Superhero movies suck. There, I said it. Back in 2011, I said as much in a mail in piece that got published in Entertainment Weekly. Like a member of the angry mob at a town hall meeting, I had had enough. That summer featured a slew of superhero movies including X-Men: First Class, The Green Lantern, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Green Hornet, and even Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
Fast forward five years and our summer slate looks remarkably similar. Thus far in 2016 studios have released Captain America: Civil War, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Deadpool, and X-Men: Apocalypse.
Then there’s Suicide Squad. I’ll admit it, I fell for the trailer. It looked gritty and unconventional. There’s throwback Will Smith, deranged Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto method acting.
Then the reviews starting piling in. Suicide Squad currently has a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. For those keeping score, that’s worse than Independence Day: Resurgence, Entourage: The Movie, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Including Suicide Squad, this year’s superhero movies have an average score of 56% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Despite the reviews, I’m assuming Suicide Squad is going to make buckets of cash. According to Box Office Mojo, this year’s superhero movies have all grossed over $500 million worldwide. That doesn’t mean they’re good movies.
Look, I get the appeal. You go to the movies to turn your brain off and see some cool CGI. Hollywood continues to greenlight these movies in the same way that they do Adam Sandler movies (much to the dismay of Sony execs.) They know that they can put out a lazy script, sign an A-List actor, and watch the masses flock to the theaters.
2016 is a perfect example of what is wrong with superhero movies. For one, there’s a serious problem with overkill. With the release of Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse, we now have nine (!) X-Men movies. Marvel released the third Captain America movie (not including the two Avengers movies.) Then there is the maligned Batman vs. Superman crossover that even poor Ben Affleck knew was a disaster. At this point, what do we have to look forward to?
Here’s the slate for 2017: Justice League (aka DC’s Avengers), Wolverine 3, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok, and Spiderman: Homecoming.
Lucky us! More sequels and crossover movies. Oh, and as if the gods weren’t merciful enough to let Spiderman die with Tobey Maguire’s jazz hands, we now have our third actor leading Spiderman in 10 years. It’s evident that the studios are milking their cash cow until the very last drop. That’s why we get obscure, unnecessary superhero movies like Ant Man and Aquaman (sadly, not the Vinny Chase version we sorely need).
Another problem with these movies is that they’re too formulaic. How many times can you see the hero’s journey play out on camera? All of these movies are the same iteration of each other. When I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron, I figured I would give it a fair shot. Here’s how it went down – the heroes are all together, a villain brings a call to action, they squabble, the villain starts winning, they band together and save the world. I mean, Jesus! I am anticipating the plot of Sausage Party to be more developed. But hey, I can look forward to being proved wrong when a 54-year-old Robert Downey Jr. suits up for Avengers 4 in 2019.
One of the reasons why Deadpool was so successful is that there was a mild change in the formula. Ryan Reynolds swears, hooks up, and drinks like something we’ve never seen out of a superhero (well, except for Hancock). Audiences were so desperate for something different that we collectively flipped out! They added dirty jokes! I did NOT see that coming!
I understand that these movies aren’t all bad. Deadpool was actually pretty enjoyable. The problem is by the time they roll out Deadpool 3 there will be five other knock off movies featuring a crass superhero. The good movies like Captain America: Civil War get lost in the fray by the 30 superhero movies being released in the next four years.
Sadly, I don’t foresee any changes in the near future. Take a look at one of the emails from the Sony leaks.
That is literally so depressing. This Sony executive is calling for even more Spiderman sequels while simultaneously bashing captivating films like Moneyball and Captain Phillips. So yeah, studios just want to snag a franchise, make money, and totally ignore the quality of their films.
There’s a simple solution. Stop seeing these movies! I urge you to stop this madness. I dream of a world where Moneyball outearns The Amazing Spiderman 2. Yet here we are. It’s 2016, Donald Trump is nearly President, the Big Bang Theory is still the most popular sitcom on TV, and people are rioting over movies they haven’t even seen.