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While the second biggest opening weekend in domestic cinema history doesn’t seem like painfully coming up short, Avengers Age of Ultron failing to beat The Avengers for opening weekend gross seems to have shocked many people. Personally I blame Floyd Mayweather, as he should be blamed and punished for all the world’s ills, but Vulture’s Kyle Buchanon has a more in-depth examination of possible causes, including: the fight; the downbeat marketing campaign; the been there done that phenomenon; the mixed critical and fan reaction; and…maybe the superhero movie fatigue we’ve all been expecting:

I have no doubt that comic-book movies will continue to make bank, including the looming, two-part Avengers: Infinity War — I just think they’ll be hard-pressed to reach the massive totals that superhero movies made when this shtick all felt a little fresher. The peril to the shared cinematic universe is that they can get awfully packed with stray story lines as time goes on, and all the comic-book minutiae that Age of Ultron expects you to know will be doubled and quadrupled in the years to come, keeping the casual moviegoer at arm’s length. Geeks may cheer as the Avengers add more recruits, but as the Marvel universe grows more populated, the domestic box office for this top-heavy franchise may have topped out.


I’m not sure that adding more and more Marvel characters is the reason for this fatigue—most everyone thought the new Vision was the funnest thing in the movie—but there’s no escaping the fact that the movie was kind of…a marketing plan in search of a story. Even the biggest boosters are now saying that whaddya expect, it was just a great set-up for Avengers: Infinity War….meaning we sat through two and half hours of elements that are just priming the pump for two more movies in three years time that will probably end up setting us up for Avengers: The Clone Saga, and…where does it end?

I’ll admit, one of my favorite things in the movie was the whole Andy Serkis/Klaw segment because unlike many people Andy Serkis does a mean Afrikaner accent, and his whole schtick was over the top and…fun. But let’s get real. Was there ANY STORY REASON for that whole segment other than setting up the Black Panther movie? And setting up the also unnecessary Hulkbuster battle?

The other day I joked to someone that superhero movie fatigue will set in for real whenever they release a Wonder Woman movie…or a Black Panther movie. But I think as entertaining as it was, the noisy, shapeless Age of Ultron may be where the cracks first appeared.

But then again, it WAS the second biggest opening ever even though half the population had to take Sunday off to watch a boxing match.

Even if the public doesn’t have Superhero Movie Fatigue, it’s pretty clear that Joss Whedon does. His three-year contract with Disney is reportedly up in June, and in interviews he hasn’t worked very hard to hide that he’s burnt on all that universe running.

AND NOW SPOILERS

In a just released podcast with Empire magazine, Whedon opens up about many things, including variant scenes, whether you-know-who may have lived, and how much he had to fight to retains the scenes down on Hawkeye’s farm. Vulture has a transcript of some of the best bits:

Whedon explained to Empire that Thor’s cave scene caused a weird sort of chain-reaction drama. Initially, Whedon wanted Thor’s interaction with Erik Selvig to be much more fleshed out, with “Thor getting answers, but he doesn’t have to ask the questions. He’s the guy giving the answers. And [Chris Hemsworth] gets to do something exciting as an actor. And he’s got his fucking shirt off, so everybody wins.” But Marvel execs wanted Whedon to whittle this scene down because it didn’t play well with test audiences. “The dreams were not an executive favorite, either. The dreams, the farmhouse, these were the things I fought to keep.” Although Whedon talks about some of his filmmaking haggling in Avengers diplomatically, he admitted that when it came down to keeping his favorite scenes, things got unpleasant and he had to pick his battles. For instance: “They pointed a gun to the farm’s head. They said, ‘Give us the cave, or we’ll take out the farm.'” Yikes.


This level of filmmaking by committee is of course standard for the MCU and it comes as no surprise, but even though Whedon wanted to make the film MORE crowded by teasing Captain Marvel and Spidey (but contracts weren’t signed) we are getting a little bit into Spider-Man 3 territory here with characters being shoehorned in whether necessary to the director’s ideas or not. And that eventually makes flat, listless movies which fans reject.

Just to cap everything, Whedon quit twitter yesterday, which, given his uneasy relationship with the internet and social media, isn’t really a surprise. There were definitely a lot of ugly comments on Avengers, but Whedon, like all famous people with more than a million followers, gets abuse and dumbass fronting all the time, so it’s not clear if this was the trigger for the removal. A previous EW interview suggests that he was ready to quit months ago::

EW: You’ve quit?

WHEDON: I joined six months ago to specifically try to drive business to Much Ado About Nothing because I figured Much Ado needs all the help it can get. The moment I joined, oh my God, what a responsibility, this is enormous work—very fun, but it really started to take up a huge amount of my head space. I’m making a movie, I got a responsibility, this job doesn’t pay very well. It’s a fascinating medium, it’s a fascinating social phenomenon. People are like, ‘It’s like a drug.’ Yeah, and it’s like a job. It’s just another art form. Until I have a script I truly believe in or a tweet that’s really remarkable, I can just walk away and get back to the storytelling I need to do.


As the exhausted, gaffe strewn media tour for Age of Ultron showed, making these movies is exhausting, Whedon has seemed exhausted for a while, and he deserves a break.

Of course, that didn’t stop GGaters from painting Whedon as the victim of crazy feminists who drove him away by calling him a hypocrite. Or some actual feminists being disappointed with some of the aspects of the Black Widow character in the film. Because there is nothing in the world that can’t become part of GGate,

Joss Whedon may have the right idea after all.
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34 COMMENTS

  1. My guess is, after Ant-Man and Fantastic Four post underwhelming numbers, this will be a thing we hear a lot of.

    The real litmus test will be Batman v Superman and Civil War. Has potential audience apathy to Man of Steel and (maybe) Age of Ultron soured those next big films? Or will Spider-Man and Batman be enough to balloon them back into the hearts and minds of viewers?

    We still, of course, have to see what next weekend brings for Age of Ultron, but the fear of audience front-loading is indeed a real thing with these types of films. Who knew that Furious 7 had the potential to be 2015’s surprise zeitgeist movie?

  2. “, it was just a great set-up for Avengers: Infinity War….meaning we sat through two and half hours of elements that are just priming the pump for two more movies in three years time that will probably end up setting us up for Avengers: The Clone Saga, and…where does it end?”

    – So apparently now Marvel’s MOVIES accomplish the same thing as their quarterly events mini-series? Absolutely nothing except setting up the next one, and taking a lot of fanboy’s money? ;)

  3. The worst parts of this movie were these little indie character moments he tried to ram in there. He should’ve picked a different battle. Hawkeye didn’t need a family.

    You gotta love the zeal to be the first to predict a bubble bursting just so you can be the first one to do it.

  4. The big problem is the non stop marketing for these movies – for the past 6 months it has been wall to wall news on Ultron. In the era of social media , every day there are a million stories, clips and interviews about Marvel movies especially Ultron. By the time this movie came out , I was already burnt out on it .

  5. This former fanboy (with the cluster for watching Howard the Duck and Superman III on opening day) has a bit of the fatigue already. There are numerous superhero movies I have not watched, including two in the MCU.

    Ant-Man will do well. Not GotG numbers, but respectable for a new Marvel movie.
    The problem/trap is this: the singular movies are good, using various genres. But if one is successful, then a sequel is necessary. Can there be an interesting Ant-Man trilogy? Captain Marvel? Black Panther? Does the schedule allow for all these sequels?

    I also agree about the continuity conglomeration. Sure, you can have foreshadowing and Easter eggs, but the Marvel Movie Marathon from last week shows the problem. Pretty soon, Marvel will have to release prequels, clip movies where all the “what has come before” stuff is shown, so that viewers will have an understanding of what happens in the movie.

    And Heidi? Whedon pulled a Hulk, not a Hawkeye. “Oh! It’s so sad! Fat man in a little car…”

  6. I enjoyed the movie a lot. Everyone at the shop did as well. Are we sure the consensus is that people are getting tired of superhero movies? Or is this simply an industry insider thing?

  7. This headline combined with this article neatly summarizes the state of modern comics culture, if not “geek media” or “entertainment journalism” outright. We’re talking about a movie that has made over half a billion dollars before opening in the largest movie market in the world, with the number two biggest US opening in HISTORY. Yet the dominating headlines for this movie are “didn’t meet expectations” and “underperformed” because it failed to be the number one biggest US opening in the history of cinema. This is insane thinking, this article’s author is insane for writing this piece without providing any numerical data, and this website’s editors are insane for repeatedly parroting this mindset. The story is not “why did this major movie fail to meet expectations?” it’s “why are those expectations so out of line with what a reasonable person would think?” It’s “who has these expectations, and what is making them have such expectations?”

    The answer, of course, is in plain sight, but it’s not something that any site heavily reliant on traffic or freelancer heavily reliant on maximizing articles written would trumpet. For if anything’s going to contribute to “superhero fatigue” and unrealistic expectations, it’s the nonstop cavalcade of coordinated marketing hype disguised as news coverage for movies that are 1-2 years away from release.

  8. I do not think it is fatigue. Age of Ultron did 20 million less than the Avengers, but Age of Ultron is now number #2 in all time first weekend results. One second to the first Avengers. The boxing match was watched by over 40 million views this past Saturday. If 5 million of those viewers went to Ager of Ultron rather than watching the boxing match, Age of Ultron would be #1 in all time box office weekend return.

  9. Whedon does deserve to be called a hypocrite for calling Jurasic World sexist while making a film in which Black Widow is reduced to being the Hulk’s girlfriend and we meet Hawkeye’s wife and she’s got no life beyond being pregnant and waiting for her man to come home.

  10. I think the problem is the formula is the same for all these movies. The best movies (Avengers1, Winter soldier,GOTG) Kept their villains alive at the end of the movie which adds intrigue. In all the others, they take out the villain within the movie

  11. I didn’t even realize that was Klaw and I just liked that poor, put-upon incidental character who was a billionaire one second and dismembered the next. That’s one bit that actually might be MORE effective if you don’t know comics, because sure, NOW I can see that the idea was to create a one-armed Wakandan weapons-running billionaire for the Black Panther to fight. But it felt organic.

    As for the Hulkbuster fight, I’m pretty sure big, rockin’ fights between characters I care about IS the point of a superhero movie. And sorry, Golgantha, but it’s the “indie” character moments that make me care.

    But I agree with smartone: after the first trailer, I started avoiding Avengers marketing in the hopes that I’d see SOMETHING that’d surprise me in the actual movie.

    “Superhero fatigue” is inevitable. It’s a mark of the desire for something stable in our uncertain times and Marvel’s solid planning that it’s taken this long to develop. The decade’s slate of movies seem seriously overplanned and overstuffed– can you imagine Meg Ryan at the peak of her career talking about the full list of romantic comedies she had planned over the course of the next five years?

    Honestly, a LITTLE healthy fatigue might be good for the superhero movie in the long run. Longtime superhero fans know that when a gimmick starts to become a license to print money, the quality drops as the quantity rises until the market corrects the imbalance.

  12. I don’t agree with the assumption that superhero fatigue has set in either. I dug the flick and am looking forward to most of the upcoming ones too. I have three kids aged from 13 to 26 and they and, from what they tell me, most of their friends are totally into these movies and tv shows. Even moreso than I am.

    If anything, this is just more of the fetid malaise that infects the comics-sphere in the internet in general.

  13. People have to complain about something. Out of thousands of movies produced every year, the 15 or so superhero/comic book movies made from all studios doesn’t seem like overkill to me. DC, Sony, and Warner Brothers/Vertigo are still trying to get their movie slates/shared universes together. This is a great time to be a comics fanatic. I don’t see Ant-Man doing anything close to Avengers numbers but I’m more looking forward to Dr. Strange, Deadpool, and Sandman if they ever give a release date for that one. Of course, Star Wars, even though the comics started after the movie. If it’s good, people will watch it. Daredevil on Netflix is proof. Matt Damon nearly ruined that character for me but Charlie Cox and crew turned it around.

  14. No way….it will go strong for a long time.

    The Fantastic Four will be a flop because, it is being boycotted and not for any other reason you try to create as a cover up theory. Most people know this.

    As for Ant Man, it will do OK for a minor character, with a late in the season release date.

  15. I think the movie needed more scenes like the farm and not less. The character building scenes were the only thing that kept me engaged. My tolerance for watching things getting destroyed and characters pummeling each other was exhausted early on. By the time the awkwardly edited climactic battle came I was bored out of my mind.

  16. Strangely enough, parts of the boxing media are suggesting that Mayweather vs. Pacquiao did not meet projected targets and pulled in just over 3m PPV buys in the US. This is about 600,000 more than the De La Hoya vs. Mayweather fight. The actual number of people who watched Saturday’s boxing match will be more given that some will have watched the fight with friends or via illegal streaming. But still, 40m watching the fight seems awfully high.

    Jonny

  17. Kyle Pinion said: “Who knew that Furious 7 had the potential to be 2015’s surprise zeitgeist movie?”

    A bigger surprise was that AMERICAN SNIPER, an R-rated drama with a downbeat ending, was the top-grossing film of 2014. It had plenty of action and violence, but was far from the CGI-heavy popcorn movie that has dominated the box office for over a decade. Is this what people want now? More realistic drama and fewer plots about the impending destruction of the world (if not the universe)?

    “My guess is, after Ant-Man and Fantastic Four post underwhelming numbers, this will be a thing we hear a lot of.”

    After those two kiddie FF flicks from Tim Storey, I have no enthusiasm for another FF movie. Maybe if Scorsese or the Coen Brothers were directing. But they’re not. ANT-MAN looks like a comedy. The humorous GUARDIANS worked last year, so maybe ANTI-MAN will work, too. We won’t know until it opens.

  18. Superhero movies aren’t nearly as pervasive as some people think they are. At most we get 4 or 5 superhero movies at year. In the 1950s there were more than 50 Westerns released every year. The difference is that those Westerns didn’t cost $200M and up (even adjusted for inflation) and the hype didn’t completely dominate the media for years before each one was released.

    Of course, there was no Internet in the ’50s to feed endless “news” tidbits to geeks.

    In a perfect world, superhero movies would be as varied as Westerns were 60 years ago, when there were wholesome cowboy movies for kids and brooding psychological Westerns for adults. Why does every superhero movie have to be rated PG-13? Aside from WATCHMEN, I can’t think of an R-rated superhero movie based on a DC or Marvel property. (I don’t regard the Punisher as a superhero.)

    These movies cost so much, they have to appeal to “everyone” to make a profit; hence the PG-13. But the more expensive a project gets, the more “filmmaking by committee” we get. At this point I’d rather see a quirky, individual vision, even if it results in an R rating and fewer tickets sold. Oops, the firing of Edgar Wright showed what happens to people with quirky, individual visions.

  19. The biggest problem that Disney has with this release date is that the weekdays following are very weak. Kids are still in school, so the Monday-Thursday box office will be much lower than movies released after Memorial Day.

    Marvel has released three movies mid-summer:
    Incredible Hulk 21/18/16 ($millions, Fri-Sat-Sun)
    Captain America: First Avenger 26/22/17
    Guardians of the Galaxy 38/31/25

    Guardians had great word of mouth, and kept the #1 or #2 weekly spot through Labor Day. The other two had standard attrition, and are the two lowest movies in terms of total box office for the MCU (followed by Thor 1).

    As with most blockbusters, Ant-Man needs to hit $200 Million to be a success. If it has good word-of-mouth, it could do well through August. But you’ve got Pixels, Mission Impossible, Fantastic Four, Vacation (with Thor!), and UNCLE following. (I liked the UNCLE trailer. It could be a sleeper.)

  20. I love the fact that a film that has already made double its production budget worldwide after just its first weekend in the US is being seen as kicking off the era of superhero fatigue. Yes, it is lagging behind the first one when it comes to domestic grosses, but has already made over $643 million worldwide and it hasn’t even opened in mainland China or Japan yet!

    That being said, as I mentioned in my review I linked to above, the exorbitant numbers of characters led to the film be less exciting than that the original. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision were cool, but they added nothing to the narrative that couldn’t have been shown through other means. The time setting up their backstories could have been spent to the make Ultron a more interesting threat.

  21. Feminists mad at joss? What a cock up. The man runs a foundation making money for feminism, every single one of his female characters is powerful in some way. That sounds like crazy talk to me.

  22. Superhero fatigue started with the Spider-Man reboot. The quality of a movie doesn’t contribute to fatigue. It’s existence does. Disney/Marvel will be the primary reason the genre dies here in a few years (and it will, regardless if the movies are good). Their dvertising campaigns are far, faaaaar to aggressive. Avengers 2 really pushed people’s patients. They’ll just keep getting worse. I loved the movie, but I was sick of it by the time it started because Disney ensured it was EVERYWHERE for MONTHS on end. And I love superhero movies. Imagine people that are indifferent to them.

  23. Americans may be getting tired of superheroes — and other overblown GCI spectacles — but these films still clean up overseas. Asia is the main reason these expensive action movies keep coming. The Chinese have paid $330M so far to see FURIOUS 7; most analysts expect it to rake in more money in China than in the U.S.

    You can bet that Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner are thinking about the Asian market when they conceive their movies. In fact, they probably devote more time to studying China than any other country.

  24. I don’t think it’s fatigue per se — just that the bar is genuinely that high now for superhero movies. These movies are in a context now, just like with any franchise.

  25. The Great Superhero Backlash has been predicted constantly over the past ten years. My patience is gone so I’m down to just saying “Just shut up already.” Seriously, buddy cop movies are still being made, romantic comedies are still being made, sci-fi movies are still being made, misc epic disaster movies are still being made, and so on and so on. Hell, we even still get the occasional western and war movies. Sure, there might come a point where fewer superhero movies are made but they’re never going away – never.

    But ‘fewer’ doesn’t mean they’re a failed or hated genre. And ‘fewer’ is relative. There might be just one or two a year, which is fine. But in the meantime, after 75-ish years since the dawn of superheroes, we’re finally getting a fairly consistent batch of quality live action movies about them (yes, there are flops mixed in as well). Let’s just enjoy the ride while it lasts and stop with the doom and gloom.

  26. I think there will be good super hero movies and bad ones… And there will be great ones!

    As a comics fan in general (and someone who draws many) I think this is just a fantastic time for comics in general and will open up many doors to the artform as well. People are excited about characters Jack Kirby created in the 60s (yeah Stan too). But wow man! These movies don’t even need to make billions as a benchmark for fatigue or not…. Dollar signs shouldn’t be the litmus test really. Hell? I think Daredevil on Netflix was my favorite hero thing in the past year…. But Cap 2 and Avengers 2 are close seconds!

  27. I loved it. I think it was more fun, for comics fans, than he first one. It just got into the action and assumed you’ve seen all the other films.

  28. Saw it yesterday and had a pretty good time. It lacked the excitement and freshness of the first movie — the diminishing returns of sequels at work — but overall it’s worth seeing.

    Elizabeth Olsen steals every shot she appears in. I’ll be first in line for a Scarlet Witch solo movie (not that I expect to see such a thing; if Ike Perlmutter has his way, there will never be a female superhero movie from Marvel).

  29. it was that list of movies both marvel and disney released . thats what caused this. nobody was really thinking oh not another one till that happend

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