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The Cure For Fatigue

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  • The Cure For Fatigue

    Click image for larger version  Name:	james cameron.jpg Views:	1 Size:	17.8 KB ID:	432​Blame James Cameron for this one.

    Recently, the director of Aliens and Titanic has expressed some… shall we say “disappointment” about the proliferation of superhero movies. The man who is working on a Terminator reboot and four new Avatar sequels was famously quoted as saying “there are other stories to tell,” when speaking about the success of Marvel’s Avengers franchise. The man who helped make Arnold Schwarzenegger a megastar and who once almost made a Spider-Man movie went on to bemoan “hyper-gonadal movies about males without families.”

    I’m picking on Cameron a little here, I know, but that’s because he’s the most famous name that has jumped onto this particular bandwagon. He is by no means the first one. Lots of people have talked about “superhero fatigue” setting in, and with so many films in the genre coming out each year, it’s not an unreasonable concern. Marvel Studios is the juggernaut, but let’s not forget Fox’s X-Men franchise (which includes the actual Juggernaut), Sony’s Spider-Verse, and Warner Brothers’s DC films. Then there’s Todd McFarlane’s upcoming Spawn reboot, Sony’s plan to use Vin Diesel to kick off a Valiant Comics Universe with Bloodshot, and John Ridley’s The American Way, which was recently optioned by New Line Cinema. On television, Marvel has shows on ABC, Netflix, Hulu, and Freeform, DC has Gotham and approximately half of the CW network, plus their own streaming service in the works, and Fox has two popular X-Men related shows on their assorted networks. There are tons of kids’ shows -- both animated and live-action -- with superhero characters, and even Pixar is jumping back into the ring with their sequel to The Incredibles hitting screens this summer. Clearly, with such a gargantuan amount of content, it’s inevitable that audiences will tire and start to look for something else, right?

    Then again, Infinity War just charted the biggest opening weekend of all time, the second-biggest second weekend of all time, was the fastest movie in history to make a billion dollars worldwide, and it hasn’t even opened in China yet.

    Clearly, something about superheroes appeals to people.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Superman the Movie.jpg Views:	1 Size:	60.6 KB ID:	435The Cure For Fatigue is an irregular feature in which we’ll gather around the campfire, take a look at something that people may be feeling burned out on, and talk about what makes it so great in the first place. Today, let’s talk about why we like superhero movies.

    Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you why superhero movies matter to me. I got into comic books almost as soon as I could read. My dad brought me a stack of Archie comics a co-worker’s kid had tired of. Soon afterwards my uncle found out I was reading comics and passed on some of his old magazines, including issues of Green Lantern and the Legion of Super-Heroes. (This is probably a big part of why I’m more of a DC guy, but that’s neither here nor there.) As I read more, as I learned more about the characters… well, I got greedy. The only live-action superheroes I knew of were the old Adam West Batman and the new Christopher Reeve Superman. And they were great, but where were the rest of them? Where was Green Lantern? Where was the Flash? Where was Wonder Woman? (Somehow the Lynda Carter TV show had not yet entered my sphere of influence. It’s my one regret in life.)

    I was 12 when the first Tim Burton Batman movie came out in 1989, and it was a game-changer. There was not only a new superhero movie, but it was way more like the character I was reading in the comics than was the (let's be honest here) cheesy TV show! This was it! We were moving in the right direction! The superhero renaissance was upon us! Who would be the next DC hero to grace us on the silver screen?

    As it turned out, it would be Steel. Because other than the Batman sequels (which steadily decreased in quality) that was the only other DC movie we got in the next decade. We also got the first subpar adaptation of Spawn, and from Marvel? A Captain America with rubber ears and a Fantastic Four that never even made it to video. The dreams of my youth and the promise of Burton had gone unfulfilled.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	blade movie.jpg Views:	1 Size:	74.2 KB ID:	434​Then, in 1998, the game changed again with the first Blade movie. For the first time, a superhero got a big-screen treatment that felt mature and intense (which, at the ripe age of 21, I felt qualified to declare). Finally, a hero that wasn’t an icon, but who proved that even lesser-known characters had stories to tell. Finally, a good movie based on a Marvel comic! What were the odds? A lot of people forget this, but Blade was the film that got the ball rolling. It was followed by other hits: X-Men, Spider-Man. It was followed by clunkers: Daredevil, Catwoman. But most importantly, it was followed.

    If I could go back to 1989 and talk to my 12-year-old self, I would say to be patient, and to bet on the Saints winning the Super Bowl in 2010. Batman might not have been the spark that lit the fuse, but that fuse would be lit, and by the time I had a kid of my own, he’d grow up in a world where the Justice League and Avengers had both assembled on the silver screen, where Black Lightning and Cloak and Dagger were the stars of television shows, and where Iron Man would be one of the most popular fictional characters in the world. My 12-year-old self would probably think I was full of crap, and I couldn’t blame him.

    Why do I love superhero movies? Because I spent the first half of my life wishing they existed. That doesn’t mean they’re all great. That doesn’t mean they’ll last forever. Movies go in cycles. For a period in the 40s and 50s Hollywood turned out literally hundreds of westerns a year. (Compare that to maybe a dozen superhero movies that are giving the naysayers of the world “fatigue.”) Westerns eventually waned in popularity, but they never went away completely. Even now you’ll occasionally get a Bone Tomahawk or a True Grit to remind us that the genre still has juice in it. In the 80s, horror movies were dominated by the slasher. Today, while the thrust of the genre seems to be ghosts and demonic possession, there are still Victor Crowleys out there to give us a stabbing thrill. And as for the popular stuff... if someone doesn't want to see the flavor of the month, there are ten other screens in the multiplex to choose from. People buy tickets for the currently popular trend because they want to.

    So there probably will be a day when there are two or three superhero movies a year instead of twelve. But I don’t think I’ll see the day again where the genre is ignored by Hollywood either. My heroes are alive on the screen, and they’re not going anywhere.

    And that, for me, is enough.
    Blake M. Petit, who has a great idea for a Bionic Six reboot if anybody is listening, has been pontificating about pop culture online for over a decade. You can follow him at BlakeMPetit.com and, if you're feeling generous, check out his books on Amazon.

    • Blake M. Petit
      #4
      Blake M. Petit commented
      Editing a comment
      Ah, Mystery Men. I'm looking forward to getting to that one during the rewatch.

    • Craig Reade
      #5
      Craig Reade commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm kind of tired of Oscar-bait movies myself. You know, all those formulaic movies developed specifically to earn award nominations. They all seem the same. Superheroes are way more fun.

    • Blake M. Petit
      #6
      Blake M. Petit commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, at least those don't pretenfd to be something they aren't.

      I haven't seen it yet, but I was dumbfounded when The Shape of Water took home Best Picture.
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