Hollywood trends usually come and go in waves. As of right now, we can assume that the Block-Buster money is gravitating towards the superhero films. The top grossing films this summer were from Marvel, particularly Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Eventually, everyone is going to get tired of the capes and super powered beings. That isn’t to say that it’s happening anytime soon (we’re writing this while waiting in line for Age of Ultron). However, we can bet that after the end of Marvel’s Phase 3, everyone will be completely burnt out.
So, what would be the dominating genre in the post-Super Hero decade? Well, put on your smoking jackets and pretentious hats, because we’re about to have a tickle and slap fight about it! Here are two theories on which genre wave will hit next…
Let’s wind the clock back about 20 years. If I were to tell you that a small rectangular device inside your pocket will be able to access more information than an entire college library, you would probably just call me silly and put me in a mental home. Today, we live in an age where we are constantly being streamlined with information in short bits. If we look at these short bits of information, we can detect a pattern in regards of what the media is advertising to the general public: new iPhones, Video Games, computers, cars, social networking, and a plethora of other gadgets. People are getting excited about a piece of technology, and they are willing to wait in line for a full day just to get it. It is within our culture’s enamor for technology, that drives the general audiences towards films that present them with what a future could look like, and how it looks like when it’s being blown up by lasers. Not just aesthetically, but politically and philosophically as well.
However, it’s not just our love for technology and explosions that drive our interest towards sci-fi. Geek culture entering the mainstream has helped bring about this new age. Before, people were stigmatized if they liked comic-books past the age of 20, but now, comic book films are arguably one of the highest grossing genres. These comic-book films have dashes of sci-fi everywhere, from Iron Man’s futuristic mech-suit, to Thor saying magic and science is the same thing, the general audience has slowly been gaining more interest in a universe that is far more expansive than our own. However, I think the game changer happened this summer with Guardians of the Galaxy. If you were to take Guardians outside of the context of a Marvel film, what you get is a classic and fun Space Opera. It’s Star Wars, with a dash of Star Trek and Indiana Jones, but it has its own distinct personality. By the time Guardians of the Galaxy came along, we were all on board, and made it the highest grossing film of the summer. It is perhaps the film that reignited the flare of the Sci-Fi/Space Opera genre.
With all this talk about comic-books ushering in this new wave of sci-fi, I’m not saying that sci-fi wasn’t popular already. If we look at all the money that recent sci-fi movies have made, they are generally doing good business. Both the Star Trek reboots have done well, and were generally well received. In fact, the two films that are important to look at would be James Cameron’s Avatar and The Hunger Games. Both of these films have performed remarkably well, and have contrasting themes that are common in sci-fi: the fight for a utopia, and the revolt against a dystopia. Granted, they probably did well because of their special effects and spectacle, but I’ll do the pretentious college thing and say that “the popularity of these films may underline our culture’s anxiety of how the government is running the state.”
With that being said, this is nothing more than speculation, and with speculation comes multiple theories, so I will hand the keyboard off to Marcus Baker, to offer a different perspective on this issue!
Anime and Manga
Thanks Angelo! First off, I should say that I don’t believe the trend will ‘end’ because in a lot of ways, superhero movies are their own type of film now. Much like their source material, films like The Dark Knight and The Wolverine adopted the tropes of their genres (Crime and Samurai, respectively) and drew acclaim for tailoring their style to the genre. We see this all the time within the MCU, where all of the films take on a different tone and genre. And with every major studio scrambling to ‘Marvel-ize’ it’s comic book properties, we’ll likely see this kind of diversification throughout comic-based cinema.
With 31 superhero movies set to open up at the box office between now and 2020, there’s almost certain to be a saturation point. Just as the beefy action heroes of the 80’s gave way to the John McClane, flying-by-the-seat-of-his-pants action heroes of the 90’s, at a certain point, the movie going public will simply tire of seeing Bruce Wayne’s parents die or watching Captain America struggle with the corruption of American ideals. Yes, you can drench a movie in new tropes, but ultimately, you’re still watching the same character commit many of the same actions (Bond films have a different mechanism for dealing with this, but that’s beside the point). This wave of films that’s been building over the past 15 years is starting to crest, just as every studio is trying to surf it.
When it crashes though, something will have to take it’s place. And while I can’t rightly say I know what that will be, I have my speculations. Just as the American box office is dying away, foreign audiences are becoming more and more crucial to a film’s box office success. And with the Asian market growing quickest, I believe it won’t be long before we start to see prominent Manga and Anime become Hollywood’s next big cash cow. Similar to how Die Hard shifted the action landscape, all it will take is a flash in the pan to start the gold rush. We’ve seen Hollywood’ attempts to get a live action Akira off the ground , and there’s long been talk of James Cameron adapting Battle Angel for years. I think if an anime-based film became a box office juggernaut, then the studios would surely shift to accommodate that. They go where the money goes, and if the money is in the Asian market, they will cater to them.
But where does that leave superhero movies? I can’t really say. I will say that I’ll be sad when the genre eventually does peter out. Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen some truly inspired films come out of the movement, and some fantastic filmmakers have come to prominence as well (the cult of Nolan was practically built on it). Though some other type of film will surely flood the market, I don’t think comic book films will ever never truly be gone from theaters. As with comics, they will grow, change and ultimately come back stronger than before. That’s what the movies taught me, anyway.
Well, there you have it! Of course, we good be wrong in our speculations, but that’s where you come in! What say you Ussians?! Comment below and discuss with the Us!