A few weeks back while attending a movie at a multiplex, I saw posters for the two big superhero movies that are coming soon side by side: Zach Snyder's BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (opening this week), and Anthony Russo and Joe Russo's CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (opening May 6). It was funny how much the posters looked alike: superheros facing off in profile; one masked, one not; similar color scheme with bluish gray sky in the backbround.
The posters also pit DC against Marvel. DC is in the process of mounting their own Cinematic Universe to rival (and copy) Marvel's extremely successful business model with scores of movies in the pipeline, including two JUSTICE LEAGUE films, their equivalent of Marvel's AVENGERS movies. Between the two comic book companies' plans for world domination, we're not far off from a world in which a new superhero movie is released every weekend. But DC has a lot of catching up to do to get where Marvel is - CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is the beginning of phase 3 of their Cinematic Universe - meaning that it'll be a decade before we get to whatever DC's equivalent of DEADPOOL is.
Now, I've enjoyed quite a few superhero movies. I think Marvel has a good thing going on for the most part and I've given good reviews to two out of the three IRON MAN movies (2 is the weak link), the previous CAPTAIN AMERICA entries, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, ANT-MAN, and the two AVENGERS films. The THOR movies I'm not a fan of, but overall there's a lot of fun to be had within the interlocking continuity of the multiple franchises.
But, yeah, there is a saturation point and according to filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) was about a former star of a comic book film series, we've reached it:
“They (superhero movies) have been poison, this cultural genocide, because the audience is so overexposed to plot and explosions and shit that doesn’t mean nothing about the experience of being human.”
The new Dark Knight, Ben Affleck, recently responded to Iñárritu's remarks:
“Alejandro is also given to over-statement. I wouldn’t call it cultural genocide, but he’s brilliant and his point is taken that you can’t just swallow up cinema with any kind of movie.”
The buzz for BATMAN V. SUPERMAN has been very mixed - the film is currently at 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it'll no doubt be a huge hit. Both characters have huge fan bases, or fanboy bases, and this weekend there's little in the way of competition - doubt MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 will steal much or any of its audience.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is going to clean up too as I predict it'll be better received and it has a ginormous cast of superheros with almost every Marvel character making an appearance including the much hyped re-introduction of SPIDER-MAN.
So it really doesn't matter if we've reached, or gone past, the point of over saturation, because unless there's a series of bigtime flops in the genre, we are most likely going to have superhero movies coming at us for the rest of our lives. That may be depressing news to those who feel the way that Iñárritu does, and Affleck is right - he does have a point - but for those of us who used to be disgusted, but now try to be amused (to steal a line from Elvis Costello) it's just a given that these are incredibly profitable properties that are going to be around for a long time.
The posters above certainly won't be the last time that competing franchises look exactly like each other.