Steven Spielberg has never been shy with his opinions about the business of Hollywood. And, considering he’s made boatloads of money, racked up a lot of Oscars, and lodged a shocking number of movies into the pop culture canon, he’s generally worth listening to. But is he right that superhero movies are facing a reckoning?
In an interview with the Associated Press, he was asked about remarks he made back in 2013. His response?
We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns. Of course, right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I’m only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.
Spielberg’s right in the sense that everything in Hollywood is cyclical; if anybody would know, it’s the guy who just produced a hit sequel to a movie he directed more than two decades ago. But I can’t help but feel the Western comparison is a little off.
Yeah, there are a lot of superhero movies, and more coming, but that’s nothing compared to the sheer number of Westerns. During the 1950s, more than a quarter of what Hollywood put out, from the top studios to the Poverty Row B-picture houses, were Westerns. It really wasn’t until Bond came along in the early 1960s that it had any sort of competition in the action movie realm, and really, it just shifted over to Italy and Spain. Some critics have argued that the only thing that really got lost were the horses and the Stetson hats.
Are superhero movies due for a crash? To some degree, I suppose. It’s worth noting, though, that the number of superhero movies has, since the debut of Superman, steadily been increasing. Heck, 2015 is an off-year; we’ve only seen three, and there were five superhero movies in 2013. But for now, it seems likely that superheroes are here to stay.