ARTICLE: Are Superheroes ruining the Film Industry?


“You either die being a hero, or you live long enough to become the villain” – Green Goblin to Spiderman

It has happened. Our world has been invaded, our minds have been taken over and our culture destroyed! And this time, we can’t call any superheroes, because (surprise, surprise) they’re the ones that have consumed our world!

The top ten films in terms of the world-wide box office revenues has, for the last several years, included at least one (or a team of) Marvel superheroes (2014’s list includes Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X Men: Days of Future Past as well as the newcomers Guardians of the Galaxy). For nearly the same number of years, film critics have been scoffing at these films that are dominating the international film landscape, but who cares! We love ‘em. They make money. We enjoy them. They make money. We want more. However, as with all things, there always seems to come a time when too much of a good thing can really just be too much. That moment, for me anyway, happened yesterday.

I was sitting in a Ster-Kinekor theatre enjoying their fantastic half-price Tuesday special, when in amongst some promising forthcoming releases I was hit with Barbie in Princess Power. The premise is as follows: Barbie gets kissed by a magical butterfly which gives her super powers that include flying, super strength etc. and she decides to use these for the good of the kingdom to “make a difference”.

I don’t know about you, but for me there are several, shall we call them, “areas of concern” in the plot above. Firstly, the plot seems more generic than a Step Up or Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel, but most importantly it illustrates what some critics have known all along: superheroes have become the villains of the film industry, stunting the growth of the industry by overloading it with sequels, prequels and remakes of these super franchises until we’re so sick and tired of them, we stop going to movies altogether. While this may seem a little dramatic, think of it in this way: the Barbie brand has been around for decades and has had enormous pull in the pre-teen girls market. Part of their success is because they have gone with the flow of trends, releasing Fairytopia in 2005 when fairies had their day (before vampires and zombies took over in the decade that followed). Now it’s the turn of the superheroes. More specifically Marvel superheroes who, at the end of last year, announced their slate of films leading all the way to summer 2019 with Avengers: The Infinity War Part 2 (because part 2’s are also in now).

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was on a roll before, but now, it’s riding a tidal wave of success that shows no sign of slowing down. Avengers: Age of Ultron will undoubtedly break records when it opens in May this year and take its place in box office history amongst its predecessors. I have a love/hate relationship with these films and will ALWAYS catch them in cinema, on opening weekend; but if they prevent film makers from wanting to attempt interesting, bold, big-budget films, then I have a problem.

Take a look at the top ten films of 2014:

  1. Transformers: Age of Extinctiontransformers_AgeOfUltron
  2. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. Maleficent
  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
  9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  10. Interstellar


Four of these are comic book adaptations and nine are sequels, prequels or remakes. As much as we love these films, film companies need to be very careful of oversaturation… already my brother and one of my film fanatic friends has drawn the line (one at Ironman 3 and the other at Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

The superheroes are here to stay, but the question is, will they become as unwelcome in our homes as our in-laws, or remain celebrated “Golden Boys” of our families… only time will tell.


Thomas Riest @FilmFanaticZA

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