The small popcorn is long gone. The soft drink cradled in the side of a massive movie theater seat is watered down. The movie drags, but you can't sleep through it if you tried. A nap would be too quickly disturbed by the gunfire and explosions that bombard the audience scene after plodding scene.
Thor doesn't like what you're about to say.
It's another Marvel superhero movie. You're not sure why you are here.
Larger-than-life figures from the comic books that you, your parents and, maybe, your parents' parents, read are fighting an enemy. The identity of said enemy is now irrelevant. You're focusing on the details, minutiae that normally wouldn't catch your attention. Are these costumes historically accurate? Is this character's story historically accurate? You're counting minutes until the credits roll. You go home, check Twitter and Facebook. You are officially the only person you know who thinks the latest big budget faboy/girl fest is an overrated bore. You have lost every single geek point earned during those years of encounters with middle school bullies. You are a contrarian. A stupid hipster. Possibly a jackass. You are over superhero movies.
Superhero movies are the pits. Sure, there are a few exceptions, most of which involve Batman. By and large, though, these blockbusters-by-design retread every tired movie cliche of the 20th century and a few more modern ones. Some are downright terrible, which is almost admirable in a way. At least a real crapfest can be improved with the right group of Statlers and Waldorfs. Instead, it's the middle-of-the-road ones that earn your scorn. They aren't technically bad; they just aren't interesting. They're the cinematic equivalent of Maroon 5. Hopelessly ordinary. You would expect more from someone dodging explosions in a ridiculous get-up. That's why your annoyance with Marvel character-driven flicks is so much stronger. DC character movies are so inconsistent that they still hold a little mystery. You could get The Dark Knight or Green Lantern. Either way, you'll walk out of the theater saying something other than, "Yeah, it was alright. I suppose."
Still, superheroes draw lines of movie-goers. People cheer as the theater darkens. There's actual crowd approval before the movie starts. And you, you dear reader, are shunned because you dared to walk out of theater with the belief that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not the best thing since The Avengers, which is not the best thing since whatever. Here are the reasons why you are right.
1. Superheroes Already Have Fans. The Studios Don't Have to Try Hard to Get Attention.
Liz Ohanesian for L.A. Weekly Superhero fans will exist with or without movies.
Superhero movies aren't a hard sell. We know the characters. We know a lot of the major stories. The infrastructure to promote the film is there. You can get a few sneak peek photos out to entertainment news sites, continue to build the hype at San Diego Comic-Con and let the longtime fans of the characters take care of the rest. At this point in time, there have been enough stellar comic book movies to convince jaded fans to give it a shot. As long as you don't make an abomination, people will come back. Actually, even the worst movies have hope. There are always reboots. The fans will probably give the franchise another shot or three.
Of course, this only works for long-established franchises. With less mainstream source material, there's a bit of an uphill battle. You do have to turn out a stellar product and you do have to make every effort to try and reach a potential audience. Even if you do that, there are no guarantees. See Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which was far more deserving of box-office gold than anything with the Marvel tag.
The closest parallel is in music. There are bands who have been around longer than plenty of their fans have been alive. Maybe they've gone decades without releasing a worthwhile album, or any album, but they'll still play live. When they play, crowds will appear and they will scream and dance because the bands play the songs that they know and love. I'm one of those fans. I haven't liked a Cure record since 1992, but that hasn't stopped me from going to see them live.
When you're already a fan of something, you'll give the new product or event a shot because there will be something you like about it, whether it's nostalgia or even a new aspect that you find appealing. The people creating the content don't need to try that hard to get you there. That's the job of the marketing folks - the real heroes of this genre.
2. They're Repetitive and Hype-Driven.
There's a thing called "Marvel fatigue" that Kenneth Turan discusses in his Los Angeles Times review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is a very real thing. I have it. Maybe you have it too. Maybe you're in denial that you have it, so you wrote an angry response to every naysayer out there, even though the critical headline was followed by a story that was totally tl;dr.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are the worst offenders in the hype-driven repetition of superhero movies. You go in knowing that you're going to get at least two hours of mumble-mumble-boom-mumble-mumble-bang-mumble-mumble-crash. Nerd jokes will be followed by a pregnant round of gunfire. It's not just the Stan Lee cameos that leave you with déjà vu; it's the whole damn thing.
The worst part is the interconnectedness of the movies. From a marketing perspective, this is a genius move. It's non-stop promotion. For an audience member who isn't hardcore Marvel, but does like a good movie, it's tedious. Instead of sitting down and watching a movie, you're trapped in a 2 hour-plus commercial for the next wad of cash you'll drop at the theater.
3. The Characters Trump the Director.
Despite the big budgets, studios aren't going to take any major risks with superhero movies, particularly if their franchises are doing well. The directors tend to be established, whether that's in film or with an acclaimed television show. This isn't going to be their star-making gig the way that writing or drawing a major superhero comic has been for plenty of people. (Of course, this is different for the actors; note Tom Hiddleston's star turn as Loki.) Most aren't as easily associated with a director as, for example, Hellboy is distinctively a Guillermo del Toro movie and Batman Returns is obviously Tim Burton's stab at a famed franchise.
That's antithetical to the evolution of comic books over the decades. If you're a longtime reader, you know how comics change with their creative teams. You get to understand the nuances of a character's look in the hands of different artists. You probably have your favorite writers. The best writers and artists catapult characters out of obscurity or make forgotten heroes relevant again (see Ed Brubaker and Captain America). They take the big guns and give them stories that transcend even their own legends. With the Marvel character movies (and this is not exclusive to the Cinematic Universe films), the obvious goal is to just keep the franchises steadily moving. For the love of Odin, can't someone go in and shake things up a bit?