (COME ON, Hollywood, do Zenith!). All it needs is for organisations like Marvel to keep pumping out Actual Superhero Movies (hopefully featuring Doctor Doom), and for people like me and Steve HEROICALLY keep going to see them. I'm ready to do my part!

posted 3/8/2022 by MJ Hibbett

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Me and Evan very much enjoyed the Molnir/Thor/Stormbreaker love triangle!
posted 3/8/2022 by Frankie

There's probably a paper in the thoughts here, or perhaps a longer general-interest article in The Conversation. Austen fatigue is a compelling hook.
posted 4/8/2022 by drdoomed

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