By Megan Bianco
For years, yes years, people have been wondering and sometimes even complaining about when the fad of two-to-three superhero movies released regularly each year will get tiring and passé to movie viewers. Now, with the first-ever Hollywood movie to feature mega superheroes Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together, not only has an unexpected controversy grown, but so has a war of its own. Last Easter weekend Warner Bros.’ “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice“ was released and was greeted with scathing reviews three days before release.
While the bad reviews didn’t seem to matter in terms of box office revenue, as it ultimately reached No. 1 with $170 million, the audience reaction was still just as polarizing as the movie itself. Critics called Zack Snyder’s latest comic book film disjointed, badly written, badly acted and stuffed with too much content in an already lengthy feature (2½ hours).
A small group of DC fans, excited to see their three biggest superheroes together on the big screen, were extra defensive to negativity; another small group of DC fans were upset at the poor quality of the movie; some Marvel fans watched the online meltdown in amusement, others sneered; everyone else in the world who doesn’t care about DC or Marvel fandom reacted with an “eh,” while shrugging.
But the real question is: are people finally beginning to be over superhero movies and the backlash to “Batman v. Superman“ was the last straw on the camel’s back? Superhero movies can be good, as were “Superman“ (1978), “The Dark Knight“ (2008) and “Iron Man“ (2008). But like everything that’s popular, overexposure and predictability can become boring.
Lack of original content has been a big complaint in Hollywood since the 1980s, when remakes and sequels became the go-to for easy money. This is still the case today, with even “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2“ coming out the same weekend as “BvS.” Which reminds me of Max Landis’ over the top tweets from last summer where he whined about how audiences don’t appreciate original ideas (referring to his own failed “American Ultra“) and would rather go see “Thor 2“ than check out something new. Maybe he actually had a point inside that personal rant.
The two best movies to come out during the first season of 2016, “10 Cloverfield Lane“ and “Midnight Special,” are almost completely original ideas, but not exactly breaking any records. “Lane“ is actually doing pretty well even though it never reached No. 1, it did have a stellar, sudden surprise film announcement and viral campaign only two months before its release and both audiences and critics enjoyed it. “Midnight Special“ was in limited release for its first two weeks, but did well with critics. The main thing is that both films are well made technically and make you think.
Lane’s Dan Trachtenberg and Damien Chazelle and Special’s Jeff Nichols are talented and wise enough to know exactly their limits, while BvS’ Snyder lacks all of that. Yet the superhero movie wins again with the average viewer. So is the problem that studios are afraid to make more big-budget, wide released original films or are they just responding to the fact that audiences don’t care enough?
For a lot of movie viewers, comedies and action movies always go to No. 1 because they don’t want to spend too much time thinking about a complex or sophisticated plot or story. They want to turn off their mind and watch a spectacle the same way someone watches a sitcom on the couch after work. Yet, most of the people who got “10 Cloverfield Lane“ into the top five box office list or helped “Midnight Special“ get a wider release are saying it was refreshing to see unique storytelling and something different that wasn’t spoon-fed.
So why is it still hard to get uber successful original movies? Do people just feed off negativity like the DC fans and Marvel fans? Do more viewers want mindless content than cleverness? I don’t know. All I know is we still have “Captain America: Civil War” and “X-men: Apocalypse“ coming out this summer, and if you want to see a good movie in theaters right now, your best luck would be with the two small-budget thrillers and not the epic superhero flick.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
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