Superhero Fatigue is real. And was probably destined to happen as Marvel Studios trudged on after what was otherwise the perfect mic drop combo of Avengers: Infinity War and End Game. You can’t fault them for trying, though. And it’s not as if there haven’t been highlights since. But how can you follow up the culmination of such a great streak in the genre? Well, you can sidestep instead. And I seriously respect the storytelling strategies they’ve employed in order to leave the end of Phase 3 as a singularity. Things like focusing on specific communities within the shared world; raising up heroes that represent minority populations; and shooting for a new tone that limits the scope and grandiosity that the genre can over-indulge in.
The downside of these tactics is that, unfortunately, when the shared world has become such a many-headed beast, the audience knows that if a threat becomes too big, walking Deus Ex Machina like Thor and Captain Marvel can waltz in at the climax. In response, the smaller-scale Disney Plus shows almost all do a great job of bringing interesting and diverse characters out of the comics. However, Miss Marvel, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight – as fun as their slices of the MCU are – simply can’t put butts in seats like they might have ten years ago when they would have fed into an event like Infinity War.
The solution? The awesome thing is that the two most crucial components of it are sitting right there in the previous paragraphs: Compelling new characters whose stakes in their conflict are personal, but truly feed into something bigger. The more complicated, underlying problem? As fun as our steady diet of solid superhero genre fare has been, nearly two decades of interconnection have overcomplicated them. Superhero movies now have a barrier to entry similar to comics. What’s a casual fan to do in the face of multiverses and shapeshifting alien races? Well, the best superhero comics manage to be both fun and consequential. And only tap into interconnectedness when it makes sense. Films that remember this are what we need.
Movies like Blue Beetle and Shazaam on the DC Side have what this takes. Black Panther and the earlier Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and Guardians of The Galaxy movies are great examples on the Marvel side. When it comes to TV series, Miss Marvel, The Boys, and Peacemaker feature hyper-specific character types who don’t tend to get their own movies, but prove they should. The heroes in all of these projects have backgrounds that can speak to massive audiences, yet say something truly special to those who don’t normally see themselves on screen. We are beyond the question of whether non-white, non-male leads can carry a blockbuster. Now let’s see those in charge of their franchises find a way to stitch them together for team up events that had the drive and focus like MCU Phases 2 and 3.
This weekend’s Blue Beetle is in a unique position to further fight Superhero fatigue with these methods. Critical reviews are favorable, Xolo Maridueña brings all his Cobra Kai charisma to a small-scale DC setting with big implications. And the Hispanic ensemble that accompanies him could have hooks for the audience similar to the deep benches we saw in Suicide Squad, Shazam, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
I, for one, would love to see Jaime Reyes, Billy Batson, and Christopher Smith have to deal with each other. And The Marvels is an opening weekend trip for me. The reason for that is the blend of silliness, intimacy, diversity and surprisingly deep psychology all of those characters bring to the screen in the era of superhero fatigue. It’s a tall order, but so was getting millions of people to care about Hulk or Hawkeye in 2009!
What characters, films, or TV series do you think can cut through superhero fatigue? Let us know in the comments or over at the Boss Rush Discord.
Featured Image: DC
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