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Photo: Homogenization of Superheroes
With the Marvel cinematic universe and the introduction of DC into television, we are constantly bombarded by superheroes on all forms of media. Who are we to complain though, whether it be the latest Spiderman movie with fan-favorite Tom Holland or another season of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen on ‘The Flash,’ the superhero franchise has a great market and popularity. Nowadays there are over 30 superhero-based movies with many more in the works for the MCU’s second phase.
The problem? The market is becoming so diluted, so oversaturated with the same content that the value in said movies gets overshadowed. The reason lies in the pockets of Hollywood millionaires who understand the lucrative nature of the business and try to funnel as much cash as they can. ‘The Avengers’ is the third highest-grossing film after all, with over a billion dollars made. Overall, the MCU has grossed over 7 billion dollars worldwide and they are nowhere near stopping.
Vertical Integration Theory Within Superhero Franchises
What are the reasons for the cash-grab behind these films? The economic concept of vertical integration is one of the biggest reasons. There are multiple franchises within each individual superhero series, like the MCU which consists of the ‘Iron Man’ series, the ‘Thor’ series, the ‘Captain America’ series and now the ‘The Spiderman’ series too. They even have shows like ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ popularized on Netflix which creates a potential for profit which in turn incentivizes the film studios to make bigger, better, and more dramatic spectacles out of said franchises. It causes the genre to expand at an exponential rate and sometimes forfeit quality to money-making.
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Marvel vs DC: What Makes MCU Films So Successful?
Marvel creates characters that are indistinct from one another which is why the multi-franchise universe approach works for them. If Iron Man and Captain America engage in a civil war it isn’t strange, to say the least. This however has caused a ripping homogenization effect where other studios have tried the same thing but failed. Warner Brothers took their hand at it with ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ but the attempt at including both characters in the same franchise and creating a realistic but engaging film doesn’t live up to its origins in the MCU.
The DC Universe also lacks strong movies, instead, their power lies in creating dynamic tv shows of fan-favorite superheroes. Such include ‘The Flash,’ ‘Supergirl,’ ‘DC Legends of Tomorrow,’ and ‘Arrow.’ All series are based on comic books and deliver the same passion, fervor, and intense action that comic fans crave. The ‘Justice League’ movies or ‘Batman’ movies don’t pack as much of a punch, primarily due to the above-mentioned reasons.
Fans Reactions to Homogenization in Superhero Genre
Interestingly enough there are few complaints about this homogenization trend. I suppose the idea of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” applies to the superhero genre. The appeal of said genre is the spectacle and sense of escapism that it offers. It’s fast, powerful, emotionally impactful, and has characters that accomplish the impossible, the feats of our dreams whether it be flying over a cityscape or knocking someone through a wall with a single superpowered punch. It resembles a world with little vulnerability or fragility and who wouldn’t want to lose themselves in a reality where pain and the susceptibility to it are eliminated?
Realism Constraints Originality and Creativity of Superhero Movies
The attempts at realism originally seemed to ground the superhero genre especially when it first arose as a major genre. Now, it seems to be choking the industry from the inside out, creating restrictions and barriers that trap the superhero movies in a generic formula that could use a little change, a little spice. For example, Thor is a Norse God and he lives in this magical dimension of Asgard but the movie gets him on Earth where he is surrounded by other humans, cars, technology. We don’t lose Asgard entirely, thanks to Loki’s involvement in the franchise but the place only has three locations – the castle, the Bifrost, and Jotenheim.
The essence of the world and magical elements have been stripped down, erased to fit the attempts at realism. However, perhaps now, with superhero movies having a more grounded presence film studio could afford to explore these magical realms, allowing a bit of the soul and heart of these superheroes to return, even with the real world in place.
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Superheroes – Where Does the Trade-Off Between Fantasy and Realism Fall?
Perhaps the only solution to maintaining that and the originality of superhero movies is to switch up the style. Kevin Fiege, the producer of most marvel films has undertaken this daunting mission. He started with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ which is considered a fan-favorite franchise because of Chris Pratt’s quippy character and Gamora’s fierce one. The ‘Batman’ trilogy did that for the DC franchise, but now fans expect either the chaotic fun of Starlord and gang or the dark realism of Batman.
Fans Support Trend of Homogenization, Loving See Favorites on Screen
It looks like, for now, nothing will be changing in the studios, so long as fans remain interested and bring money to Hollywood. The formula has no reason to change and thankfully, whenever audiences seem to fall victim to boredom, it is easy to rely on the creative licensing of superheroes and fantastical elements to reinvent and create something new that slightly challenges the borders of what works. Perhaps the best solution is to find the perfect balance between characters with flaws and gritty heroic traits and those with magic, cunning abilities, and roots in the magical, creative worlds that comic writers made with the intent of spreading fantasy and joy.
By Mireille Karadanaian
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Mireille Karadanaian is an entertainment journalist, whose passion for reviewing upcoming TV shows and movies has existed since a young age. She writes reviews and feature entertainment stories for The Hollywood Insider’s inclusive and authentic platform, contributing to the important stories being told in media today. Mireille loves discussing the impact today’s media is making on younger generations who emulate what they see on screen and the Internet, a double-edged sword. Her stories often include the importance of creating content that inspires inclusion, positivity, and productive messages to all audiences and generations. Mireille’s love of covering TV shows, movies, and exciting questions that are being asked in the media world is seen in her writing and her ability to not just report facts but also tell a story.