What is “Superhero Fatigue” and Why It’s Nothing More Than Poor Storytelling

The failure of the latest superior movies (“The Marvels”, “The Flash,” “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”) has Hollywood babbling about “superhero fatigue” where people are simply tired of superhero movies.

That’s never true. People are simply tired of bad movies.

Watch the better superhero movies like “Wonder Woman,” “Ironman,” and “Dr. Strange.” Those movies tell a complete story where the hero must struggle to defeat a villain, becoming a stronger person in the process. That’s basically the formula for every good movie.

Then look at the superhero movie flops like “Shazam: Fury of the Gods,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” or “The Marvels”. The first problem is that there are too many characters. A good movie focuses on a single hero and everyone’s actions affect that lone hero’s pursuit of a goal.

By not staying focused on a single hero, bad superhero movies dilute the hero’s story. “The Marvels” is supposed to be a sequel to “Captain Marvel,” but instead it’s mostly about Ms. Marvel. This brings up the second problem with the latest batch of superhero flops.

They aren’t self-contained stories.

If you knew nothing about the Ms. Marvel TV show, watching “The Marvels” would seem confusing because you wouldn’t know who Ms. Marvel is or why you should care about her. Then “The Marvels” tosses in a third woman (Monica Rambeau) in the story without giving us a reason to get to know or care about her either. The end result is that we have three women where none of them seem to have a strong goal that changes them emotionally.

“The Flash” should be about the Flash, but Batman shows up to dilute the story. Even worse, Wonder Woman even shows up earlier to further dilute the story. By introducing characters and assuming we know them, “The Flash” simply takes the focus off the Flash.

A third problem with the latest superhero flops are that there is no strong villain.

In “Star Wars,” we remember Darth Vader because he’s such a terrifying and powerful villain. In “The Marvels,” does anyone remember who the villain is and why she’s such a threat to Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Monica Rambeau?

Who’s the villain in “The Flash”? In “Wonder Woman 1984,” we have two villains who don’t even work together. Take away a strong villain and you immediately weaken the entire story.

So take the lesson of superhero fatigue to improve your own stories:

  • Stay focused on a single hero
  • Make sure your story makes sense and doesn’t rely on outside information
  • Make your villain as terrifying as possible because the stronger the villain, the harder your hero must struggle to succeed

As long as Hollywood keeps trying to cram too many characters in a single movie and assume you saw a TV show to understand the latest characters, they’ll keep making lousy movies and blaming it on “superhero fatigue.”

The real problem isn’t “superhero fatigue” but poor storytelling that has nothing to do with the superhero genre. Be smarter than Hollywood. Write focused, self-contained stories with a powerful villain and you’ll beat most of what Hollywood creates these days.

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