Superhero Fatigue Is Real
You can feel it in the box office, and in the collective response to the same old, same old tropes.
“Superhero fatigue” is a phrase that tends to make devoted movie lovers swoon with rapture. If you’re someone who cares about movies, who cares about cinema, the very prospect of superhero fatigue inspires you to think: Yes! There’s hope! People will get tired of this shit!
But let’s be honest — that’s probably wishful thinking. In the last 20 years, led by Marvel but by no means limited to Marvel, comic book movies have infiltrated our culture and our consciousness to the point that they’re now part of who we are. If you ask any number of people, especially dudes of a certain generation, to name their favorite film, they will look at you and say “Star Wars,” often with a smirk that’s really saying, “’Star Wars,’ of course!” These aren’t just “Star Wars” fans. They’re “Star Wars” fundamentalists, who built the seedbeds of their imaginations on the original trilogy.
We don’t think of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in quite that way, because there’s no one movie we can all agree upon that generated the pop-cultural earthquake that “Star Wars” did. Some remember the 1978 “Superman” that way, but even that film, at the time, seemed to emerge from the escapist-fantasy shadow of “Star Wars.” The very nature of comic-book moviegoing, with its serial sprawl (something that was built into the comics themselves and that was there from the early-’80s days of the “Superman” sequels), is that it’s driven by a more-is-more multiplicity. And we’ve now reached a superhero moment of such omnipresent moreness (the films, the TV series, the brain-bending or maybe headache-inducing symbiosis of the two, depending on your vantage) that for people who’ve grown up in this era, comic-book spectacle almost literally defines what entertainment is. In that sense, the war is over. The juggernaut won.