It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time – 17 years ago – when a superhero movie was not only a rarity but a bit of a joke.
Well, this year we have had SIX – an average of one every two months! – and in 2018, we will have TEN! We are coming very very close to a superhero movie every month!
Yes, from Marvel Studios we will have Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp; from Warner Brothers, Aquaman, Sony will bring us Venom and a Spider-Man animated movie, while Fox matches Marvel with New Mutants, Deadpool and X-Men: Dark Phoenix; and finally Pixar will release the much-anticipated sequel to The Incredibles!
Is this necessarily a good thing? Surely, superhero movies have reached saturation point and a critical and commercial backlash must be imminent.
In addition, there are issues with the sustainability of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) as they now stand and decisions taken in the near future will determine how long these mega-franchises continue to be viable.
The DCEU most significantly have had a mixed time with critics slating Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League, whilst adoring Wonder Woman. The negative vibes have not prevented Warner Brothers from decent earnings although on a diminishing sliding scale.
2018 will only see one DCEU production viz. James Wan’s Aquaman and if that is a critical and commercial failure, then we can see Warner Brothers scaling back significantly. However, unless that happens, it’s easy to imagine Warner Brothers using the Flashpoint plot in the Flash movie to reboot the DCEU into a lighter, Silver Age-like tone and escape the baggage of the Zack Snyder era.
It’s possible that we will not see a Justice League sequel for years while the DCEU develops more standalone ‘safe’ properties like Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.
The MCU has without doubt dominated the worldwide box office for almost a decade now and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and the still untitled Avengers 4 will signal the end of a particular epoch for the MCU. Significantly, it marks the end of the current incarnations of characters like Iron Man and Captain America, the cornerstones of the MCU.
Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has already said as much, explaining that Phase 4 will attempt to reinvent the superhero movie genre as we know it. In addition, with the impending Disney-Fox merger, Feige will also have the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters to spice up the MCU with and hopefully bring some consolidation to the MCU and probably reducing the sheer number of movies.
How will audiences take to the MCU without Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr)? Will Marvel Studios replace the Avengers with the X-Men & Fantastic Four and take the MCU in a bold new direction?
The future of the MCU depends very much on what Feige and Marvel Studios do next after Avengers 4. Chances are 2018 will be a banner year for the superhero movie genre – with box office records tumbling in the face of the onslaught. 2018 will be an intriguing time for the genre as we anticipate plans to be announce that will make or break the genre moving forward.
… still there’s more …