I have been expecting a tipping point for years. This endless parade of blockbuster comic book movies cannot go on forever. And yet it does — one expensive smash hit after another.
Comic books themselves may be struggling to hang on, but comic book movies seem utterly unsinkable. I figured “Thor” would stiff, that “Iron Man 2 or 3” would under-perform. “Man of Steel” seems set to turn a healthy profit. “Avengers 2” is in the works. There’s no end to “X-Men” or “Wolverine” movies in sight.
Will this never stop? Even those who adore these movies must be wondering if there isn’t more to movie life out there, if a change in generations will herald a fade to black, if this “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV series isn’t taking things over that tipping point where people say, “ENOUGH.”
Veteran critic Joe Queenan, writing for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, dissects the genre, its variables, variety and lack thereof. The movies reflect their times, which are a bit hopeless. When hope in institutions and mortal beings is lost, we turn to the superpowered.
But with three to five films a year, every year, you’d think fatigue would set in amongst people who are more casual consumers of these films. The hardcore don’t seem capable of outgrowing them, but they’re not a huge audience. It’s everybody else that’s turning these into blockbusters. Why are women showing up for these films? As Queenan points out, there’s nobody for them to identify with in this universe.
And I keep peeking into the future, wondering if the next “Wolverine” will kick off the downturn, if the cynical re-boot of the “Spider-Man” franchise will run out of gas or that the cynicism will spread and Warners will announce the next Batman reboot.
Vampires, zombies, super-raunchy ensemble comedies, all have their day and run their course. But not comic book pictures. Not yet. Why is that?