What Do Batman, Spider-Man, and Star Wars Have in Common?
Franchise fatigue is when an audience becomes bored with a property. Personally, I’m starting to feel this way about Batman, Spider-Man, and even a little with Star Wars. Which are some of the biggest franchises in the world.
I feel this way about Spider-Man for having had three shows, three movie continuities, and an entire story-line of comics dedicated to a multiverse of Spider-Men in the past decade. I feel this way about Batman because DC is almost hellbent on making that property their sole stream of revenue just haphazardly slapping Batman in any movie, video, merchandise, etc.
I love the latest entries from both properties: Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Lego Batman Movie. Both of those movies really understand who the characters are and have stories crafted perfectly to suit them in a way that gives the best entries of their respective franchise up to this point a run for their money. The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2, as much as I love them, don’t leave a lasting mark and I can’t help but think it’s because I’ve just seen them and things like them so many times before. Both camps are pulling some of their most famous stories very early on and are already drawing from some of their most obscure material to make references.
Early on these references can be very tongue in cheek, but over time it becomes stale, lazy, and even a little obnoxious. There’s a scene in The Lego Batman Movie where Batman turns to the screen and literally tells you to Google his rouges gallery.
No franchise draws as heavily from referencing its own material as Star Wars. Star Wars started as a movie so it doesn’t have as expansive pool to draw from as Batman, who has had a quarter century worth of comics, tv, and films. Rogue One and The Force Awakens drew heavily from older material and scrapped concepts. They were good movies but not very original. You could say that they could draw from the Extended Universe, but if you’re the kind of person that’s already familiar with it then that would defeat the purpose.
It’s a double-edged sword because the best thing about a franchise is that it is familiar and you get to see things come to fruition with characters you like and have grown to know, but familiar is synonymous with old. Which is why with each passing MCU movie, the experience is a little more lackluster. Nothing will feel like when you see the Avengers all on the same screen for the first time or when you find out Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
Cowboys vs. Aliens
I feel like in 10 to 15 years we’re going to hate superhero and space movies like we hate cowboys and westerns today.
On average, we’re going to be getting one Star Wars movie and two and half superhero movies every year for at least the next 10 years. This doesn’t include movies that are just incidentally about a vigilante or someone with a superpower (Chronicle/The Boondock Saints) or just happen to be set in space (Gravity/Interstellar). This might feel especially tired when we start getting movies about superheroes going to war in space especially when they’re made by the same people who make Star Wars (Avengers: Infinity Wars 1&2). In fact all of Marvel’s Phase 3 so far excluding Civil War are set in space (GOTG 2, Thor: Ragnarok, and Doctor Strange, sort of)
For a while Westerns were the only movies being made and though we may not personally have a vendetta against them, what we’ve said with our dollars has certainly made a statement. The biggest Westerns in the past decade (A Million Ways to Die in the West, The Loan Ranger, and Cowboys & Aliens) were all financial failures. Most weren’t even true westerns because most studios weren’t willing to risk making one.
(I’d be remiss if didn’t point out that Cowboys & Aliens is both a Western and a Space movie)
Comic-Con & D23
D23 was the weekend before last and Comic-Con was this past weekend, so the world got to see more of the projects that are coming out of the biggest franchises in both the Superhero and Space genres. I suppose that if these creators can keep the quality of their creations high and keep the ideas feeling fresh and interesting they could keep making these movies indefinitely. But ultimately, once I feel like I’ve seen it before I’m not going to keep coming back.
Conan O’Brien posted a video that sums up franchise fatigue perfectly: