You’re on the edge of your seat, munching on popcorn, watching the protagonist battle the evil villain, wondering if they will succeed with their mission which is, as always, saving the world. Sounds familiar, right?
This is the basis of most superhero films, and we’ve certainly become acquainted with them in recent years. After all, in 2017, five of the 10 highest-grossing movies belonged to this very genre. Even though the first American superhero appeared onscreen in 1939, the current obsession with cinematic adaptations of superhero stories demonstrates that the allure has only increased over time. This is further evidenced by the recent success of Marvel’s Black Widow, recently released on streaming platform Disney+, and which earned a whopping $80 million on its opening weekend.
Based on the long line of successes, we think it’s unlikely Hollywood will stop making these movies. But why exactly are superhero movies so popular with audiences?
They Offer Escapism
Superheroes like Spider-man and Iron Man may have started out as regular people, but through the trademarks of the genre, they’ve evolved into their fantastical states. So, on the one hand, we can relate to their very real and human predicaments, but on the other, we can only admire and envy their superhuman characteristics. For instance, the Hulk is immensely strong and Captain Marvel can fly through space.
These abilities are nonexistent in our everyday reality and the very idea of these powers are quite often flat-out unfathomable. There’s a discord between the genre and our regular lives, which means that when we need a break from the ordinary, we can escape to the Marvel and DC Universes.
The symbolism of the archetypal superhero has become synonymous with ideas of “saving the world” and it’s, therefore, no surprise that the recognizable attributes of capes and masks have been used by other franchises. For example, Rizk Casino, a unique Canadian online casino fronted by ‘Captain Rizk’ (a heroic superhero draped in a black cape), is one example of a business model that has incorporated superheroes as part of their iconography. Featuring an extensive range of online games in the form of slots and live casino experiences, the site also hosts a series of titles such as Superheroes, as well as Thor, Odin and Loki-themed slot games (these Norse mythology figures are also pivotal in the Marvel Universe).
Of course, superhero entertainment serving as a form of escapism is hardly a new concept. When Action Comics published its first issue in 1938, which featured Superman, the protagonist became so popular that he gained his own book title. It sold over 1.2 million copies within a year, and this was happening toward the end of the Great Depression, which suggests the superhero genre has long acted as a way to detach from reality.
There are many common plot elements in superhero movies, including having a dramatic origin story. Perhaps the most notable example from the DC Universe is Bruce Wayne, who unexpectedly and traumatically loses his parents before becoming Batman. Despite the pain, Batman sacrifices himself for the greater good: protecting Gotham.
It’s inspiring to see people who have undergone personal struggles but still look beyond themselves to do what is best for the people around them. Many people would like to think they would do the same, and when superheroes have flaws, we find them relatable.
They Feed Our Imaginations
Superhero movies also feed our imagination. They encourage us to question what we think we know and imagine a variety of possibilities beyond reality as we see it.
Over the past few decades, superheroes have become an integral part of popular culture. They’re ingrained in our society, in both movies and other types of entertainment. Their escapism nature and ability to inspire suggests Hollywood will continue making these movies for years to come.