Should Superhero Franchises have a Definite Ending
Superheroes are incredibly popular right now. They are literally everywhere when it comes to merchandise, advertisements, television, and film. Every single superhero movie now a days that comes out is a part of a whole film universe, meaning there’s a whole group of movies with characters that exist in the same universe as those group of movies. The main three universes right now are the X-Men film universe, the DC Extended Universe, and the most popular, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As more and more comic book movies come out, people are asking: Is there an end in sight to all this? Will there be a true definite ending for these film universes? Are these characters going to be in these movies forever?
That is a very complicated question because all movie genres and franchises come and go, but find some way to return. So the answer to that is yes and no.
Yes, because eventually these franchises are going to reach a point where they have to wrap up what’s going on in that universe.
No, because these movies are making so much money right now, but there will most definitely be a point in time where superhero movies will take a break.
Here’s the reason why there should be an ending to superhero franchises
1. The Actors
Movie actors are regular people who happen to appear in movies. The most popular actors in these movies are Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine, Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Chris Evan as Steve Rogers/Captain America, etc. Jackman, who is now 48, has been been playing the same character since 2000. Downey Jr, who started playing Iron Man in 2008, was already 43 at the time, and is now 51. These actors aren’t getting younger, and these roles are very demanding. When an actor signs on these roles, their contract always has them appearing in multiple movies. Eventually an actor will want to move on, and do different things.
Also a lot of these roles are very demanding when it comes to physicality. Actors like Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth have to keep in top physical shape whenever they are filming these movies. The actors also become more expensive the more movies they do. Actors who are tenured, demand a raise every time they sign a new contract. Robert Downey Jr. is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood for being Iron Man. While Iron Man is definitely the most popular hero in the MCU, it seem like he gets paid more and more money each movie he appears in. The same actors simply cannot be in these roles forever, as much as fans want them to be.
If these movies keep going on and on, with no end in sight, people will be asking: What’s the point? In 2016 alone, there have been six comic book movies released, which are Deadpool, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, and Doctor Strange. All of those are part of a cinematic universe. In 2017 there are going to be seven more, all part of a franchise. While most of these movies have been successful, how long can they be though?
If they keep releasing these movies with no endgame in sight, then people will eventually start to lose interest. How many sequels of Iron Man and Batman can Hollywood make before people get tired of them? That’s the question studios need to be thinking about when it comes to thinking about the future of their franchise. These movies have been criticized at times for following a similar formula, and that all of them are just the same. If there’s 10 superhero movies coming in one year, and they don’t offer something exciting or different then audiences won’t be interested. In order to stir things up, and keep people interested, there has to be some sort of ending in sight.
3. Endings are successful
All of the great film franchises when they first began have had a beginning, middle, and end. The original Star Wars trilogy had three movies, Lord of the Rings had three movies, and Harry Potter had 8 movies all based on a singular book in the series. While all of those franchises have now come back in some way, when they had their original run, they had an endgame in sight. (SPOILER ALERT) Star Wars’ endgame was to defeat the empire. Lord of the Rings’ endgame was to destroy the ring, and defeat Sauron and his plan for domination of Middle-Earth. Harry Potter’s endgame was to defeat Voldemort, and the Dark Army. All of those franchises eventually reached the ending they established. People were invested in these iconic characters, and wanted them to eventually achieve their goals. These endings not only made for great movies, but they also earned a lot of money.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 made the most money worldwide out of the all the movies in the Harry Potter series. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King also made the most worldwide out of that series, and won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture. Why did these movies make so much? It’s because people knew these were the last movies to be released, so they become must see events. There’s also the fact that they become the most heavily advertised, and they generated a lot of hype. There’s also the fact that with the final movie, there’s the uncertainty of ever seeing these movies again in a theater. The DCEU is still young, and the X-Men films are in a very uncertain spot at the moment. This leaves the well-oiled machine known as the MCU. Right now, their endgame is to fight the all mighty powerful Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, and Avengers 4 in 2019.
All of these movies have been leading to this event, which is to feature every hero from the MCU’s roster. There’s no doubt these two movies are going to be enormous successes, because not only has everything been leading to this event, but there’s also an uncertainty of which hero makes it out of this event. No one knows what’s going to happen after these movies, but if Marvel is smart they’ll think of an ending that’ll satisfy the fans who’ve followed all of these movies.
Here are the reasons why superhero franchises won’t truly have a definite ending
This is definitely the golden age of superheroes, and they have been very successful. The MCU has made over 14 movies since 2008, and all of them have made their fair share. All of their movies combined have grossed $10 Billion worldwide. The DCEU with only three movies has grossed over $2 Billion worldwide. The X-Men franchise has 9 movies under their belt, and have made over $4 Billion worldwide. With these numbers it’s clear that there’s an audience for these movies. Three superhero movies are currently in the top ten highest grossing movies worldwide. If something continues to make money, why stop? If it isn’t making any money, then there will be less movies coming out.
2. Endless Possibilities
There are endless amounts of characters and stories to choose from that they almost can’t run out of ideas. While Hollywood has made plenty of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man movies, there have been a lot of movies based on obscure characters getting made that most people didn’t think would. Deadpool, a wise-cracking mercenary whose stories are very adult-oriented finally had a movie based on him released in 2016. It became one of the biggest hits of the year, and it was praised for being a breath of fresh air. The Guardians of the Galaxy was something not a lot of people were familiar with. In the comics they were a group of people or aliens who fight bad guys across the galaxy.
When Guardians of the Galaxy was released in the summer of 2014, people loved it. Who knew a movie that had a talking tree and gun-wielding raccoon would be a hit? Even making an Iron Man movie was considered a risk, because at the time he was B-List character. When that movie came out, it made Robert Downey Jr. a superstar. There’s almost an infinite amount of characters to choose from in the comics. One day Iron Man won’t appear in Marvel movies, but there’ll be new and fresh superheroes to take his place. Superhero stories are considered to be the modern Greek mythology, and there’s a lot of things that can be done with these characters. Like great literature, they can be used to reflect the current times. Or they can have a meaningful message, while being escapism at the same time.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a movie that criticizes global surveillance. Its sequel Captain America: Civil War begs the question, if superheroes ever existed, should they be regulated by the government? The whole Dark Knight Trilogy talks about how a person can make a difference, and be an inspiration to an entire city, while also exploring the themes of terrorism, fear, paranoia, redemption, etc. Superheroes are larger than life figures, but they all face human conflict that audiences can relate to. If they keep being relatable, then audiences will keep watching.
Right now nobody knows what’s going to happen after 2019 for the MCU. After their fourth Avengers movie, it is most likely a lot of their characters are going to get killed off or they’ll retire the characters. Hugh Jackman won’t be playing Wolverine anymore after Logan comes out in 2017. The X-Men movies are in a tough place because while Deadpool was successful, their timeline is very messy, and no one knows what the next X-Men film is going to look like. DC in 2017 has Justice League, and the sequel to that in 2019.
These franchises will most likely keep reinventing themselves to fix the issues of not knowing what to do next. Again there are endless characters to choose from to headline these movies, and if studios keep putting new and fresh characters then they could keep making these movies. One of the reasons why new characters are introduced is to see how successful they are, and if they are profitable enough to be put in the forefront of an Avengers-type movie. For example Ant-Man lead by Paul Rudd was a moderate success. He then appeared in Captain America: Civil War where people praised the moments he was in the movie. So there’s going to be a sequel to Ant-Man in 2018, which is most likely going to be a bigger success than the first movie. Ant-Man will then likely appear or even headline in future MCU films. A lot of heroes will also be recast. There will probably down the line be a new actor playing Captain America. These iconic superheroes will be like James Bond, where they’ll be playing the same character for years, and then get another actor to replace them. It’s happened with Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man.
Eventually all of the superheroes currently will be recast or replaced with new ones. Recast and replacement are the two biggest method these franchises are going to use to reinvent themselves, and keep being interesting to audiences. Comic books reinvent themselves all the time, so in theory these films can also do that.
4. Even if it does end, it will come back
A lot of popular franchises that are dormant for a while, eventually come back. The original Star Wars movies were from 1977-1983. Then in 1999, the first movie in Star Wars prequels The Phantom Menace came out with two more movies in 2002, and 2005. Then in 2015, after a 10 year drought the seventh movie in the franchise The Force Awakens came out, and became one of the biggest movies ever. The Lord of the Rings movies were from 2001 to 2003 back to back, but lo and behold they came out with another prequel trilogy of movies. The Hobbit trilogy, which took place before the LOTR movies came out in 2012-2014. Harry Potter’s original movies came out from 2001 to 2011.
Now in 2016 there’s the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is set in the Potter universe but revolves around a new character in the 1920s. The MCU, like all great franchises will go dormant for awhile. Then when someone decides to bring it back, it’ll come back in a huge way. The same could be said about the X-Men and DC. It’s been shown with franchises like Star Wars, and Harry Potter, that when they are gone for a while, and then brought back after some time people will get hyped. When Superhero franchises like the MCU has its dormant period, people will also feel nostalgia for it. Nostalgia in entertainment is very powerful, as it makes people fondly remember the old movies. Why was The Force Awakens such a success? It was the first Star Wars movie in 10 years, and featured the return of the original characters from the old trilogy. So when Avengers 8 comes out, which is the first Avengers movie in 20 years with the return of Robert Downey Jr., it will most likely be a massive success because of all the excitement and nostalgia surrounding it.
Eventually this golden age of superhero entertainment will end. There will likely be a time when all of these franchises go dormant, and another thing gets popular. Since these movies have a big fanbase, when they are gone they will most certainly not be forgotten. Like Star Wars, these films will have some sort of comeback in the future when they aren’t as popular. So the answer to the question is that there will be some sort of event film that ends the story of a lot of the current characters in the franchise, but it will also be brought back to introduce a new era with new stories and new characters.
Box Office Mojo, “All Time Worldwide Box Office,” Box Office Mojo
Chitwood, Adam, “Upcoming Superhero Movie Release Dates: From 2016 to 2020,” Collider, 2016.
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