Where Do You Stand on the Superhero Film Debate?

April 24, 2018

The steroidal growth in the popularity of superhero movies continues to spark debate within the industry. Several Hollywood powerhouses have taken issue with the seemingly endless stream of these sensational blockbuster films.

The Terminator and Avatar director James Cameron said at a press event on Saturday while promoting the new docuseries AMC Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, “I’m hoping we’ll start getting Avenger fatigue here pretty soon. Not that I don’t love the movies. It’s just–come on, guys–there are other stories to tell besides, you know, hypogonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!”

To be expected, his comments drew a heavy backlash on social media by fans devoted to the genre. But this enough-with-superhero-movies sentiment consistently seems to be making headlines these days. Earlier this year, The Silence of the Lambs actress Jodie Foster sparked controversy when she told Radio Times, “Studios making bad content in order to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking–you get the best return right now, but you wreck the earth. It’s ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then, ultimately, the rest of the world. I don’t want to make $200 million movies about superheroes.”

Along the same lines, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill told USA Today last year, “I don’t know what’s going on with superhero movies. They’re fantastic, but I think we’re reaching a point of over-saturation. So that’s why the story is so important, is that the gimmicks and all that, they can only take you so far. That’s what I want: Better stories.”

Even with this critical stance against superhero movies by some, it’s hard to imagine actors actually passing up roles in superhero movies; but, indeed, several have declined the invitation to do so. For one reason or another, Matt Damon passed on playing Daredevil, and Emily Blunt decided against portraying Black Widow. And Lucky Number Slevin actor Josh Hartnett turned down playing Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, saying in an interview with GQ, “Spider-Man was something we talked about. Batman was another one. But I somehow knew those roles had potential to define me, and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger. I didn’t have those agents for much longer after that. There was a lot of infighting between my manager and agents, trying to figure out who to put the blame on. It got to the point where none of us were able to work together.”

Zoe Saldana has come out in defense of superhero films. Portraying Gamora in the Marvel universe, Saldana takes issue with those who accuse her fellow castmates of “selling out” by taking on roles in Avengers: Infinite War, saying, “I’ve been in rooms with people in the industry who are great at what they do, but they’re absolutely elitist. They look down at movies like the Marvel films or actors like myself.” She told Net-a-Porter, “A younger audience deserves entertaining, but they also deserve inspiration and strong messages of hope and dreams and a great sense of justice.”

Her fellow cast star Chris Pratt agrees, insisting, “I think the platform and the opportunity to use the powers that superheroes have over the imaginations of kids has been the most rewarding for me.”

Likewise, Letitia Wright who plays Shuri in Black Panther sees a lot of depth in the fantastic cinematic themes, telling the Press Association, “We get to have fun and put out entertaining movies but throw subject matters in there that we can really think about as a society and really make us reflect on ourselves.”

Fans love to match up their favorite heroes and imagine who’s more powerful, each with their unique abilities and vulnerabilities. But when it comes to actual box-office competition, there are dollar bills to determine who exactly is dominating at any given time. Currently in the lead is Batman with a total of 14 films grossing almost $4.9 billion worldwide; next is Spider-Man with his six films drawing in $4.8 billion; the Avengers come in third, raking in almost $3 billion with just two films. From there we see X-Men, Superman, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Wolverine, in that order.

These box-office numbers plainly reflect the genuine enthusiasm the masses have for their beloved superheroes, the fantastic action scenarios, monumental calamities, and the good-versus-evil themes. Just a sample of the big names that have gladly taken on comic book characters is Will Smith, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr., and Jennifer Lawrence. And some actors have experienced major breakthroughs when they were cast in the comic universes; Gal Gadot, Chris Hemsworth, Andrew Garfield, Henry Cavill, and Hugh Jackman to name a few. Good thing they didn’t take a pass on the opportunities that came their way!

Generally speaking, do you find the superhero genre a detriment to the film industry and, if so, would you consider passing on such a role for fear of it limiting your acting career? Or do you regard yourself among the multitudes of enthusiastic superhero and supervillain fans, and you’d absolutely accept any role in a superhero film–even if it meant having blue paint all over your body for weeks on end?