If this were the 1980’s and 1990’s, audiences would likely be universally applauding all the overwhelmingly popular superhero movies currently dominating theaters. Unfortunately, we now live in an age where many assume “popular” equals “overexposed” and “overexposed” equals “bad.”
That’s not to say there aren’t still legions of fans that adore superhero movies. The box office returns for Avengers: Age of Ultron is irrefutable proof that the masses want more of Black Widow, Captain America, and the Hulk. There is evidently a large group of curmudgeons, however, that’s had it with all the superhero reboots, spinoffs, and expanded universes. Log on to any message board and see for yourself. If every superhero movie were a cheap retread, I’d likely get on board with the latter group. The reason this genre has proven so prevalent in recent years, though, is that it offers more variety than most would expect.
After films like Batman & Robin and Steel killed the superhero movie for a while, it came back with a vengeance through Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. They reminded us that comic book movies could be more than colorful escapism, but meaningful entertainment with characters, depth, and creativity. Christopher Nolan would later take the potential for a superhero picture to greater heights with his Dark Knight trilogy. While those films remain on a pedestal above all others, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably an even more impressive achievement.
Since 2008, the MCU has released eleven feature films with eleven more scheduled to come out within the next few years. You’d think with so many pictures in the cannon, this franchise would have officially run out of gas. Obviously, there are some familiar tropes that inevitably work their way into every film and we’re still waiting for Thanos to actually do something. Yet, a majority of the Marvel films have their own unique signature with a distinctive tone.
The Iron Man trilogy puts emphasis on technology, the Thor movies focus on fantasy, Captain America: The First Avenger is a retro throwback, Captain America: The Winter Solider is a contemporary conspiracy thriller, Guardians of the Galaxy is a sci-fi comedy, and The Avengers is the single greatest crossover event in cinematic history. These are truly diverse pictures that keep offering something new with each entry. That’s why audiences keep coming back.
This doesn’t mean every modern superhero movie is a masterpiece, but even the worst of them put in more effort than sheer mindless entertainment. That’s why I find it concerning countless individuals are trolling Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before it hits theaters, while few seem to be complaining about San Andreas. Since superhero movies are so widespread and disaster movies are scarcer these days, it is understandable that some would be sick of The Avengers and enthralled by a giant earthquake. But let’s think for a second, people.
Were things really better in the late nineties when every blockbuster was a stock disaster picture devoid of any character, story, or originality? Would you really take Armageddon, Deep Impact, and Twister over Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Solider, and Guardians of the Galaxy? Anybody who says, “yes”, is a backwards thinker stuck in the past. Superhero movies have dozens of possibilities that we haven’t even begun to explore. Disaster movies are all one-note and truly overstayed their welcome eons ago.
Superheroes aren’t going to rule the world forever. There will come a time when even Marvel runs out of characters to market and their seemingly never-ending series slows down. Until then, though, we’re living in a silver age of summer blockbusters and much of that is due to the superhero genre. Rather than shunning these costumed heroes and vigilantes, open your eyes to the prospect that they’re doing much more good than bad. They’re defining a generation of moviegoers and it’s a terrific generation to grow up in.