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Are we bored of superhero movies yet?

Have The Avengers killed the superhero movie for good?

The Avengers assemble in cinemas this week as the wait finally comes to an end for patient cinemagoers awaiting the arrival of Marvel's superhero team. Superhero movies have become synonymous with success in recent years and if the reviews are anything to go by, there's little doubt that Joss Whedon's much-anticipated slice of nerdvana will be any different.

But could Avengers Assemble prove to be a tipping point for comic book movies? Audiences have been pummelled with primary-coloured protagonists for the best part of a decade now – when will we finally grow tired of superheroes on the silver screen?

Of course, superheroes movies are nothing new. Directors first started to transfer these much-loved characters from comic strip to cinema all the way back in the 1940s. The trend once again reared its head in the late 70s, 80s and early 90s with films like Richard Donner's Superman winning the hearts and minds of film lovers. Then Joel Schumacher went and ruined it all with Batman & Robin and those infamous bat nipples.

It wasn't until the surprise success of Bryan Singer's X-Men that superheroes really began to re-emerge as a genre in their own right. Money talks in movie land and after Singer's flick took almost $300million at the box office, studio execs began to listen to the possible profits that could be wrung from superhero sagas. Over the next few years, Hollywood dipped its toe into the superhero waters with a smattering of sequels and possible franchise-starters, with films like X2, Daredevil and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. What soon became clear was that audiences had an appetite for superhero action, a point that was hammered home when Spidey took more than $800m dollars on its way to becoming one of the highest grossing films in cinema history.

What followed was an explosion in superhero movies. Avengers Assemble is the 47th superhero movie to hit our screens since Spider-Man first wowed cinemagoers in 2002. As a result, an experience that once was a novelty has now become commonplace. In fact, the arrival of The Avengers might mean we've finally reached spandex saturation point.



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So are we bored of comic book movies or is there still life in their superpowered shenanigans? Looking at those movies scheduled for our cinemas in the coming years it certainly looks as if the genre might be running out of steam. For a start, Christopher Nolan's genre-defining Batman series comes to a close this summer with The Dark Knight Rises. Superhero movies are also set to come full circle with The Amazing Spider-Man and The Man Of Steel taking us back to the films which began the spandex-clad gold rush back in the early noughties.

Cinema audiences are no strangers to reboots, reinterpretations and re-imaginings, but it remains to be seen whether they'll have an appetite for retellings of stories which are still so fresh in their memories (The Incredible Hulk reboot in 2008 only made $20m more than Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk movie, proving that audiences are largely indifferent to a fresh coat of paint). Such retreads also reveal the limitations of a genre that peddles a fine line in origin stories but begins to collapse under the weight of its own absurdity over the course of a three-film franchise.

At the end of the day, it may be The Avengers that mark the death knell for the comic book movie. The problem with Avengers Assemble is that it's the comic book equivalent of having Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and James Bond all in one 3D extravaganza. How do you top that? And will audiences be as enamoured when the Avengers dissemble and return to our screens in their solo outings? It's easy to imagine that Thor 2, Captain America 2 and Iron Man 3 will prove to be something of an anti-climax; the first failings on the way to an eventual flatline for superhero movies.

Nevertheless, Hollywood has always run in cycles, and even if the wheel is about to turn for the superhero genre, you can rest assured it won't be long until they're back on top.

Avengers Assemble is released on Thursday 26th April | Follow us on Twitter

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23-04-2012