Chelsea is out of town on a girl's trip and I had nothing to do last night. I decided to go to the theater to see "Ant-Man." As I sat at the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square, a trailer for the next sequel to "The Transporter" came on.
Now as I watched this trailer, I suddenly had a sort of random thought:
I would much rather watch Ant-Man- a heist movie about a guy who shrinks and talks to ants- than a heist movie about a guy who drives cars.
I mean, of course I would. I'm a comic book guy. I have a bust of Cyclops, a Green Lantern ring, and a Captain America mask on my desk at work. Superheroes are my jam. But clearly they're lots of other people's jams too. "Ant-Man," a movie about a guy whose superpower is the ability to shrink and talk to ants, made $58 million in domestic box office last weekend.
I point this out because there's a certain type of person who complains about superhero film fatigue. "There are too many superhero movies!" says this person "And they are all the same thing!" they says. "Superhero movies infantilize the people watching them!" So does watching football and drinking cherry soda. "I want to see more movies about people sitting around eating crackers and talking about the pointlessness of existence!" Me too, certain type of person. But you know what I also want to see?
Here's why I don't think superhero film fatigue has set in yet.
As I watched the trailer for "The Transporter," it looked... boring. Guy drives a car and explosions happen. It doesn't really tickle the imagination-centered parts of the brain very much. Now imagine if that trailer was "tiny guy rides an army of ants and explosions happen." That's... weird and sort of crazy and it makes that imagination-centered part of your brain perk up a little more. I think that's why superhero films have supplanted traditional action films somewhat. They're more fun and more creative (for the most part.) A superhero movie can be a ton of different things too. It can be big and over the top and crazy like "Guardians of the Galaxy" or it can be dark and gritty like "The Dark Knight." Traditional action films just don't have that much range.
I do think superhero film fatigue will probably set in for real eventually. Westerns dominated the box office for decades and now... maybe one decent western comes out each year? But I think when they go away, they probably won't be supplanted by a return to traditional, groundedish action movies. It'll probably be something bigger and crazier like epic fantasy films or space opera or something like that. Okay, that might be wishful thinking on my part. Still.
Action movies are nice. They're fun. Sometimes they're even smart and challenging. But superheroes do everything a traditional action movie does- they just also have shrinking guys and talking raccoons and capes and a sense of child-like wonder and I believe they'll stick around for awhile for those reasons.