The con­tin­u­ing rise of the su­per­hero genre

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - J.T. JOHN­SON

Ev­ery time I think that the su­per­hero genre is fi­nally go­ing to pass the torch to another genre in or­der to take over the main­stream, the genre just keeps rein­vent­ing it­self and stay­ing prom­i­nent as a re­sult. The re­lease of “Avengers: Endgame” re­cently was the end of an era for the genre. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a 22-film se­ries with the Mar­vel Cine­matic Uni­verse of­fi­cially re­ferred to as “The In­fin­ity Saga.”

One might think that au­di­ences would want a break from the genre, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. “Spi­der-man: Far From Home,” the next film in both Sony’s Spi­der-man fran­chise and in the MCU, has given the sum­mer box of­fice a much needed boost. In its sec­ond week­end, “Far From Home” has made al­most $850 mil­lion at the box of­fice. Not only is it a great movie, but it also acts as an epi­logue to “Endgame” while teas­ing where the MCU might be go­ing from here on out.

This isn’t the first time that the pop­u­lar genre has gone through an evo­lu­tion, though. When the genre hit big in the 2000s with the re­lease of “X-men” and “Spi­der-man,” Hol­ly­wood started to take the genre se­ri­ously and ev­ery stu­dio un­der the sun was try­ing to cre­ate a su­per­hero film. Un­for­tu­nately, there were grow­ing pains.

Even though the X-men and Spi­der-man se­ries was go­ing strong, some no­tice­ably dull su­per­hero films were emerg­ing. Films such as “Dare­devil,” “Fan­tas­tic Four” and “Hulk” were valiant ef­forts to give us good and se­ri­ous su­per­hero films, but the stu­dios still had to work out how to adapt these films. As a re­sult of more lack­lus­ter films such as “Su­per­man Re­turns” and “The Pu­n­isher,” the box of­fice num­bers started to slide.

How­ever, the en­tire genre evolved in 2008 with the re­lease of two very im­por­tant films. “Iron Man” of­fi­cially kicked off the MCU while “The Dark Knight” showed us that if you have the right talent be­hind them, even a su­per­hero film could be an award wor­thy ef­fort that could not only el­e­vate the genre, but tran­scend it. Be­lieve it or not, though, the box of­fice num­bers for the early MCU films weren’t ex­actly ground­break­ing.

“The In­cred­i­ble Hulk,” “Thor” and “Cap­tain Amer­ica: The First Avenger” did de­cent busi­ness at the box of­fice, but they were nowhere near enough to fore­shadow what was to come. Thank­fully, though, “The Avengers” came out in 2012 and showed au­di­ences what Mar­vel Stu­dios was try­ing to ac­com­plish. From here on out, it wasn’t just about cre­at­ing a film se­ries, it was about cre­at­ing a film uni­verse, a fran­chise con­sist­ing of sev­eral dif­fer­ent se­ries that are all tied to­gether.

Sure, there have still been stum­bling blocks along the way. DC, want­ing to catch up to Mar­vel Stu­dios, quickly rushed their films out with de­cid­edly neg­a­tive re­sults. Now, though, they seem to have learned their les­son with the suc­cess­ful re­leases of “Won­der Woman,” “Aqua­man” and “Shazam!” They’re even de­vel­op­ing a new Bat­man film se­ries starring Robert Pat­tin­son as Bruce Wayne and helmed by “War for the Planet of the Apes,” di­rec­tor Matt Reeves.

What is great is that with “Far From Home” blow­ing up the box of­fice, I ac­tu­ally don’t see an end in sight for the genre thanks to the MCU. They’re al­ready plan­ning their next big sto­ry­line and it’s ex­cit­ing to see that they’ll be head­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion from where the ini­tial films went. Ru­mor has it that we’ll ac­tu­ally learn more about where the MCU is of­fi­cially go­ing when they make their way to the San Diego Comic-con.

I’ve tried to pre­dict when the su­per­hero genre was go­ing to die down in the past. For any fans of the genre and to the dis­may of any­one who happens not to like them, I’m happy to re­port that, so long as they continue to evolve, the su­per­hero genre isn’t go­ing any­where any­time soon.

“Congress shall make no law ... abridg­ing the free­dom of speech, or of the press ... . ” — From the First Amend­ment to Con­sti­tu­tion

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