While many have taken to arguing that big-budget super hero films have begun to lose steam at the box office due to “superhero fatigue”, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse scribes Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have instead argued that the real culprit is the fact that studios have begun to care more about “Easter eggs and reveals” than providing audiences with a solid story.
Lord and Miller weighed in on the ongoing ‘superhero fatigue’ debate during an interview given to Rolling Stone in reflection of Across the Spider-Verse‘s development process.
Making note of the film’s phenomenal success – according to film performance tracker The-Numbers, Miles Morales’ latest adventure has thus far pulled in $417,082,979 worldwide in the roughly two-weeks since its release – the magazine’s Brian Hiatt eventually asked the directorial duo, “There is, of course, talk of superhero fatigue out there, too. But you’ve clearly evaded that. What’s the secret there?”, to which Miller pushed back, “I don’t believe it’s superhero fatigue, I believe it’s ‘a movie that feels like a movie I’ve seen a dozen times before’ fatigue.”
“If you’re using the same story structure and the same style and the same tone and the same vibe as movies and shows that have come before, it doesn’t matter what genre it is,” he explained. “It’s going to be boring to people”
“And the audience in the theater cannot be sustained on Easter eggs and reveals,” added Lord. “Or even these big, crazy multiverse stakes. They only care about, like, the relationship between Rocket Raccoon and Groot.”
Turning the conversation back Across the Spider-Verse specifically, Lord further detailed, “And so this story is just so rooted in parents and kids. And Miles and his family.”
“With the last movie we showed it to some friends early on, and they were like, ‘You have to get to like all these multiple Spider-People as quickly as possible. That’s the exciting thing,'” he recalled. “And we were like, we don’t think so. Because the thing that everybody seems to enjoy is the quieter scenes with Miles and his mom and dad. They can’t get enough of it. And I’m so glad we stayed true to what the audience was telling us.”
In turn, Hiatt noted how, “James Gunn gave a very similar answer about all this. So I think you’re on the same page there,” prompting Lord to praise, “Yeah, he’s so great at that.”
“[In the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy], you feel like these misfits have found their family,” the director elaborated. “And that’s what you’re watching. That’s why those movies are beloved.”
As referenced by Hiatt, the current co-head of DC Studios offered his “very similar answer” during an appearance on the June 13th episode of Smallville and Justice League/Unlimited star Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You With Michael Rosenbaum podcast.
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Asked by the former Lex Luthor actor if he though “there are too many superhero shows and movies,” Gunn opined, “Yes. Yeah, I do think there’s too many.”
“But I don’t think it’s not…it’s much less a problem of too many,” he explained. “And yes, we are not going to overextend ourselves at DC. We’re going to be very careful with the product that we put out and making sure everything is as good as it can possibly be.”
“I think that what’s happened is people have gotten really lazy with their superhero stories and they have gotten to the place where, ‘Oh it’s a superhero let’s make a movie about it!’” the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director explained. “And they make, ‘Oh! Let’s make a sequel because the first one did pretty well.’ And they aren’t thinking about why is this story special. What makes this story stand apart from other stories? What is the story at the heart of it all? Why is this character important? What makes this story different? That it fills a need for people in theaters to go see or on television.”
“And I think that people have gotten a little lazy,” he reiterated. “And there’s a lot of ‘biff, pow, bam’ stuff happening in movies. Like I’m watching third acts of superhero films where I really just don’t feel like there’s a rhyme or reason to what’s happening. I don’t care about the characters.”
Letting his opinion flow, Gunn further declared, “And they’ve gotten too generic.”
“There’s this sort of middle of the road type of genre, tone that so many superhero movies as opposed to having very different genres,” he told Rosenbaum. “I like very serious superhero movies. I like very comedic superhero movies. I like ones that are really just a murder mystery, but it’s with superheroes. I like to see these different types of stories as opposed to seeing the same story told over and over again.”
Addressing the idea of ‘superhero fatigue’ specifically, Gunn then asserted, “Then people say ‘superhero fatigue’. I think that you see now that it’s not a real thing. People are fatigued with repetition. And I don’t think it’s really just superhero movies, I think you’re seeing it happening now, it’s spectacle films in general.”
“But there’s a lot of spectacle films made and they just have gotten really generic,” he criticized. ” And they’ve gotten boring and they aren’t about characters, and there’s no emotion to them. And there should be emotion in things no matter. That should always be there: some type of emotion. I’m not saying it can’t be really light. I’m not saying it can’t be really heavy. I’m saying there should be some sort of emotion.”