Is The Age of Superheroes Over In Cinema?

The scope of cinema is constantly changing and no single genre can remain on top for long. For the past 15 years, superhero films have dominated mainstream cinema. It arguably started with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008 which started off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

From this moment on, audiences were absolutely desperate for more and more comic book adaptations bringing everyone’s favourite superheroes to life but done in style. However, this enthusiasm and eagerness have slowly died down with people becoming bored of superhero films.

There are so many different movie studios trying to capitalise on the popularity, that many are beginning to feel a little fatigued with superhero films. Ultimately, posing the question is the age of superheroes over in cinema?

The rise of Superheroes

It may be hard to believe but superhero films have arguably been around since the late 1930s. After superheroes rose to prominence in comic books, many of these were adapted into Saturday film serials aimed at children such as Mandrake the Magical (1939), Batman (1943), Captain America (1944) and Superman (1948).

Superhero films only really saw a rise in the late 1970s with huge blockbuster films such as Richard Donner’s Superman (1978), Richard Lester’s Superman II (1981), Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) and Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). These showcased a new sort of superhero film that was darker and not necessarily driven towards children with adult themes.

Whilst these superhero films are undoubtedly popular, superhero films only really dominated the box office after Iron Man set the stage for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008. This led to solo superhero films such as Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) which led to the massive success of The Avengers (2021).

Not only was The Avengers a critical success, but the film broke box office records and became the highest-grossing superhero film of all time at the time of release. This record was only overtaken by Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).

Dominating cinema

After The Avengers films, superhero movies absolutely conquered the box office and the small screen as well. The Avengers movie ended the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and led to Phase Two with six different films that grossed over $5.2 billion at the global box office and received generally positive reviews.

This success continued through Phase Three which had eleven films in total grossing over $13.5 billion at the global box office this time. If it wasn’t Marvel superheroes dominating cinema, then it was DC superheroes on the other side with unique films such as Joker (2019), Birds of Prey (2020) and The Batman (2022) that shook up the genre.

Oversaturation of superheroes

Whilst there are still some superhero films that do well at the box office and with audiences, there is definitely a huge oversaturation of superhero films now. Most of the Phases within the Marvel Cinematic Universe only contain a handful of films, but the latest phase has over eleven films and fourteen different television series to watch. These superheroes are no longer unique or special as there are literally multiple others out there saving the world as well.

As the number of superhero films increased, the novelty of the genre wore off leading people to feel fatigued over superheroes. Oversaturation of a particular film genre is nothing new in cinema as it’s happened with multiple other genres in the past. American Westerns were incredibly popular in the 1960s but had a steady decline throughout the 1970s. It took almost 40 years for the revival in popularity of Wild West movies, perhaps superhero films will go through the same process.

Is a revival possible?

Despite many movie enthusiasts becoming fatigued with superhero films, the same cannot be said for the gaming industry. There are multiple highly-anticipated video games coming out within the next few years with Gotham Knights, Marvel’s Midnight Suns, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Marvel’s Wolverine and Wonder Woman to name just a few.

Not only is the superhero genre thriving in video games, but also iGaming as well. There are multiple superhero themed online slots including ones based on the original Batman TV show with Adam West, ones based on popular DC comics and others that are completely original such as Wazdan’s Infinity Hero and Yggdrasil’s Super Heroes.

There is still hope for the superhero genre, but it may take a while for audiences the feel the magic that it once did. Many superhero films are coming out within the next few years, but none quite have the spark that they had. Perhaps, superhero films need to take a break away from cinema for a couple of years and come back refreshed.

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