Superhero movies have been straying from convention lately, and so far, it’s worked out favorably. Deadpool took the biggest risk earlier this year, launching in theaters with an R-rating, but its record breaking numbers and critical acclaim proved it was one worth taking. Then Batman v Superman hit theaters; another gamble that saw excellent returns at the box office but polarizing reviews from both audiences and critics. The year’s next big comic book movie releases in a few days, and it, too was a risky move in the making.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Captain America: Civil War co-director Joe Russo spoke of making changes in the industry and deciding when audiences are ready for said changes. When asked how the team approached hopping aboard the narrative decision for Civil War, he explained that they were aware of people being ready to see something different.
“You have to feel that the market is saturated enough that the audience is ready for something different. It’s a calculated risk. But again, that’s what gets me out of bed. I’m much more interested in deconstructing the genre than doing the traditional execution of it. We’ve been out of synch for years. Shows like Arrested Development and Community were well received critically and had a devoted fan base, but they weren’t commercially successful. The audience’s taste finally seems to be lining up with our desire to pursue post-modern storytelling.”
Russo continued, speaking of what he believes has been driving these changes forward.
“Well, it helps that we’re working within a very popular genre. But I also think social media has altered viewing habits and tastes. The quality of tentpole movies has gotten very good and very competitive over the last couple years. Because of social media and the discussion that happens there, the audience has gotten a stronger collective sense of taste and you’re dead at 6 p.m. on Friday if you didn’t make a good movie. And they’re starting to champion more radical storytelling.
Deadpool’s a great example of that. I mean, holy shit, $750 million worldwide? For our part, when we finished Winter Soldier two years ago, and we were thinking about doing the next one, the only thing that seemed interesting to us was to deconstruct the Marvel Universe — because where else can we go at this point? There have been 11 or 12 movies so far, all with a fairly traditional structure. Our pitch to them was: People will tell you they love chocolate ice cream — until you give it to them five days a week. It’s time to give them some rainbow sherbet. Kevin [Feige] is a maverick and he’s very sensitive to how people are responding to his content. He said he thought we might be right. And after they announced Batman v Superman, he said, ‘you guys are absolutely right.’ We needed to do something challenging with the material or we were going to start to lose the audience.”
Stagnation has gradually become a real concern for some filmmakers and fans. Is comic book movie fatigue on the horizon? The general consensus is a divisive one, but with Disney/Marvel, Fox and Warner Bros. heading in completely different directions, it seems as if there may be enough fuel to keep the hype train rolling on for quite a while.
Captain America: Civil War arrives in theaters on May 6.
Image: Marvel (Walt Disney Studios)