After a String of Flops, Are Superhero Movies Facing Their Endgame?
We’re barely a quarter into 2023, but if we look at the first three months, Americans aren’t looking for heroes. It seems the box office has given us more flops than hits.
In March 2023, DC’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods opened to $30.1 million. Compared to its $125 million budget, this is pretty poor, especially for a sequel in a genre known for producing cash cows. And it’s not alone.
In February, Marvel released Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and it opened to $103 million at the US box office. Its worldwide haul is yet to cross the $500 million mark and it currently sits at 47% on Rotten Tomatoes — becoming Marvel’s second movie with a “rotten” score on the site (after 2021’s Eternals).
While it’s very unlikely that we’d never have a couple of duds in the genre, the sheer number of superhero films soared in the 2010s, a trend that’s continued into the current decade. And it’s possible that the new releases aren’t bad, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be popular. There’s a chance that we’ve finally reached the point where people are just bored of superhero films.
Why are superheroes dying?
It’s hard to remember a world without superheroes on screen, but at the turn of the millennium, the genre itself needed some saving. Superman hadn’t seen the silver screen in over a decade and Batman was laying low after Batman and Robin was panned. But the action wouldn’t be gone for long. Thanks to the rise of CGI, superhero films caught a new wind. Marvel films started to hit the screens — Blade came first, but X-Men and Spiderman brought the genre to new levels. With these films, superhero movies entered a renaissance.
This ignited decades of back-to-back blockbusters and record-breaking films. If you look at the 25 biggest opening weekends in US history, DC and Marvel account for about half of them — including 2019’s Avengers: Endgame which has a record-setting $357 million opening weekend haul.
By many measures, the superhero genre seems to be flying high, but if you look past names…