Superhero movies have ruled so much of the roost over the past decade that it’s led prominent filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola to talk about them as if Captain America personally broke into their homes and stole all their mobster movie DVDs. Some, like James Cameron, have either publicly predicted or hoped for “superhero fatigue” to finally set in and make more room for other types of movies. According to a new story from Forbes, there are big signs that time might finally be here.
Forbes cites a poll from the market research company Morning Consult that shows trends leaning toward an overall loss of interest in the capes and tights crowd. The poll shows results both from “adults overall” and from those who call themselves Marvel fans. Among adults overall, in July 59% said they enjoy superhero movies, vs. last November’s 64%. Meanwhile Marvel fans who say they enjoy superhero movies has dropped from 87% in November to 82% in July. And even while 82% is still a relatively high score, Morning Consult says that among the Marvel fans polled, 31% said they’re “getting a little tired of so many of them.”
Forbes points out that Morning Consult’s poll isn’t the only indication that this could be the beginning of the end of superhero movies dominating the cinematic marketplace. Between 2021 and 2022, there have been warning signs both financially and critically of dissatisfaction with superhero fare. While 2021 brought us commercial dynamos like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Spider-Man: No Way Home, both this year and last year have seen some of Marvel’s biggest disappointments. Both Eternals and more recently Thor: Love and Thunder — while not exactly flopping — underperformed at the box office.
Critically speaking things are looking particularly dire for Marvel’s superhero movies. To date, there are 29 live-action movies that are a part of the the MCU. If you look at the Rotten Tomatoes critics scores for all of those films, the bottom five include three movies that released in 2021 or 2022: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (74%), Thor: Love and Thunder (65%), and Eternals (47%). It’s also worth noting that while Eternals is still the only entry in its particular franchise (though apparently not for long), the Tomatometer scores for the MCU movies released this year are the lowest of their individual series (Doctor Strange and Thor).
What’s behind the slump in superhero movies? In most likelihood there are a at least a few contributing factors. The simplest and most obvious answers might be that the movies simply aren’t as good, and/or even if they are as good or better, fans would enjoy some more diversity in their entertainment. Then there’s what many have seen as a lack of the more obvious connections between the MCU entries since the release of Avengers: Endgame. While Kevin Feige has indicated the narrative connections are there, he’s also acknowledged they aren’t as obvious.
It’s possible another surprise contribution could be the success of Marvel’s Disney+ original series. While series like WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and more have proven popular, one might theorize that the shows’ popularities are taking away from the impact of the superhero movies, especially since many if not all the shows include the same big budgets and the same big stars. What’s a two and a half hour movie compared to six or more hours of similar entertainment — stretched out for over a month to keep fans hungry — especially when both have the same or similar production quality?