2022 proves that superhero movies need to evolve beyond cameos

2022 is already coming to an end and that means every superhero movie has already been released. The year’s crop of live-action superheroes features, which included BatmanAnd the MorbiusAnd the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessAnd the Thor: Love and ThunderAnd the Black AdamAnd the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, was a huge boon for the movie theaters’ bottom line. In North America alone, these six films have contributed more than $1.6 billion to the box office landscape (as of this writing), with Wakanda forever Willing to add more to this total when all is said and done. The COVID-19 pandemic may have kept these movies out of theaters for nearly all of 2020, but it’s clear that the box office may not have diminished through years and years of turmoil.

Given the enduring prevalence of this subgenre, it only makes sense that people would look at the various box office results of these films and draw some of the bigger lessons for the current movie landscape. In any era of Hollywood, Most Popular with Moviegoers gives an insight into the psyche of the planet at that moment in time. The superhero movies of 2022 are no different.

Related: Upcoming Superhero Movies: From 2022 to 2024 and Beyond

Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch in 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'
Image via Marvel Studios

It’s impossible to look at a group of films that have over two-thirds of their entries at $340 million domestically and try to say something serious is about to happen. The superhero movie, especially the upcoming films from Marvel Studios, continues to bring in crowds in its opening weekend like few other sub-genres can consistently do. However, there are some caveats to this, albeit very mild ones considering something like The multiverse of madness It still exceeds $950 million worldwide. For one thing, these movies are becoming more mainstream, at least in North America.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only four Marvel Studios titles dropped more than 60% in their second weekend. All four of these films (Incredible HulkAnd the Captain America: The First AvengerAnd the Spider-Man: HomecomingAnd the Ant-Man and the Wasp) after Memorial Day weekend late in the summer when more kids are out of school. This means that it was reasonable to assume that these exceptions were due to people seeing these titles during the week rather than just waiting out the weekend. starting from Black Widowthough, every single Marvel Studios title with the exception of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings It fell 60+% in its second weekend. This is to be expected for divisive titles such as eternal And the thor: love and thunder, But even well-received projects like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 63% slump in second edition frames.

Marvel Studios had two titles (The multiverse of madness And the love and thunder) lost over 67% in its second weekend of domestic release while the Sony/Columbia Pictures film received dismally Morbius It fell 73% in its second weekend of release (Batman bucking tradition with a more steady drop of 50% in its second weekend). Some of this simply has to do with the divisive nature of some of Marvel Studios’ recent projects as well as the last four Marvel Cinematic Universe movies being sequeled with built-in fan bases rushing to see these films on their opening weekend. However, it’s also clear that superhero movies, in general, are becoming more loaded.

They’re still making a lot of money for that to be a major concern for Hollywood, but it’s worth noting that these movies don’t seem to attract as many non-hardcore fans as they used to. So is the sequel like Black Adam (despite being part of a larger cinematic universe) doesn’t seem to be garnering much love just from the general public, perhaps due to a marketing campaign that was largely geared towards DC fans (primarily in that last-minute focus on Henry CavillThe middle credits for Superman return). The recent struggles of superhero films to stay in the public eye past opening weekend are especially noteworthy given that some of the biggest hits of 2022 (namely Top Gun: Maverick And the Everything everywhere at once) were incredibly long affairs that stayed on the pop culture radar for months on end.

Superhero movies focus on the past and the future

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth as Jane Foster and Thor Odinson in Thor: Love and Thunder
Image via Marvel Studios

The 2022 superhero movie landscape was filled with familiar faces, including Batman (albeit played by a different actor), Dr. Strange, and even Jane Foster. Meanwhile, the marketing campaigns for Morbius And the Black Adam They were each heavily inclined to cameos from well-known characters while also exploring what the future of their respective franchises might hold. This year’s superhero films drew heavily from the past and the future, a phenomenon far from uncommon for post-apocalyptic superhero films.The Avengers Globalism. But it seemed especially obvious this year, probably because we didn’t have such a real big original swing Shang Chi or Guardians of the Galaxy To balance things out.

With a heavy focus on the past and the future, there is a reason Batman His largely independent story has resonated with many viewers. The film’s plot line also wrestled directly with relevant themes of social inequality, an approach that ensures the film can really lean into the here and now in an entirely different way. It was a breath of fresh air in a year that often brought back the names Shazam and Venom to throw off moviegoers. Again, making superhero movies full of in-universe references and teasing sequels is nothing new. But those qualities were especially prominent this year along with scraping whatever character studios could find for some extra jolts of nostalgia.

Which superhero movies are doing well in 2022

Angela Bassett as Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Image via Marvel Studios

Of course, not all of the findings from 2022’s live-action superhero movies have been negative or symbolic of troubling trends in the subgenre. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, for one, had its flaws, but it largely succeeded as a worthy and emotionally powerful follow-up to its iconic predecessor. while, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Have some wicked fun in the excitement of having legendary Marvel superheroes like Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski) and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) only to brutally kill them all one by one. Characters like this would normally be perfect fodder for the mid-credits in another movie, but here they were used in some dark comedy. This is the kind of indie entertainment that is impossible to resist.

Just like the superhero movies of one year, 2022’s live-action superhero movies were at their best, when they focused on thrilling audiences with new concepts rather than just relying on thrilling the future or recreating the past. The latter component can’t be particularly relied upon to carry a movie, as evidenced by Adrian Toomes’ promise (Michael KeatonCrossing paths with Morbius can’t make people angry Morbius. Even the promise of Superman and Black Adam meeting wasn’t enough Black Adamthe film whose worldwide box office volume will drop below the cheapest Dwayne Johnson trolley frenzy.

It’s not enough just to throw the familiar in front of moviegoers, you have to offer something unique that they can hold onto today. The live-action superhero movies that audiences have responded to and rejected in 2022 reflect their continued desire for good entries in the subgenre. Times are still very tough (the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, for example) and it’s no surprise that people still want light items that can get their spirits up. However, they won’t just appear on anything that comes stamped with a Marvel or DC logo.

2022 has been an undeniably strange year for a superhero movie. It was a year where its dominance at the box office was undisputed but also a year in which a few bizarre flaws indicated how this subgenre shouldn’t take its enduring success for granted. Whatever the future holds for this subgenre, hopefully it will include more superhero films themed with untested, obscure characters as well as titles that take all the right lessons from features like Batman And the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Also, stop trying to make Morbius It happens, it won’t.

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