Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek On Superhero Fatigue For Marvel Studios
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Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek Weighs In On Superhero Fatigue For Marvel Studios

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BY March 4, 2021

pop culture, especially in the movie business, trends often change. In the 1950s and 1960s, westerns were the biggest thing. In the 1970s, dark films with anti-heroes and “tragic” endings were all the rage. Today, however, what moviegoing audiences want are big, sci-fi franchises. Yet, since all things inevitably end, industry watchdogs warn of the eventual superhero movie fatigue that will mean the end of the dominance of these massive franchises. Well, Disney CEO Bob Chapek weighed in the idea of superhero fatigue, and how it can affect their biggest properties. He didn’t have much of an answer, but he’s not really worried about it.

Remember, when the first Iron Man film came out in 2008, already some were saying the superhero “fad” was over. The biggest franchises at the time were Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Nolan Batman films. Both Spidey and the mutants of Marvel released poorly-received sequels. Even the final Dark Knight film received less-than-stellar reviews from fans and critics. So, when Marvel announced their own studio and B-list hero Iron Man as their flagship star, people scoffed.

Fast-forward a decade, and we see that Avengers: Endgame is the biggest film of all time. Even Joker earned the accomplishment of being the biggest R-rated film of all time, sending 1970s wunderkind Martin Scorsese into a revamped version of his “action movies aren’t cinema” schtick. Today, comic book movies—or, at least, genre movies with comic book elements—are more popular than ever before. While this may not last forever, it feels like these sort of movies are less a fad than the evolution of the big-budget blockbuster.

Superhero Movie Fatigue Doesn’t Worry Bob Chapek

Bob Chapek superhero fatigue best movies 2019 Image via Marvel Studios

The topic came up at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference in a discussion Ben Swinburne had Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek. Swinburne, a research executive at Morgan Stanley, asked Chapek how he planned to avoid the fatigue as Disney ramps up production on Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm projects for Disney+. Swinburne noted that other studios, specifically Warner Bros. and their DC pantheon of heroes, hasn’t enjoyed the same success as Marvel. So, the question to Bob Chapek was less about superhero movie fatigue and more about why Disney was successful where others weren’t.

Chapek replied:

“If you look at it, we’ve averaged over a $1 billion of film since the acquisition of both Lucas and Marvel, which I think is an absolutely incredible statistic. And it goes to speak to the talent of not only Kevin and his team, but Kathy Kennedy and her team over at Lucas. We’re really fortunate to have both groups being led by such stellar creative talent….  And they are just going to keep on growing because of the great creative talent we have.”

Chapek went on to discuss how the offerings from Marvel Studios for Disney+ are all so different. There is, of course, WandaVision which is unlike any superhero series ever, save perhaps for Legion. Then there will be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which reads more like an action-thriller than mind-bending examination of trauma. Finally, there’s the forthcoming Loki which feels closer to WandaVision than anything, but also adds the element of multiversal time-travel. This is why “comic book” is not a narrow genre like westerns or musicals, but broader like “period piece” or “romantic comedy.” Rooted in fantasy and sci-fi, comic book stories run the gamut of genres and provide endless opportunities to tell compelling, human, and weird stories.

Bob Chapek superhero fatigue Black Lightning Final Season Trailer CW Justice League Image via screengrab

Chapek is correct when he says that it all boils down to the creative teams behind the stories. Part of the problem the “Distinguished Competition” (as Stan Lee used to call them) had was that their shared feature film universe felt forced in the way that the Arrowverse did not. By diversifying the voices telling these stories, Marvel Studios ensures that their output will stay fresh in world flush with superheroes.

What do you think? Do you agree with Bob Chapek that Marvel Studios doesn’t have to worry about superhero fatigue, so long as they tell great stories? Share your thoughts below.

Featured image via Marvel Studios

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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