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The entertainment industry is cyclical. Always has been, and always will be. Things that are popular now likely will not be popular a few years from now, just as things that were popular in, say, the ‘80s and ‘90s aren’t moving the needle anymore. (Sorry, hair-metal bands and manufacturers of acid-washed jeans.) So when Steven Spielberg predicted the demise of the superhero genre, a few people nodded their heads in agreement, and then Twitter went and acted like Twitter.
Let’s back up. Spielberg was speaking with The AP about his upcoming Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks, and the film industry in general. He was asked about the current, dominant genre of superhero films, and the prolific A-list filmmaker said that they’d eventually go "the way of the Western," meaning that Hollywood used to make a ton of them, and now they are rare. Specifically, Spielberg said:
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."
Steven Spielberg isn’t speaking off-the-cuff. He’s speaking as a student of this industry, from the standpoint of a seasoned veteran who has seen how genres can rise and fall in the eye of a fickle public. His statements make sense, as no genre has managed to sustain the consistency of the current superhero crop. And while I don’t believe that the industry is facing a "Superhero Fatigue," as has been discussed in certain corners, I do think that like the Western, we’ll eventually see a decrease in the number of superhero films that are generated by the studio system in a decade, after numerous storylines have been explored and primary characters have played out their run. There are only so many times you can reboot the likes of Spider-Man, Batman and the X-Men before the general assembly moves on to the next shiny bauble.
On Twitter, meanwhile, superhero-movie enthusiasts reacted… well, they weren’t pleased:
You get the idea. Steven Spielberg doesn’t need superhero movies to exist. In case you missed the memo, he’s filthy rich, and yet, has always stood up for the art of storytelling over the pursuit of commerce. His comments likely are accurate, and it’s more a matter of when the cycle will slow down, rather than "if" it will ever decrease in speed. What do you think? Are superhero movies on borrowed time? Or do we have decades of great stories still to come? Weigh in below.