By Brian VanDenBergh 18 March 2015
The market for entertainment since Netflix started streaming has become so saturated that you really can’t escape. If I try and scour amazon for a deal on a nice blender for my girlfriend I’m greeted with an advertisement for Amazon’s very own show. Hulu has their own content too and every paid cable channel from HBO, Cinemax, Starz and Showtime push their product on you like a drug dealer with something to prove. Apple just announced their planning their own cable service this week.
I love superheroes as much as the next nerd but lets be seriously for a second. Within the next 5 years Marvel plans to churn out 9 pictures and DC has plans for 10. On the small screen, Fox has Gotham, CW has Arrow and Flash and a potential spinoff, ABC has Agents of Shield along with Agent Carter and a Daredevil show is premiering for Netflix next month. This is probably way beyond the threshold for Superheroes. I’ll try to arrive at a point soon, I promise.
Superheroes mean something to me, and I believe they mean a great deal to a lot of people. (We keep throwing down the cash right?) When do we start to want a little bit more? Not more content, but more meaning. When is the Hulk punching an alien again and again start to loose its magic? I’m thinking soon. The Avengers: Age of Ultron will open in May 2015. I’m betting it takes down the top 2 spots on the highest grossing list handily, becoming the most successful film (financially) of all time. It’ll be the last hurrah of the super hero films and of the modern summer blockbuster.
The Avengers marked the culmination of a “cinematic universe” that people were dying to see the result of 5 previous movies, 5 ending stingers leading to one badass showdown in New York City; and man did it deliver. We ate it up, all of us, because it was our childhood dreams stretching across the silver screen breathing and alive. I saw it four times in theaters and personally killed myself trying to track down the Blu-ray of the thing the day it got released. It was the defining moment for the genre. (Yes even more so than The Dark Knight. Numbers don’t lie)
After this Marvel launches a 4-movie slate categorized as “phase 2.” Iron Man 3 came first with Thor: The Dark World coming fast behind. It was in these 4 hours that we as fans got to see what had become of the same world that had just been turned upside down in Avengers, and the result… nothing really happened at all. Thor: The Dark World, is in my opinion is the first crack in Marvel’s billion dollar mirror. It was forced, it lacked any consequence and it was a flat film we all just kind of felt obligated to see. The Sentinel of Liberty was up next.
The first Cap film had many flaws and lets be honest, he was no ones favorite Avenger going into the main event. In his sequel however, Captain America: The Winter Soldier strives for and surpasses the bar of excellence I set for a superhero film, and for any film in general. It meant something. It commented on the world around us as viewers and the world Marvel had been creating for now 8 previous films. This movie in relation to itself and to the MCU had massive consequences.
Guardians of the Galaxy came out of nowhere. Marvel picks a property no one has every heard of except for Hipsters and the one guy who is always in the comic book store no matter what time you go. It reminded us, just like its older brother did in 1977, that even the weirdest thing you’ve never heard of could reach in and make you realize why you love movies so much. A cosmic cave painting. Characters, action, plot, gravitas, pathos, and a bunch of other Latin words too. This was a superhero movie about the B-Squad that quickly became the most successful film of the year.
Cap and Guardians are the last few shining lights of a dying universe, which ultimately affects the film industry as a whole. The first 5 movies all pointed in one direction with energy and a purpose, and now at the end of phase 2 were headed in a hundred different directions. Yes, I understand that’s the point, but now that’s been done, it’s going to be next to impossible to recapture that feeling. Arriving at the point, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe had its day and I think its 11th movie will be its crown jewel. After Ultron however, with an influx of less than popular characters stretched over too many movies in way too short of a time span, there’s no where to go but down. Those packed movie theaters won’t be so packed anymore. Downey, Hemsworth, Evans, and Ruffalo aren’t going to be around forever and the Avengers of today will quickly become the Avengers of old. When that ship sails out into the sunset, I’m betting everything that’s left will go down hard.
Just look over at DC trying all of this in reverse not understanding that trying to force your properties down people’s throats just 3 years after your most successful trilogy ended probably isn’t going to work. (Having Batman stand next to Aquaman is hard enough to take in print let alone on screen.) The Justice League experiment Warner Bros. is attempting will just serve to put the final nail in the coffin of the superhero genre. Marvel’s owner Disney won’t care one bit, as they will continually churn out super themed movies a couple times a year like their own animated movies, and soon to be Star Wars franchise. It’s not like a multi-billion dollar giant is really going to care if Thor 3 only returns a couple hundred million. It’s all money.
That’s really the sad thing. All of these properties and all of these characters flying from stage left to stage right are treated as big dollar signs. People need heroes, we always have. From Greek myths to Superman, we all want someone or something to believe in. I believe in movies and their ability to have immense cultural meaning. However lately, I feel that it’s all just in good fun as we pack the theaters in the summer block buster season with over priced popcorn and soda on a Tuesday night at 8 just a mere 3 days before the movies actual release date. We will go see all 3 Hobbit movies even though it escapes logic why it’s so long, and we will be loyal fans. But those midnight showings of the newest marvel offering every summer start to be come once every three-month occurrence. They’re shown regular, in 3D, in Imax, and in Imax 3D. They are shown days before the slated release in 10 different show times to pump up the “opening” numbers and leave everyone just confused as to when the movie actually comes out and ultimately not caring because they can just wait 2 weeks for the next superhero movie. I used to crave heading out at 10:30 with 7 dollars in my pocket to stand in a line for an hour next to true nerds to rush into the theater sitting shoulder to shoulder and laughing and cheering with the crowd around me. I don’t want to be one of 4 people in the theater or in front of my computer screen. I want to see movies again Gandalf.
I want more. I want movies that actually mean something, and that make me feel like I’ve made the right choice devoting my life to them. I know this seems like a long drawn out classic rock fanatic clamoring about how music now is so awful, but I’m greedy. You may very well point out that instead of seeing movies in the summer season I go during Oscar season, but I believe in the power of heroes. (Just look at Chris Pratt and Chris Evans’ Superbowl bet, or RDJ helping a kid get a bionic arm) It doesn’t matter what I think, whether I’m wrong or right about any of this or whether you think this is a poorly written, poorly thought out look at the state of the industry using the Superhero genre as an example. What matters is that we love stories. The film industry dominates entertainment and it’s our biggest source for our fix of lovable characters and other worlds to escape to.
I believe the assistant cable holder on any film set is crucial to the telling of a great story and I love the industry from top down and have wanted to be apart of it since I was 5 years old. I want to hold a cable down so that the camera man wont trip while setting up a shot that could one day mean the world to a kid sitting shoulder to shoulder in a dark theater.
So as a sincere call from a former film major who currently answers phones for a living; please…let’s make better movies.