Why Superhero Genre Is Dominating The Film Industry
Five of the 11 top-grossing films of 2021 were superhero movies, based on characters first introduced in comic books. Two of them were sequels to some form of book adaptation movie.
Also, five out of the top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time are MCU superhero movies. Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing movie of all time until Avatar was re-released and dethroned Endgame.
Why can’t we get enough of superheroes?
Despite all the voices predicting “superhero fatigue,” the figure continues to go across movies and TV, from 100 Rupees Comics to billion-dollar theme park.
While 1990s blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Braveheart” were standalone epics based on books or historical events, today’s highest-grossing films are primarily superhero movies, based on a combination of factors such as escapism, cutting-edge special effects, and an older, wealthier population of comic-book fans.
We now live in an age where comic-book and graphic-novel adaptations have taken over Hollywood and have fixed themselves into mainstream pop culture.
We are living in Hollywood’s Comic Book Age. A global obsession, superhero movies are seen by hundreds of millions, arguably the most consumed stories in human history.
There is no rule, of course, that says films have to be about anything. One way of looking at comic book movies is to see them simply as mental popcorn, meant to be rapidly consumed and forgotten — this may be precisely why so many people love them. They are harmless. Armies of Hollywood professionals get paid, megamillions enjoy them and nobody gets hurt. Even snooty critics have fun inventing clever ways to slam them.
Meanwhile, the Superhero Film has been developed into its own genre, defined by reliable tropes and familiar plot points. Though the heroes may differ, their stories tend to follow a similar path: First, the superhero’s powers are introduced. Whether their new abilities are born out of tragedy, ingenuity, or a radioactive spider, most superheroes try to start off as ordinary people and then become extraordinary. With that power…… “comes great responsibility.”
Mostly the superhero confronts an ethical drama in grappling with HOW to Use their power and whether they even want to. And here comes the twist, that decision is usually made FOR them by the arrival of a supervillain who is likely a mirror image of superheroes themselves.
Meanwhile, the superhero is surrounded by normal, non-superheroes who keep them grounded, reminding the hero of their humanity and what it is they are fighting for. AND, in the end, the superhero faces the supervillain in an epic battle for the fate of the world.
So, if we know every superhero story will always follow these basic rules, why do audiences keep coming back.
Here’s our view of how the genre came to be such an endlessly renewable form of storytelling, why it continues to resonate, and what these extraordinary things tell about our ordinary selves.
The Superhero has been with us from the beginning of storytelling. Heroic demigods like Hercules, Gilgamesh, and various avatars of Hindu gods mortals who were supposed to have divine powers were the cornerstone of ancient Mythology.
Meanwhile, the epic conquest of real men like Alexander The Great laid the foundations for tales of a lone hero or villain who could singlehandedly change the course of the world.
The idea of an often-disguised heroic figure operating outside the law was formulated in folklore like Robin Hood. Stories of real-life masked vigilantes in the American West, other parts of the world, and Baroness Orczy’s 1905 novel The Scarlet Pimpernel about a supposed dandy who leads a secretly noble double life during the french revolution. The pulp novel and magazines of the early 20th century gave us figures like Doc Savage, Zorro, Tarzan, and The Shadows who beat incredible odds through their exceptional cunning, skill, and physical strength.
Metaphysically, the concept of superman has its roots in Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of “Ubermensch,” which the philosopher described as the next step of human evolution, where we could move beyond ourselves and become closer to gods.
while superman’s writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster never commented directly on Nietzsche’s influence, it’s notable that their first collaboration, 1933’s “The Reign Of Superman” depicts the idea of evil. The story confronts an ordinary man who is given the power of telepathy which he then uses the power to take over the world. In reality, at that time Hitler was appropriating Nietzsche’s idea of Ubermensch to justify his bids for world domination.
And as world war 2 broke across the world, Siegel, and Shuster found wider audience appeal by recasting Superman as the ultimate power for good.
The success of Superman and Batman both introduced in the thirties created a flood of new superheroes through which audiences could confront rising anxieties about war and social unrest.
For younger audiences, superheroes are a source of comfort and empowerment in terrifying times. The original secret identity of the Golden Age hero Captain Marvel was even a young boy who transformed into a fearless superhero by invoking the names of ancient mythological heroes which is where he gets his later name SHAZAM!
10 Reasons Why Everyone Has Seen a Superhero Movie
- They’re a form of Escapism.
- We’re Psychologically Wired to Love Those Who Protect the Weak.
- Superheroes are Our Reflection.
- Their Fights Quench Our Thirst for Drama.
- Reflection of Social Change (e.g. LGBT, Black Panther).
- Comic-books are Not ‘Just for Children’.
- The Rise of CGI.
- Marvel vs. DC
- Money Rules the World.