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Against The Superhero Fatigue Argument


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Are audiences experiencing “superhero fatigue”? At the outset it should be noted in passing that this sickness unto death, this alleged superhero fatigue, is a year old argument. That would make it a manageable medical condition, this superhero fatigue. The studios have not, so far as I know, called a halt to all the superhero movies presently in the pipeline. Quite the contrary, it would seem. In the next few years there will be another Iron Man film, another “Avengers film,” another “Thor,” “Wolverine” and even “Captain America.” And that’s just a handful of the Marvel-based characters getting another close-up. It would seem that reports about the death of superhero films are a bit exaggerated.

Second, even before this summer began, critics were diagnosing this alleged malady, finding symptoms of this superhero fatigue in every box office underperform.  They even went so far as to diagnose superhero fatigue in films that were commercially successful – but not box office smashes. Their measure of the success of a superhero film, it would seem, was to be wildly successful or risk fall into – and here I cannot resist the reference — the negative zone. It is almost as if a certain type of critic, perhaps one that didn’t grow up on comic books, perhaps one who finds their mythology odious, is engaging what can only be properly construed as a form of wish fulfillment. Any excuse to hasten the genre’s demise.

Despite the glut of death-of-the-superhero-movie-genre stories online, by normally intelligent film writers mind you, the numbers, quite frankly, do not support their argument.  “The Avengers” is the third highest domestic and globally earning film of all time.” The Amazing Spider-Man,” released in July, has made over $260 million domestically. And “The Bourne Legacy” – superhero-ish, to be sure  — which underperformed in its release, broke $103.7 million in week five.

Rewind to one year ago, at the origin of the superhero fatigue.  Yes, many superhero movies have underperformed in the past year or so — I’m looking at you, “Green Lanter”n — many more, however, did well.  But there is always a tendency to go for the snarky post, especially when it involves Nick Cage playing Ghost Riser. There was – and I can think of no other way to say this – an almost villainous delight in the spectacular failure of Green Lantern. In some of the reviews one can almost hear the devilish laughter and the twisting of mustaches as the critics concocted this superhero fatigue meme out of naught else but thin air and their own personal distaste for the whole superhero genre. An entire multi-billion dollar act of escapist entertainment cannot be laid to rest on the shoulders of Ryan Reynolds.

It was a rough summer. With the usual distractions of electronic devices, 24/7 cable and the Olympics – real life superheroes this summer  – there were plenty of reasons to stay home and not buy a ticket at the cineplex. This was also, more to our present timeline, not a good week for the movie industry. A recent week saw the lowest cumulative ticket sales in a decade. The top film – “The Possession” – took in less than ten million in its opening weekend. Further, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on soda over 16 ounces – if it becomes as influential around the country as his indoor smoking ban – could really eat into movie theater revenues.  These three examples may be why the chorus of superhero naysayers appears to be growing rather than receding, becoming emboldened despite the genre’s solid numbers. It was a bad week for all films, not just those involving super-powers and cosmic adventures in spandex and elaborate origin backstory.

“The Dark Knight Rises,” though not as financially as successful as the previous Chris Nolan Batman films, was still a success. Not only that, but “Dark Knight Rises” had, no pun intended, an incredible uphill climb. “The Dark Knight Rises,” which had one of the most challenging opening weekends of any film ever, has a cumulative box office of over $437 million by September 9th, and is on track to pull in a half a billion dollars. That is not bad for an entertainment experience that involved, in its first few weeks, a serious police presence around the nation as well as, in some cases, intrusive bag searches.

It was indeed a cruel summer for movies. But the superhero genre, spawned from the comics of our youth, has faced tougher adversaries than the web, the fall TV schedule or even a soda ban by a super-villainous Mayor who essentially bought his office (cue the devilish laughter). The superhero film genre is just getting its second wind. And I can’t wait.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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