Saturday, April 9, 2016

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Karen: In the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles," small, furry critters called tribbles breed rapidly and begin filling up the Enterprise. Lieutenant Uhura defends the fuzzballs, telling Captain Kirk that they're the only love money can buy. A frustrated Kirk responds, "Too much of anything, Lieutenant, even love, isn't necessarily a good thing."

 I thought about this statement when considering our current geek existence. It's a pretty good time to be a geek. Look at this list of major motion pictures that have been or will be released this year that have comics or science fiction or fantasy themes:
  • Deadpool
  • Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Jungle Book
  • The Huntsmen: Winter's War
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • X-Men Apocalypse
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • Warcraft
  • Independence Day Resurgence
  • Legend of Tarzan
  • Ghostbusters
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Suicide Squad
  • Pete's Dragon
  • Gambit 
  • Dr. Strange
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Yes, there's really a Dr. Strange movie

That's a lot of genre-related movies! And that's just a partial list. I recall when we were lucky to get one or two major films a year. Now, there's one almost every week it seems.

We also have a ton of TV shows right now that are geeky, too many for me to remember and name, but off the top of my head, there's The Flash, Supergirl, Agents of SHIELD, Penny Dreadful, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Daredevil, Orphan Black, Twelve Monkeys, and so on. I mean, more than you can keep up with and still maintain a life.

And merchandise? Holy Cow. You got high end, low end, and everything in between. There's stuff for every show or character you can think of, no matter how obscure. It's incredible. You really have to watch your budget. We've seen a real explosion in trade paperbacks in recent years, with a lot of C-listers and even Marvel's horror characters  getting collected. And toys? I've become quite fond of the Hot Toys sixth scale figures -the detail is fantastic! -but I can't go buying them willy-nilly. These Megos on steroids are way too expensive for that. My husband sometimes gets them for me for birthdays or Christmas, and I buy one or two a year myself. I'll admit I just pre-ordered the Hot Toys Alien Warrior -but now I'm thinking Ant-Man looks cool. Ant-Man! Seriously. There's so much neat stuff out there.

So here's what I want to ask you. Are we hitting a saturation point of geeky goodness? Are we in danger of reaching, as the Captain said, too much of a good thing? Are there too many movies, too many TV shows, too many books and action figures? Will the fans -or even more importantly, the general public -get tired of so many super-hero movies coming out every year? I keep hearing about "super-hero fatigue" but the movies seem to keep making a ton of money. 

Or is there no such thing as too much of a good thing? Should we, the generation of "that's all we had"(copyright, David B.), just be damn glad we lived this long to see popular acceptance of the things we love, and ride it out as long as we can?


Humanbelly said...

It's a solid discussion topic, Karen.
I'm in the pragmatic "ride it while we can" camp, myself. Heck, even I'm on the fatigued side. Who'd a' ever thought there'd be a time when I could choose NOT to see super-hero movie if I didn't particularly think I'd like it?? Even if it takes a long while, it's a trend that will surely fade-- although it would be great if it didn't disappear altogether.

F'rinstance, many of us here are old enough to remember the tale-end of that era in television where just about every 2nd show was a Western--?


Rip Jagger said...

Too much of a good thing?

Oh for sure!

I offer as Exhibit A the Avengers. I have been an Avengers fan since the late 60's and followed the team dutifully for decades. I got the satellite series such as the Vision and Scarlet Witch, I got the West Coast offshoot, I got the Spotlight series, and though it might be bland here and there, it was by and large a good thing.

But then they stopped the run in the late 90's and for one horrific year the Image guys made a mockery of the title. But that led to Busiek and Perez rebooting reviving the team and offering up the best self-aware superhero comics I've ever seen. It was exquisite, a perfect brew by top talents at the peak of their games. And then they left and others started to write and draw the team and then they added Spider-Man and it all started to turn sour.

I jumped ship and swam for my life in 2007; just before the Avengers became Marvel's juggernaut, taking the place of the X-Men and before you knew it there were Avengers comics assembling in every nook and cranny. I am so glad I do not burden myself with the completist desire to keep up them all, it's just too blame difficult and too dang expensive for marginal return.

The movies are dandy and right now that's all this once-upon-a-time assembler needs.

For the record Exhibit B is Batman.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...
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Redartz said...

An excellent question,Karen! And to that question, I would answer "yes", but...
We have only to look at the history of popular culture over the last few decades to see the frequently followed pattern. In the 60's, Batmania brought out a rash of imitations, and a couple years later the backlash was in full bloom. As HB pointed out, Westerns were once ubiquitous (there's my three-dollar word for today); by the early 70's they were all but gone. In the 70's disco was a huge cultural force, but it too wore out it's welcome.

However, note that none of these things disappeared completely. Batman stayed onscreen in "Super Friends" and other iterations. Western-themed shows still popped up occasionally ; "Grizzly Adams" and "Dr. Quinn" come to mind. And much of today's pop music could be considered disco.

My point being: there will probably come a saturation point among the culture at large. Fewer genre-based shows and movies will be made, and the toy shelves will have fewer superheroes. But the impact all these tv shows and films have had will keep a few coming from time to time. It all won't just disappear; it's now apparent to the entertainment powers-that-be that superheroics have appeal to many. Thus I figure that although we may not always have the wealth of choices available currently, we will probably always have a few. Hard to get the genie back in the bottle once he's out...

ColinBray said...

Hmmm, food for thought Karen. And I'm conflicted.

I mourn the fact comics and geekery are no longer the rebel's choice, the source of personal identity and thoughfulness.

However, I simultaneously admit that comics actually lost their innocence in the 90s; and seeing the various movies and TV series take off has been a wonderful vindication of the work done by generations of writers, artists and editors.

So, while I tire of the merchandising and ubiquity (that word again) it's definitely the lesser of two evils. I agree with Redartz that the genie can't be put back in the bottle, and there is such a critical mass of popularity that these characters have become truly mythic. Amazing really, isn't it.

William said...

"Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." We are living in a golden age of geekdom my friends, and I say you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

The thing about the superhero, sci-fi, and video game genres is that there is just such a deep well to drink from. Meaning, I think there is enough variety out there to keep things fresh for quite a while to come.

For example. People tend to lump all superhero (and/or comicbook) movies into one genre. But there are many different aspects to the genre that appeal to a wide range of tastes. Take the recent (and very successful) Deadpool movie. Some people would label that as just another superhero movie. And someone who didn't see it may think, "Oh it's just more of the same old, same old." But a movie like DP is night and day compared to say Iron Man or Ant-Man or Spider-Man, etc.

Deadpool was more of a high-octane blood-and-guts action movie. (It was basically Rambo in spandex). A movie that appeals to a large group of people (comicbook fans, action movie fans, sci-fi fans, video game fans, etc.)

What I'm saying is that not all superhero and sci-fi films are created equal. If all Hollywood did was crank out Avengers clones, and Star Wars knock offs, then yes I think it would get to be too much of a good thing, and audiences would quickly get bored.

But luckily for us they seem to be smart enough not to do that. And we continue to get such gems as Ant-Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy (and yes even Deadpool) alongside more mainstream superhero movies like Captain America: Civil War (or as I call it, Avengers 2.5) and X-Men Apocalypse. As well as adult oriented superhero TV series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones while also getting more family friendly fare like The Flash and Supergirl. And I won't even get into all the different sci-fi genres out there. (It would take way too long).

That is probably why we had movies like the recent Fantastic Four and Batman vs. Superman. I think on some level they were just trying to make those films stand apart from something like The Avengers, and sometimes when you experiment it blows up in your face. But, as long as they continue to gather material from all corners of the comicbook and sci-fi world, I think I'll stay on board for the ride.

Martinex1 said...

Great topic. I agree with Redartz in that I think it is a genre that will last in some form and will ebb and flow over time. The interesting thing for me is that comic related films have such a wide array of sub-genres in its source material to pull from. Comics are just a medium as is film so perhaps the reiteration on film will exist longer than we think.

Can you get a good war film out of Sgt. Rock or Sgt. Fury? Can you get a good buddy picture out of Wonder Man and the Beast? Can you get a good romance with Cloak and Dagger? Or a horror Phantom Stranger? Or a space opera with Warlock? A heist film with the Masters of Evil. Or for that matter a Western with the Ringo Kid?

There is just so much to pull from. We have decades of writing with storyboards built in. I think it is here to stay for a while. And I don't think we've seen the best yet, because I don't think filmmakers have comfortably escaped the origin story and villain of the month structure yet...but they will and when we get more nuanced storytelling and characterization I think we will see some great things. Just as Westerns generated true classics in film, I think we will see masterpieces in our preferred genre as well. It's still in its infancy; it will evolve. (I think that will happen in core Superhero films when villains become less one-note and filmmakers learn that there are great stories outside of the epic events).

J.A. Morris said...

I look at it like this:As long as I can recall, every year has brought us lots of big, loud, (somtimes dumb), action movies with bullets and explosions galore. Some of them were huge successes that spawned franchises. Others bombed and the studio hoped you forgot them before they limped their way to on-demand. But they kept making action genre movies. I see superhero movies as just another extension of the action genre.

I didn't see last year's Fantastic Four movie. I planned to, but the more I heard, the more I was convinced that my time and money could be spent in better ways. I didn't worry for a second that "if it bombs, we won't get more superhero movies, ergo I must vote with my dollars!"

I think eventually, Marvel/Disney's success will diminish, and we'll go back to having a superhero movie every two or three years, instead of 3-4 every year. And that will probably be enough.

On top of everything Karen mentioned, there's also the animated Guardians and Avengers Disney XD series, which are lots of fun (more enjoyable than 'Batman V. Superman'). So yes, superhero fans are definitely spoiled compared to the Bronze Age days of "This is all we have."

Martinex1 said...

I think Dr. Strange and his costume look great.

Redartz said...

Martinex1- regarding your comments about the potential of comic- based stories, I couldn't agree more. We already have some great films, but as you note we have only just begun. The well is very deep, and rich with potential. It could indeed grow as a genre to the point where 'costumes and cowls" are not the attention grabbers but merely set elements. Think of the hats and guns in western films as comparison. Dare we consider an eventual comic- based Oscar nominee? The mind reels.

Oh, and yes. Dr. Strange looks terrific.

Anonymous said...

Great topic Karen. There comes that point when you let a huge budget super hero movie pass you by and think ‘wow, I’d have died to see that movie when I was a kid and now I can’t even muster the energy to drive down the street for it’.

We, the faithful, because we love super heroes in all weathers, tend to forget that the general public are faddy about them. They were all the rage from 1938 to post WW2, then couldn’t get arrested until the early 60’s. Marvel was bankrupt only ten years before conquering the cine-world.

Colin – emotionally, I agree that it was fun to have our own little world, but if you compare what we had previously (i.e. the Spidey, Hulk & Batman TV) series to the superbly made, multi-million dollar budget extravaganzas that come out every couple of months now, I am happy the cat is out of the bag.

Round about the millennium, when they’d released Blade & Xmen and announced sequels to both, plus Hulk, Spidey & DD movies, the 1st Harry Potter movie became the 1st movie to gross over a billion, and in the wake of world wide wizard frenzy, I confidently predicted that Dr. Strange would immediately be optioned. It only took 16 years and EVERY other hero to come out first!

Ironically, as Karen’s question is how much is too much, I think that is exactly the question which will end the cycle: money, or rather financial expectations. The box office expected from these films is crazy now and there seems to be no logic to what is regarded as a hit and what is a flop. The Spider Man franchise has been stalled twice by ‘under-performance’ ….Raimi’s SM3 which grossed $890m, and Webb’s ASM2 which grossed $709m. Seriously, those were deemed such financial flops they stopped sequels?

On the other hand, SM3 cost $250m and made $890m (so $640m profit). GOTG cost $196m and made $774m (so $574m). So despite the fact that SM3 made more revenue AND more profit, it was judged a crushing failure, while Guardians was a huge surprise hit, immediately greenlighting a sequel.

So much is enough?


Edo Bosnar said...

As MTV told us in the 1980s, too much is never enough!
I tend to agree with William on this, and I think it's just cool to enjoy the ride on the wave while it lasts.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm sort of feeling like my buddies Colin Bray and William - on one hand it's great to see an explosion of geek related movies, TV shows, comics and toys. There's literally something for every kind of fandom out there.

On the other hand, however, geekdom like life in general goes around in cycles. Superhero movies are the hottest thing now ... until the next big thing comes around and supplants it. While folks like me will always be superhero junkies, I'm sure there will come a time in the future when people will say 'hey remember that era when superhero movies were all the rage?'.

- Mike 'where's my Deadpool calendar?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

spencer said...

Great question. Like everybody else, I'm kinda waiting for the "jump the shark" moment too, except one thing happened that nobody really anticipated: CGI. For the longest time, it would have been impossible to realistically show, for example, wolverine's adamantium claws, especially sliding out of his arms. Now, with cgi, pretty much anything is possible, so i believe that this awesome age of fantastic fiction and superheroes is going to be with us for a long, long time. Not all need to be huge budget movies. Take a look at Deadpoop.

pfgavigan said...


Well, as Karen points out that is a lot of product chasing after a finite amount of audience. And looking at that list I can tell that there are several properties that I have no intention of seeing.

But an over saturation point, I don't know. There have been plenty of fantasy style movies released over the past several decades. Some have been blockbusters, some have paid their production costs with a little left over, and some bombed. Heck, Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery pretty much died at the box office and was resurrected at the corner video store.

I guess my point is that I know some of these films will fail, but not all of them. There will probably be enough of a loss to convince the producers and studios who jumped on the bandwagon to go searching for the next big thing. But with the arrival of Marvel Studios, an entity designed to exploit an incredible catalog of characters and dramatic scenarios, I honestly don't think the superhero genre, at least, is in any immediate danger of disappearing.

What bothers me more is the development of the SuperFan. We all met the type just recently. During the discussion regarding Batman v. Superman they made their appearance to chastise those who elected not to see a film that they decided they had no interest in. Furthermore, they took to task those of us who had seen the movie and had actually liked it but had problems with it.

Has it reached the point where there is no grey zone, we must either embrace the latest fantasy offering or we are somehow 'fake' fans? Are we sheeple who blindly consume whatever pablum offered by the megalithic media company that SuperFan thinks is clearly inferior to his preferred megalithic media company?

These guys would say "yes!"

I would say "Get the heck off my lawn!"

Seriously, the fantasy wave will crest and subside. But the genres there in will survive. And we will continue to decide for ourselves whether or not we chose to plant our posteriors in uncomfortable seats with overpriced popcorn and soda and watch the flickering images on the screen.



Dr. Oyola said...

At its high point, the Western genre had more films in year than all other genres combined, and in 1957 there were 26(!) Western-themed TV shows.

I don't think we've even gotten close to saturation. ;)

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