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Are live-action superhero movies entering their flop era?

2023 is the year of superhero fatigue, as movies like ‘The Flash’ and ‘Shazam 2’ lose out at the box office.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

While Across the Spider-Verse continues to make bank, every live-action superhero movie in 2023 has underperformed at the box office, ranging from mild disappointments to outright disasters.

Shazam: Fury of the Gods (DC) is a flop and The Flash is following in its footsteps. Meanwhile in the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania achieved the franchise’s lowest ticket sales outside of early pandemic releases, and even the popular Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 underperformed on its box office projections. This follows two high-profile flops last year, Morbius and Black Adam.

So, has superhero fatigue finally arrived? The answer appears to be yes—although that doesn’t mean audiences are sick of the entire superhero genre. People are just tired of seeing the same kind of movie again and again.

Across the Spider-Verse proves that audiences are still excited about superhero movies when they’re bold and artistically accomplished. Meanwhile, Shazam 2, Ant-Man 3, and The Flash all earned mediocre reviews, sharing a similar (and ugly) aesthetic to numerous other films.

The real reason why audiences are tired of superhero movies

This week pundits are debating why The Flash is so unpopular (Ezra Miller; confusing DC franchise lore; bad CGI) but it may boil down to a more simple explanation: The Flash didn’t give people a compelling reason to buy tickets.

Last year’s biggest hits, Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick, felt like major events, combining critical acclaim with extensive hype around high-quality stunts and visual effects.

By contrast, the DC and Marvel franchises face growing criticism for reusing old formulas and failing to correct recurring flaws. Critiques of “MCU humor” and bad CGI/lighting are now part of the mainstream conversation around these movies.

This is an ominous sign for the rest of the year’s superhero releases: The Marvels (which looks like a very standard MCU crossover), Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (another relic of the Zack Snyder era), Blue Beetle (a straightforward DC origin story) and Kraven the Hunter (an ill-advised Spider-Man villain spinoff that may well be the next Morbius).

Only two of these films have well-known headliners, and none of them look notably distinctive. After years of relying on the same old formulas, these studios are about to find out if audiences are still hungry for more of the same.

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