I wouldn’t mind if Marvel movies became a small niche

A few years ago, I was lining up for the superhero blockbusters, too (metaphorically — we don’t have long lines or big crowds at our theater). But since then, I’ve grown tired of them, and this summer when some monster Marvel movie is playing, I say “meh” and skip it. I don’t miss them at all. Watching CGI gets old fast. So this news sounds good to me!

The share of adults who enjoy superhero movies ticked down slightly compared to a year ago, according to a Morning Consult survey released Thursday, a worrisome trend for Disney’s Marvel franchise as its movies experience a rare relative slump at the box office and among critics – and Disney expands its investment in the properties.

The poll found 36% of all respondents enjoy superhero movies, down from 41% last November.

Perhaps most worrisome is the share of self-identified Marvel fans who enjoy the movies also fell, dropping from 87% to 82%.

That’s still a hefty percentage of those polled, so I wouldn’t be worried about Disney’s financial health right now. I also wouldn’t want those things to completely disappear, since some people still enjoy them — I think I’d enjoy them more, too, if I weren’t drowning in a glut of them. I also have to point out that the MCU oppresses workers and is a tyrannical overlord. They’ve pumped out 29 movies since 2008? How? By abusing special effects houses.

To get work, the houses bid on a project; they are all trying to come in right under one another’s bids. With Marvel, the bids will typically come in quite a bit under, and Marvel is happy with that relationship, because it saves it money. But what ends up happening is that all Marvel projects tend to be understaffed. Where I would usually have a team of ten VFX artists on a non-Marvel movie, on one Marvel movie, I got two including myself. So every person is doing more work than they need to.

The other thing with Marvel is it’s famous for asking for lots of changes throughout the process. So you’re already overworked, but then Marvel’s asking for regular changes way in excess of what any other client does. And some of those changes are really major. Maybe a month or two before a movie comes out, Marvel will have us change the entire third act. It has really tight turnaround times. So yeah, it’s just not a great situation all around. One visual-effects house could not finish the number of shots and reshoots Marvel was asking for in time, so Marvel had to give my studio the work. Ever since, that house has effectively been blacklisted from getting Marvel work.

Part of the problem comes from the MCU itself — just the sheer number of movies it has. It sets dates, and it’s very inflexible on those dates; yet it’s quite willing to do reshoots and big changes very close to the dates without shifting them up or down. This is not a new dynamic.

Maybe if they slowed down a bit and paid more attention to quality and thought about good stories that don’t end with muscle-bound thugs getting into a fist fight? You know, that creativity and imagination thing? We’d all benefit.

You know, last night I went to the movies to see Where the Crawdads Sing, and I enjoyed it thoroughly in spite of the patent tear-jerking and some minor implausibilities. One good thing about comic book movies is that they’ve trained us to overlook the screaming impossibilities in a fantasy story to pay attention to the story, which is usually a bit threadbare in those kinds of movies. I’d like to see more movies that don’t OD on the lycra and the kayfabe and resolving problems with fists.

That said, I’m still planning to binge out on The Sandman later this afternoon, once I get some duties done. (Also, I’ll be working on my syllabus while I’m at it.)


  1. ANB says

    Working on your syllabus while your at a movie?!

    I haven’t seen a MCU movie for at least a couple of years. The CGI effects are just too much for me. The movies are boring, frankly. I finally saw one of the Fast and Furious movies–perhaps the first one–this last year. Yawn. Proving I’m an old man.

  2. mordred says

    The Sandman is already out? Why didn’t anybody tell me? Okay, I might have deleted the mail from Netflix without reading it, recently their recommendations didn’t interest me at all…

    I was surprised how much I liked the earlier MCU movies, I’m not much a superhero fan in general – but this began to change with Civil War and I finally gave up on them with Infinity Wars. Mindless entertainment can be nice, but I found the movies less and less entertaining. Not sure if the movies changed all that much or if it just had been to many (similar) movies in to short a time for me. Maybe I will start to watch the MCU stuff again in another year or so – if they’re on Netflix ;-)

  3. rorschach says

    Totally and utterly uninterested in the Marvel movies franchise, I would occasionally watch one of these on a plane when air travel was still a thing and you had to spend the 12 hours somehow, but now I could not be bothered.

  4. says

    I find it kind of telling that one of the movies making at least a few headlines recently is Marcel the Shell. How much further from big-budget sci-fi/fantasy/superhero action-shoot-em-up blockbusters can you get?

    And yes, I have the same problem with all these MCU and DCU superhero movies as you do: each one is good in itself and worth seeing, but god’s death, enough already, we’re totally saturated and the incredibly high supply of them means each one has less value no matter how good it is. If this keeps up, we’ll very soon be out of the interesting, sympathetic, unique characters who really give personality and heart to the high-tech-CGI genre.

  5. Susan Montgomery says

    The working conditions of actors, writers and production staff are the ultimate counter-argument to anyone who sneers about “Liberal Hollywood” and always have been.

  6. says

    The only “modern” superhero movie I’ve seen are The Wolverine and Elektra, both films that had a lot less need for CGI than the bigger Marvel and DC movies. Interestingly Will Yun Lee was in both, a guy I always think should have had better roles. If someone had some courage they would have done an Asian American cop buddy film, starting Lee and someone like Mark Dacascos.

    The big budge superhero stuff will be around a while yet, because it’s supposedly easier to market in foreign markets.

    Meanwhile the new Batgirl movie has been canned. Apparently it was cheaper to write off 90 million bucks than proceed with the project. Some sources claim it had bad test screenings, while others say it’s the victim of changes at Warner Brothers.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    There are some surprisingly good non-mainstream Japanese anime films.
    As for drama with genuinely clever plots, we have “Source code” and “Inception” that have no connection with comics/graphic novels. I think the media discourages deeper plots.
    If you want to make film versions, try “The Authority” for subverting the superhero genre. They actually go after politicians and big corporations. Apollo and Midnighter are gay, Jenny Sparks use the electonic media as gateways through the dimensions.
    They have killed at least one American president, they sometimes leave chiefs of state hanging from a ledge at the Empire State Building.

  8. rorschach says

    Japanese and Korean, what keeps Netflix going these days, and what keeps me interested. The whole Marvel/Hollywood thing is as dead as American democracy.

  9. consciousness razor says

    Susan Montgomery, #6
    Yeah, as we all know, liberals never exploit workers. LOL, “the ultimate counter-argument” to sneering. Pbffff….

  10. lochaber says

    I generally like the super-hero genre, but am loosing interest in the MCU. I kinda feel it’s the same reason I cut back on comic book reading in the 90s, is that it’s expanding too quickly, with too much content and cross-overs, and is getting difficult to follow without consuming all of it, and I just don’t have the time or energy for that…

    That Sandman trailer looks intriguing, though. It’s probably been about 20 years since I’ve read the comics, so I’ve forgotten a lot of the details, but a lot seems familiar…

  11. Walter Solomon says

    It isn’t just the MCU. Hollywood is creatively bankrupt. This is why you see at least two remakes every year. They have no ideas.

    As far as streaming is concerned, I’m not paying for any service when there are free alternatives out there. When I had Netflix, I found I watched very little of what they had. I currently have HBO Max because we have HBO and its included in the package. I watch very little that as well.

  12. consciousness razor says

    Yes, most certainly. But I’m one of those leftists who populate your nightmares, not a liberal.

  13. seachange says

    The Marvel movies aren’t on Netflix, they’re on Disney+. All of them.

    They play too dark on my television, so I can’t see chunks of them. The parts that aren’t too dark are too fast. Disney+’s rewind feature is obnoxious so I get tired of going back to see just what happened over and over again.

  14. Susan Montgomery says

    @16 If you dared enter my nightmares you’d be swiftly devoured by Pink Lady and Jeff.

    I see leftists as sad self-parodies and baggage that American liberalism clutches on to either out of Boomer nostalgia or as a refuge from having to actually think about economics, demographics or physics. There are a handful of people who use the allegedly noble goals as an excuse for their violently authoritarian impulses as well. You persist because there are always going to be people enticed by free ponies but it’s usually too late once they start doing the math.

  15. says

    Commercial entertainment art like movies, comic books, videogames, and anime ALWAYS go back to the same well over and over until it is completely dry. When the Call of Duty games first got big, every gaming company had to have a First Person Shooter game. When the World of Warcraft Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game got huge, every gaming company needed a MMORPG. When Hearthstone got big, everyone had to have a free-to-play card game. When the X-Men got big while I was in grad school, Marvel made so many X-Men titles that I could not keep up. Now anime has two to five series every season that is an isekai (trapped in another world) story with an OP (overpowered) male protagonist that gets a harem of attractive girls with the story originally published as a light novel. Needless to say that Sturgeon’s Law applies to all of these.

  16. weylguy says

    I stopped reading comic books when I was 13. In the 1970s we had adults dressing up as Captain Kirk and Spock, but now it’s millions of adults flocking to superhero movies. Why? I wonder.

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    Susan @19: Out of curiosity, how do you see yourself? Please don’t say ‘pragmatist’, because everybody claims that turf. Centrist?

    Also, how does physics enter your analysis?

    Dunno about Jeff, but there’s no doubt that Pink Ladies could be the ruin of many a poor boy.

  18. Susan Montgomery says

    @22 Pink Lady and Jeff was a so-bad-it’s-good variety show from the late 70’s featuring Japanese singing duo Pink Lady and comedian Jeff Altman. I think I’m on PZ’s Double Secret Probation list regarding links but they’re all at YouTube. Watch at your own risk.

    As for where I stand? I’m sorry to sound mystical, but I think that once a person adopts a label for their worldview, they stop thinking objectively and adjust to whatever they think fits into the label. I’m genuinely curious as to where you’d place me.

    Replace “physics” with “practicality” if you’d like.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    Susan @23: My tendency is to believe people when they tell me who they are. I’ve never seen you (maybe I missed it) explain where you stand. I’ve only seen you shit on your simplistic little strawmen.

    You don’t sound mystical, just evasive. Does it really take that much effort to explain where you stand on various issues?

  20. birgerjohansson says

    I suppose the Predator and other baddies could be regarded as anti-superheroes.
    Max von Sydow in Needful Things?
    Goddammit, we need a live-action version of Alucard, in Hellsing Ultimate.

  21. says

    I just became aware thst Amazon Prime has made a series based on Paper Girls. The 1st season (8 episodes) was apparently released on July 29th.

    Not quite as exciting as Sandman, but still good news.

  22. lochaber says

    Kristjan Wager@26>

    I’ve heard good things about the source material, but haven’t read it (yet…), and the trailer looks promising…

    And I also have yet to see the most recent season or two of The Expanse, season three of The Boys, and season 2 of Undone…

    And I also want to see Station 11, which I believe is on HBO? and Euphoria?

    And I’ve already forgotten about the stuff on Hulu I wanted to watch…

    I just can’t keep up with all of this, and refuse to pay for more than one streaming service at a time…

  23. silvrhalide says

    @9 I loved Source Code and Inception. If you haven’t seen it, try District 9. As far as graphic novels go, try the original The Watchmen or for ongoing series, try Monstress. Which I am happy to say, is currently in talks with HBO for adaptation (was chatting with Marjorie Liu at 2019 NYCC).

    Also, can we talk about fridging? MCU Phase 4 has been the least fan-satisfying, least financially rewarding phase of the MCU. It is also notable for how many of its female characters are fridged. Marvel has a very ugly history of eliminating female characters once their male love interests are written out of a storyline. Madelyn Prior is perhaps the best example of this in the X-Men comic; Wanda is the best example in the MCU. To wit; Vision is gone/destroyed/written out of the MCU. Wanda promptly goes crazy, then turns evil, then dies… for plot reasons. Because you could fly 747s through the plot holes in Multiverse of Madness. Chang Shi and the Ten Rings could have been an ensemble movie, one in which the male Asian protagonist works with his sister and his best friend (also female) but no… by the end of the movie, the sister is already evil & likely to be dead by the second or third movie. Black Widow, Gamorra & Jane Foster, all dead.
    Supposedly, MCU’s Phase Four was going to explore other voices and other stories. So why are all the other stories stories in which female characters all die? The only major male death was Tony Stark.
    “”If you demolish most of the characters girls like, then girls won’t read comics. That’s it!””
    And the actual list:
    But if you want the anodyne for fridging, there’s always the Christine Spar storyline of Grendel by Matt Wagner.

  24. KG says

    I’m one of those leftists who populate your nightmares, not a liberal.

    Yup, one of those “leftists” who favours letting fascists overrun a (flawed) democracy and commit mass murder with annoying outside interference.

    I’m genuinely curious as to where you’d place me. – Susan Montgomery@23

    As a soggy centrist suffering from a weird obsession with hippies and boomers.

  25. Susan Montgomery says

    @31&24 “centrist” might do. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, though. I’m one of the vast majority of the people who’d rather remain a disposable cog in a capitalist machine because the only option is being a disposable cog in a socialist machine. I’m also accepting the reality that we’re in no position to make demands.

    As for the Boomers. We’re in deep shit right now and the best way to get out is to figure out how we got here in the first place. It’s easy to think that we’re perfect and that everything we’ve done for the last 50 years was good and noble and just. It’s easy to take refuge in conspiracy theories and say that the plebs are just too dumb to know their own minds. It’s much more difficult to accept that America has looked at what we have to offer – and how we’re offering it – and has honestly said “Thanks, but no, thanks”. And, maybe we could consider that they’re not acting against their interests, but they’re interested in other things while we’re at it. But the proles don’t deserve empathy and understanding, according to you.

  26. birgerjohansson says

    One film franchise I like is “Blade”.
    Of course the film company managed to alienate Wesley Snipes so much he hated foing the third film.

  27. silvrhalide says

    @29 Me too but the “Doll’s House” storyline has to happen before Wanda’s story (which is really Barbie & Wanda’s story), so that’s clearly a long way off.
    As much as I love Gwendoline Christie, I always saw Lucifer as David Bowie (clearly not an option, sadly) but would have run with Tilda Swinton as runner up.

  28. says

    Superheros were fun when I was young. Now I recognize them as incipient fascism. I mean, it’s not full-on fascism, but we’re talking about anonymous and unaccountable people taking the law into their own hands, apparently because the police and the courts are too corrupt. That’s the full opening narrative for a failed state, and just because you dress it up in tights and a cape doesn’t make it less so.