We get, what, a superhero film a year at least and that is being generous. In actuality, we get about five superhero films a year between the MCU and the DCEU alone. Marvel more than DCEU, but you get what we mean.
Last year we got, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Punisher on Netflix, Defenders on Netflix, Daredevil on Netflix, and the list goes on and on. This year alone, we have Deadpool, Ant-Man & The Wasp, Infinity War, Black Panther, Aquaman, Venom, and the almost Mutants (that was pushed back) film.
I know there were some forgotten just because of how many are coming out – but, the question that remains is…Is the superhero genre becoming oversaturated? Do the same things happen in every film? The villain arrives, tries to take over the world, the Avengers save everyone (or Justice League), and then the cycle repeats.
The superhero genre might be oversaturated, but it’s still fun. Don’t you think? That could bring up the question: is the superhero genre oversaturated or were/are the comics? The films are derived from one place. That one place is usually the comics – so would we say that the comics oversaturated the genre of superheroes?
I am a super huge Marvel fan and adore anything Marvel, but as always let’s be honest… The Avengers films are all the same (including Civil War).
Phase One: The Superhero Phase That Started It All…
At the beginning of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe of phase one, we get the four main singular character arcs. These will play a vital part in the universe as a whole. However, Hulk would go on to be the only one who would not get a spin-off after Norton’s version of The Incredible Hulk from 2008.
The first Iron Man film implied this phase system. Mainly to get us ready for the Avengers. Iron Man was a decent film, and it was good for 2008. Iron Man 2 was in the same phase as one, 2010 was a weird time for Marvel. Thor got the short end of the stick. Honestly, Thor was the only movie that wasn’t the greatest in terms of character arcs. Loki was the largest part of the Thor films.
Then we hit Captain America: The First Avenger which was one of the best character arcs of the entire phase. That showed us that Captain America and Iron Man were going to be the highlight of whatever team we saw these Avengers in together. And, that still rings true.
While these arcs are important, they didn’t start the oversaturation. The reason being that it was a first for Marvel to have these characters in their own films. Viewers were new to it, so viewers were excited about the future of Marvel; especially for these separate characters.
A Superhero Team-Up In Marvel’s The Avengers (May 4th, 2012)
Let’s take a step back and talk about what started it all… Marvel’s The Avengers. This was the first big superhero film with a team. We had Hulk, Batman, Batman & Robin, Catwoman, Superman, Spider-Man and so on before this.
All singular heroes, usually, in these films. Nothing had a team that was fighting crime; this is what fundamentally changed the game for superhero films. And, in a good way.
We got Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Tony Stark, Hawkeye and sometimes on a good day, Loki. This was a team that was a force to be reckoned with, demolishing New York because they could — the whole nine yards. This film was primarily about a team that saves the world from the big stuff, nothing small – they take care of the big NYC villains while Daredevil and Jessica Jones take care of the neighborhood villains.
The Beginning of Phases & The Future of The Avengers
The first Avengers was the start of Marvel getting ready for their phases. They initially decided that they were going to do phases (respectively 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) Bringing a team from the comics together on the big screen was a huge change for Marvel and superhero films.
We initially got a start to an amazing future of superhero films. Some would say, though, this started the beginning of the oversaturation. While it is okay to have one or two films, now we have had 3-4 with the same superheroes with a similar story.
Captain America: Civil War (which was primarily an Avengers film with a different name) had: Iron Man (Tony Stark), Black Widow, Steve Rogers (Captain America), Hawkeye, Falcon, War Hero, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and everyone that was in the previous Avenger’s films. But, we will get into that a little later…
Phase Two: The Gang Is Back For Another Sequel
This phase brought us a lot of good films. Honestly, one of the best phases so far that Marvel has done. We got Winter Soldier, Ultron, Iron Man 3, Thor: Dark World, GOTG, and Ant-Man. All respectable films in the MCU.
Like I stated before, the singular characters arcs are excellent in the MCU. They give us a lot more character development and the villains, well they are what they are. Winter Soldier (2014) was a highly excellent film, Iron Man 3 (2013) in the same light. The only film that didn’t come to the table as memorable was Thor (once again).
They did Thor unfortunate in the MCU until the recent film, Ragnarok. There was a lot of discussion about Ultron and if it was good or not. I thought it was decent, for what it was. However, we will talk about that later – it further solidifies the oversaturation.
Again, the oversaturation seems like it is coming from the Avenger’s spin-off films. There are multiple reasons why viewers and lovers of the MCU come to that conclusion. Iron Man 3 is unlike any other MCU film. It tackles PTSD, panic attacks, and the intensity of themes that we don’t see very much in superhero films at all. That says something.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1st, 2015)
That brings us to the wonderful, Age of Ultron. This film had many problems as well as execution issues. It was good for what it was, but was that enough? Not for some.
Again, the story is similar to Marvel’s The Avengers. However, this time Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create the villain… through a computer system. That villain takes over the world or tries to, and then they usually become defeated by the Avengers. Simple enough right?
This story is similar to The Avengers where Loki instead tried to take over the world and pummelled it to pieces along the way. The Avengers then go and save the day, the beginning of oversaturation. This film is similar but with a different villain.
Most of the Avengers films will end up having this same premise. Based on this premise and Marvel’s ranking in the film industry – we will get DC films that are similar too (i.e., Suicide Squad and Justice League).
Superhero Oversaturation Begins and Ends with Avengers
The singular character film arcs create character development and themes we have not seen before. The Avengers films are mostly created for pure entertaining and fun.
They don’t add much to character development or create a necessary evil that we see over the course of 2-3 films, except for Loki. But, Loki is an anti-hero, so sometimes he’s bad, and sometimes he’s good. Ultron will never be heard of again after this film – he remains named, but there’s not much that comes of him after this.
The plot also doesn’t add much, it merely just sets up for the next film to come which is phase three. Or, Captain America: Civil War (which, again, should have just been an Avenger’s film). Ultron is a filler film that was made to create an arc for the next coming singular character films.
Phase Three: It’s Get Better, Just Hang On Tight
Phase three begins with a ton of excellent films. Civil War, Homecoming, Ragnarok, GOTG 2, and Doctor Strange (not in that order). This phase is the current one and will be concluding with Black Panther. Now, phase three, if you notice, doesn’t have an Avengers film in it.
However, like I have been saying – Civil War is mainly an Avengers film. I would have appreciated if they didn’t put this film in Captain America’s name simply because it’s not his film. Tony Stark, of all characters, really gets more screen time then Rogers does.
But, What’s Done Is Done, R I G H T?
So, Civil War was… different. The superhero fatigue began to disappear. This could be because the Russo brothers are good at what they do. Or, Marvel saw the mistakes they were making with the Avengers films and decided to wait until Infinity War to remake/recreate the superhero genre.
Infinity War is supposed to restart the MCU – characters might die, characters might not die, there will be multiple arcs in this film to end of entire MCU. Civil War changed the superhero game because instead of being about a villain who burns NYC to the ground it was about a team deteriorating before their own eyes. And, it was because they did not see the same way as the opposing side.
This was different for an “Avengers-style” film because… there was no villain. No one was ruining NYC, and the Avengers didn’t have to pick up the pieces. The Avengers were ruining NYC; they become the villains they defeat (in a way). That, in itself, is an interesting take aside from calling it a Captain America film.
Films That Changed The Superhero Fatigue In The MCU
Deadpool, GOTG, Ragnarok, The Winter Soldier, and Ant-Man. The reason being they were a breath of fresh air. It has comedy, it has Rated-R goodness, and it has a uniqueness that we weren’t quite used to. We had Iron Man, Steve Rogers, Hulk, Black Widow, and such for a while there. Being able to watch other superheroes is nice.
While this recent mark in comedy and new heroes has provided us with a refreshing take – it can be overdone. Ragnarok (which is the best Thor film to date) had a lot more comedy then everyone was expecting. Some loved it; some hated it – but, the incredible response Marvel got from Deadpool altered the way future Marvel films were made.
One thing that Marvel seems to do is when one thing works out for one film they do it to all the forthcoming films after it. So, Deadpool, GOTG, Ant-Man are all considered superhero comedy. Avengers films have comedy but not as much as these other side films that they make. But, it seems like viewers enjoy it.
So What Causes Superhero Fatigue?
The lack of decent villains? The lack of changes in Avengers films? A lack of… change in what we watch? Maybe all of the above – maybe watchers and fans are getting tired of seeing the same ol’ villain take over NYC. And, the Avengers doing exactly what they do to fix it. (I mean, we can all guess what The Avengers will do to fix it, there are three ways.)
It’s possible. I don’t know if the filmmakers are causing the fatigue or the comics are. The writers are taking from the comics, and in order to keep somewhat close to the storyline, they don’t alter much. So, does that make the comics fatigued too?
What causes fatigue other than the same plot happening? That is all Avengers is accountable for – having the same general scheme. But, as far as entertainment and fun, it keeps coming with surprises every time. I don’t think Marvel has fatigue in the same way the DCEU might.
Both of these companies remain fatigued in different ways. I can’t speak for DCEU, but Marvel has simple fatigue they can fix with Infinity War. And, honestly, I think they are going to fix it.