Is the Superhero Bubble About to Burst?

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The reaction (and pre-reaction) to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been insane. For the year or so leading up to its release, nerd culture has shown it’s darker side by crossing its collective fingers and hoping for the film to fail. From the rampant criticism of every second of every trailer to the Internet buzz predicting box-office disappointment* despite near record breaking pre-sales, BvS was fighting at a handicap before it was even finished shooting. When the first wave of reviews hit, the onslaught of “oh good, it’s exactly as bad as I hoped it would be” posts were everywhere, along with personal attacks on Zack Snyder, and detailed breakdowns of the film’s flaws days before it was even released. And once it was, many who went to see it did so with the caveat of “I’m only going just to see how bad it is.”

I’m done trying to psychoanalyze the whys and hows of the recent metamorphosis from nerd culture to bully culture, but I have begun thinking about something else. What if the pandemonium surrounding Batman v Superman is the first tangible sign of the superhero bubble bursting?

 

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Think about it. Maybe all of this vitriol, all of this readiness to get emotional over the perceived quality of a comic book film is actually just exhaustion. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and doing it right means keeping up with as much of it all as is possible. For me, that means seeing every superhero film available. It also means watching Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Gotham, Agents of Shield, and Supergirl. For many others it means keeping up with The Flash and Arrow as well. And if you want to be a part of the conversation, which you do, all of this media must be consumed as close to release as possible … and it just won’t. Stop. Coming.

And we don’t WANT it to stop coming. We’re so inundated with comic book media that we’ve become cracked out on it, and we’re all chasing the dragon. If the next dose isn’t as good as the last, we get mad. Furthermore, we fear that if we accept this inferior hit (and we will), our supplier will decide to refrain from stocking up on the good stuff. Basically, we’ve had so much of a good thing that we’ve lost sight of what it is we actually want – but we still want more.

I’ll be honest, I don’t even really enjoy Agents of Shield anymore … but I’m trapped. I never ever miss it. I thought that the writing for season two of Agent Carter was a bit phoned in … but I’ll be back for season 3 without a doubt. If I ever miss an episode of Gotham and can’t figure out how to squeeze a double feature into the following week’s schedule, I become stressed.

And here I thought all of this was supposed to be entertainment.

Earlier this year we had a huge hit with Deadpool, a film with an aim to deflate the genre, letting a little bit of air out of the superhero balloon, buying us some more time before it all bursts. But the burst is coming. It is inevitable. Maybe Spielberg was right, and the superhero movie is going to go the way of the western. Here’s the thing, now that we don’t get westerns regularly, when they do come around, it’s pretty special. I love seeing all these properties on the big screen, but I kinda miss the days when superhero movies were a special treat rather than the norm, and I wonder if things were better that way. We certainly didn’t get as upset about Spider-Man 3 or Batman & Robin as we have with BvS. We were certainly much less inconsistent with what we want (It’s too different! It’s too the same! Honor the source material! Don’t be prisoner to the source material!)

Being who I am, I’m going to happily ride this superhero train until the end of the line with the highest of hopes and a child-like grin, but if the tide turns and this whole thing crumbles before we get to Justice League or Infinity War, it will admittedly be a relief.

No matter what happens, Spider-Man 2 ain’t going anywhere.

*At the time of this final draft, BvS has the highest grossing opening weekend worldwide for any superhero movie ever.

Author: Dan Scully

Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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