The Russo Brothers Blame Superhero Fatigue on Everything But Bad Movies

The Russo Brothers are joining the Hollywood chorus in insisting that everything is to blame for people turning away from movies except the movies. In an exclusive talk with GamesRadar, the online wing of British entertainment magazine Total Film, at the Sands: International Film Festival in Scotland, the Russos denied the existence of “superhero fatigue” and gave their take on why so many films – especially Marvel ones – are bombing at the box office.

First, Joe Russo talked about how the younger generation consumes media and how that has changed moviegoing habits:

“There’s a big generational divide about how you consume media. There’s a generation that’s used to appointment viewing and going to a theater on a certain date to see something, but it’s ageing out. Meanwhile the new generation are ‘I want it now, I want to process it now,’ then moving onto the next thing, which they process whilst doing two other things at the same time. You know, it’s a very different moment in time than it’s ever been. And so I think everyone, including Marvel, is experiencing the same thing, this transition. And I think that really is probably what’s at play more than anything else.”

“We have never collectively, globally, processed our conversation so intimately and quickly as we do now. I think that creates problems, where we over-process and don’t care about context anymore. We communicate through memes and headlines, with nobody reading past two sentences, so everything’s 100 characters or less – or 10-second videos on social media you swipe through. I think that the two-hour format, the structure that goes into making a movie, it’s over a century old now and everything always transitions. So, there is something happening again and that form is repetitive. But it’s hard to reinvent that form and I think this next generation is looking for ways to tell their own stories that service their own sort of collective ADHD.”

Yeah, it’s TikTok’s fault that nobody watches movies anymore. Everybody was all set for The Marvels till some nineteen-year-old lip-synced to Journey in her laundry room, and we all just stayed home. It doesn’t matter that social media and the “collective ADHD” of the younger generation existed when the Russo Brothers’ last Marvel movie, Avengers: Endgame, raked in over two and a half billion dollars. That was only five years ago; the people who made that film one of the biggest successes of all time are not living in retirement homes now. Even since then, we’ve had massive hits like Top Gun: Maverick, Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and, to bring it back to Marvel, Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s the same audience, and they’re seeing what they want to see while ignoring what they know or expect will be crap; they’re also going back to see movies that were good or entertaining, while the lousy films are one-and-dones for anyone who sees them. People wanted to relive the experience of watching three cinematic Peter Parkers team up to fight some classic Spider-Man villains, just as they wanted to see Captain America lift Thor’s hammer and wallop Thanos again and again. But nobody wants to see Cassie Lang insult her father or Lady Thor give Gorr the God Butcher a feminist lecture on adjectives more than once.

It’s easy to pick on Joe Russo for this – really easy – but this has been going on for the past few years. Ask anyone connected to Hollywood, be it a filmmaker, an actor, a producer, an executive, or an entertainment media reporter, why people don’t go to the movies anymore, and they’ll blame everything except the actual problem. These people are still saying it’s COVID; that’s how desperate their spin-doctoring is. Earlier this year, Kevin Smith explained the struggles his movie theater has faced with COVID while in the same interview talking about how his screenings of older movies sell out, along with Barbie and Oppenheimer. But no one will admit that movies have, by and large, not been very good lately, and people are sick of paying increasingly high ticket prices for a poorly-written story with endless political finger-wagging from actors who can’t stop telling us how much they hate us, bolstered by shoddy special effects.

And, in typical Hollywood fashion, Anthony Russo helps make that point:

“I think it’s fatigue in general. The superhero fatigue question was around long before the work we were doing. So, it’s sort of an eternal complaint, like we always used to cite this back in our early days with superhero work. People used to complain about [Westerns] in the same way but they lasted for decades and decades and decades. They were continually reinvented and brought to new heights as they went on.”

Yep. He’s right; people were talking about the possibility of superhero fatigue in the MCU’s heyday. And filmmakers like the Russo Brothers, Joss Whedon, James Gunn, and more dispelled that by making movies people enjoyed. When the movies started sucking, people stopped going. Eternals and The Marvels and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania didn’t bomb because people had just discovered YouTube; they bombed because they were awful, the movies around them were awful, and the people who showed up on opening weekend didn’t go back. (Can you imagine sitting through Eternals twice? At least the waiting room at a doctor’s office has old magazines.) Conversely, it’s why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 had the box office journey it had; the opening weekend was a dud, but as word of mouth spread that Marvel had actually made a good one again, more people started going or went back for seconds. It’s also why Thor: Love and Thunder dropped like a rock in the weeks following its premiere. Make a good movie, and people will go to the theater to see it.

Marvel still has the problem of trust, though. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was ultimately a success, but a modest one because people were so wary of the MCU at that point, and the opening weekend underperformed mightily. And the movie that followed it, The Marvels, didn’t benefit from its performance because people figured Guardians 3 was an anomaly, a one-off return to form made by a guy who had just left for the Distinguished Competition, and The Marvels would once again derail the train. The upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine will likely follow the same pattern, although I think it will make a lot more money than Guardians 3 did. I’m far from the first person who’s said this, but I think Marvel will have to make a string of good movies – and preferably great ones – to regain the audience’s trust; they need at least three in a row to convince their old fans that their brand is back on track.

But that doesn’t seem possible, and this is the truth of superhero fatigue, or any kind of fatigue, really: it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. People are tired of superhero movies because superhero movies are bad, but the people making superhero movies refuse to make them better, aside from the occasional Guardians 3 or (barring a major disappointment) Deadpool & Wolverine. Hollywood will keep making terrible films, audiences will keep staying away, and Hollywood will behave like the moron who keeps telling that same awful cocktail party joke that never gets a laugh, blaming everyone but himself for blowing it and, ultimately, becoming his own punchline.

Comments (2)

April 30, 2024 at 12:17 am

NONE OF US have superhero fatigue.


    April 30, 2024 at 4:40 pm

    They know it, too; they just won’t say it out loud or do anything about it, like junkies.

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