Fat Superheroes

Why the superhero genre may have just been set up for narrative failure



Recently the internet was introduced to this infographic of upcoming superhero movies and cinematic universe creations that is Hollywood’s ambition for the next 6+ years. Yes it looks like an awesome idea right now. However this is akin to what everyone had in mind calling the Titanic “Unsinkable”. Not that there is anything wrong with creating a superhero universe franchise (See Marvel Cinematic Universe as the greatest idea Hollywood has done so far). However in terms of creating a Universe narrative, declaring their plans so far ahead may bite them in the head because

This is an idea not reality

The first step for creating a story is having a rough outline, even a vaguest idea of it’s concept before the first words are typed out.

Hollywood is essentially giving out their outline for superhero universes. While announcing a film totally makes sense for a film set to be released in a couple years i.e. Toy Story 4 coming out in 2017, (aka why we can have too much of a good thing), by the time of the announcement, directors and actors who signed up for the project, plans for when production is to start and other substantial things for the movie’s go-ahead. This probably hasn’t happened yet for at least half of these movies. This is not a problem on it’s own except that

Reduces their Flexibility

Storytellers understand that a guideline for the story is just that… a guideline, not a rulebook. As the story develops, characters are dumped, new ones develop and often most of the initial ideas are dumped for the few good ones. This happens a lot with TV series, especially with characters, Note: that whenever the creators  announce a new TV series at major cons they NEVER announce how many seasons there will be to the fans.

There’s a reason why writers when talking about outlines, they don’t release all the details. True we all knew there would be seven Harry Potter books, or that George R.R. Martin has declared a end to his Game of Thrones series. Yes it could be argued that that has as much detail as the infographic above, however these franchises have endings. It’s clear that Marvel, DC, FOX intend to play up the superhero genre until it’s tits drop off. While it can be argued that Superhero universes aren’t exactly an overarching plot, and that each hero has their own story that can be developed, however there are connections between the characters and by declaring what order the stories are being told, Hollywood is limiting what they can do, and this loss of flexibility is only detrimental because

Movies are a ridiculously expensive form of storytelling

Stories are flexible, if you want to create a character kill off your darlings, anything can happen. Post your story on a blog whatever you want. Not when you actually want to make a profit for it, books have to be printed and paid for, designers have to be paid to code the video game worlds, all this costs money and is an investment. It only gets more complicated with franchises (see the logistics of the Game of Thrones books and TV series for how hard it can be). Movie franchise are another heaping of difficulty.

What happens if one of the primary actors i.e. Robert Downey Jr. gets killed by a escaped zoo animal, whose going to replace Iron man? (rhetorical question, only Robert Downey can be Iron man)

What happens if people get excited for steampunk genre and stops seeing superhero films because everyone thought the Black Panther looked suspiciously like a man in a gimp suit?

Will it be possible?

Yes it is possible that all these movies can be made and they could be profitable. Superhero movies have been pretty good so far (so long as you forgot Superman Returns, The Green Lantern, Wolverine Origins, oh shut up)

But stating your plan for so far ahead is setting up a very high expectation, an expectation that no fan had really expected and asked for, but now they are all expecting because Marvel got cocky and the rest of Hollywood couldn’t resist playing keeping up with the joneses.

Right now Superhero movies are profitable, and good business decisions have led them this far. Let’s hope this luck continues.