Superhero mania as Avengers: Endgame released
After 11 years and 22 films in the Marvel universe, Avengers: Endgame is finally here. It could be one of the most successful films ever. Why do we love superhero movies so much?
In June 1938, Action Comics #1 appeared in American stores. It told the story of a man who is “faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive”. He resolved to use his powers for the good of humanity, and called himself Superman.
Eighty years later, Avengers: Infinity War turned the superhero formula on its head. Instead of good triumphing over evil, Thanos snapped his fingers — and half of all life in the universe disintegrated into dust.
For a year, shocked fans have waited to learn the fates of Black Panther, Spider Man and their companions. After yesterday’s release of Avengers: Endgame, they finally have their answer.
Over 11 years and 22 films, Marvel has built up a sprawling universe of superheroes and one of the most-successful film franchises in history.
Endgame is widely expected to be one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Last year, superhero movies made up six of the top 10 highest-grossing films worldwide, including three of the top four.
Why can we not get enough?
While Superman has been seen as slick but one-dimensional, Marvel’s superheroes are goofy, fun and flawed.
“So, Spider Man is a relatable, young guy who has to deal with the boring bits of teenage life, and the Fantastic Four have these family feuds,” explains Dr Kate Roddy, who has published a book of essays about superheroes. “That note of humanity gets introduced.”
Today, superhero stories not only reflect the changing world around them, but even help to drive progress.
In March, Captain Marvel became the first female-led Marvel film. Its protagonist is the most powerful superhero in the Marvel universe.
But despite the many victories of feminism, it was a controversial milestone. In the run-up to the film’s release, Rotten Tomatoes blocked early reviews after trolls tried to sabotage the film.
In 2017, Black Panther featured a predominantly black cast in the futuristic kingdom of Wakanda that subverted racist stereotypes of Africa as impoverished or primitive.
It went on to be the first superhero movie to receive an Oscar nomination and the second-highest grossing film of 2018 (behind only Avengers: Infinity Wars).
Who do we love superheroes so much? Is it sheer spectacle and escapism? Or is it because these super-humans are just that — human? They are driven by the same desires and insecurities as us, yet still do good. As film critic Adam Markovitz puts it, we want to see them learn “not how to be super, but how to be heroes”.
When we meet our heroes at the start of Avengers: Endgame, they are in deep mourning, but not defeated. Perhaps, we love superheroes because they show us qualities we all aspire to: determination, honour and inner-strength.
- Do you like superhero films?
- Why do you think superheroes are so popular?
- Design your own superhero with their own special name, powers and costume.
- Create a one-page comic strip, featuring a superhero and a villain. Write some tense dialogue between your characters.
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What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Avengers: Endgame was released in cinemas yesterday. So far, it has received positive reviews and has a 96% rating on film review website Rotten Tomatoes. It is the 22nd film in the Marvel cinematic universe of superhero movies, and a direct sequel to last year’s Avengers: Infinity War. Six of the 22 movies have grossed more than $1 billion.
- What do we not know?
- Why superhero films are so popular with the public, or if the trend will last for much longer. How much money Avengers: Endgame will make on its opening weekend.
- Thanos’s finger snap has spread across the internet as a meme since the last Avengers film was released.
- 11 years
- The first was Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr in 2008.
- Of all time
- A record currently held by Avatar, which grossed over $2.7 billion worldwide in 2009. Avengers: Infinity War is the fourth-highest grossing movie ever.
- The brand has a long-term rivalry with DC Comics, which produced Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. DC films have been less successful in recent years.
- Rotten Tomatoes
- During the row, lead actress Brie Larson was accused of discriminating against white men when she criticised the film industry for being dominated by white, male reviewers.
- A fictional country in sub-Saharan Africa. It first appeared in a 1966 Fantastic Four comic.