Superheroes and comic book adaptations have been at the top of the box office for quite a while now. With the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe still being a dominant aspect of today’s film culture, it seems as if superhero flicks are the easiest bet in the industry. At least, it used to be that way.
The numbers don’t lie – “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” was little more than a tantrum at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, the sequel made a little over $30 million domestic on its opening weekend – around half the numbers of its predecessor in 2019. Multiple factors converged to turn “Fury of the Gods” into a disappointment not just for the bizarre DC cinematic universe, but also for fans of the original film.
Lightning in a Bottle
Shazam! Achieved the impossible back when it was released in 2019: it managed to be a DCEU film that felt like an old-school superhero flick in all the right ways. While the rest of the cinematic universe was too busy being the edgier version of the MCU,Shazam! was content in doing things its own way.
The story resonated with fans on a level that few DC films did. A common complaint many critics have with modern superhero films is the lack of proper character development and meaningful storytelling – things that Shazam! had in spades. Couple that with it being one of the only superhero films that takes place around Christmas and you got the perfect recipe for an unforgettable flick.
All of those coincidences – intentional or not – were missing from the release of Fury of the Gods. The result is the lackluster box office performance we’re seeing now. The thing is, this isn’t something that solely affects Shazam!
Hanging the Cape?
For a while now, critics have discussed the tangible phenomenon of “superhero fatigue.” After more than a decade of stories featuring characters wearing spandex fighting all sorts of computer-generated bad guys, audiences begin to demand something new to see in cinemas.
A clear example of this is that “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” isn’t the only superhero flick afflicted by a poor performance at the box office: the highly-anticipated “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” was a disappointment with critics and audiences alike, possibly signaling the beginning of the end for the MCU.
Time to Change
Fads come and go – it has always been that way. We’d probably still be watching cowboys or gangsters dominating the box office if audiences followed the same trends they did forty or fifty years ago. It might be time to reinvent the superhero genre if it wants to stay relevant for another decade.
Even though some of the more recent films in the genre try to do things more “interesting” from a cinematic point of view – like the inclusion of Nimród Antal‘s recurring cinematographer, the Hungarian Gyula Pados, in Fury of the Gods – the general consensus seems to be that superheroes are beginning to feel dated.
If outstanding cinematography and a more prevalent focus on character development are not enough to reinvigorate the genre, one might wonder what could be done to keep DC and Marvel at the top of the cultural food chain for much longer.
Cover credit: IMDb