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Will Superhero Movies Survive the Streaming Era?

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"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility."

Superhero movies have shown an endless ability to become bigger and bolder with each film that has been released. Recent superhero movies like Avengers: Endgame have packed in an incredible amount of action into more than three hours of film time. But is there a limit to how big these superhero films can get?

There have been real concerns that we might be reaching ‘peak superhero’ for some time. While the public seems to show no shortage of hunger for the larger-than-life action heroes, it’s debatable as to whether we’ll continue to see such visual spectacles with movie studios suffering a devastating cut in revenues as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Avengers: Endgame movie cost a staggering $356 million to make and it’s hard to see Disney having a similar amount of cash to throw around in the next couple of years. While this Avengers movie went on to pick up a whopping $2.80 billion in box office revenues, this came at the cost
of the largest marketing campaign of any Marvel release.

The majority of cinemas all over the world have had to close their doors for much of 2020 to maintain social distancing protocols. This has meant that many film studios have had to seriously readjust their distribution techniques.

Warner Bros has already made the very controversial move of releasing several of its superhero films simultaneously via cinema and the HBO Max streaming channel. This means that you could get to see The Suicide Squad from the comfort of your own home on the same day that it gets its full cinematic release next year.

Such a move could have a devastating impact on the already struggling cinema industry, and it has already received plenty of criticism. But it’s clear that movie studios are having to think hard about how they can stay profitable.

Movie studios have already been quick to diversify their products to fit a wide variety of media forms. As such, we’ve seen no shortage of TV series spin-offs and video game releases.

Such efforts can do a great job of helping to bring in much-needed revenues to the movie studios, but it’s questionable as to whether this helps to make better films. The past couple of Avengers movies have been spectacular to watch, but the actual storytelling of such epic superhero films can often leave much to be desired.

Nowhere was this better seen than in the much-maligned Batman
V Superman: Dawn of Justice movie that was a novel idea, but badly executed. In fact, everything from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise to the Fantastic Four films can basically be whittled down to little more than a few chase scenes and a handful of wisecracks.

When even the X-Men franchise seems to be running out of ideas, it suggests the fact that superhero movies are getting evermore formulaic. The question is whether the public will tire of these comic book films, or whether there’s an endless thirst for fully grown men and women spouting nonsense while wearing lycra against green screens?

Thankfully, there have been a handful of superhero movies in the past couple of years that suggest that there’s still life in this genre. Firstly, Black Panther was the first superhero movie that actually felt like it mattered in over a decade. Much of this was due to the social backdrop, but it was hard to ignore the fact that this was a superbly acted, well-written, and perfectly executed action film.

Then there was the likes of Joker. The last thing that we were expecting was for a comic book hero to give us the 21st century update of Taxi Driver. But Joker managed to become much more than a superhero movie and instead gave us a bruising glimpse into the troubled human psyche.

Unfortunately, these quality superhero movies are relatively few and far between, and the movie industry is going to have to think long and hard about how it can maintain its current business model against the combined threats of on-demand streaming and the current pandemic.

But with the likes of a new Batman movie on the horizon, there’s hope that we’ll still be able to enjoy quality superhero movies in our uncertain new
futures.

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