Superman Returns, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man; it seems the list of superhero movies since the dawn of the 21st century goes on and on. The revival of the genre has surpassed all expectations, with six of the top 12 highest opening-weekend box office grosses being held by superhero movies. There are many theories as to why these films have become and remained so popular over the last decade, from desperate attempts to escape to an honest yearning for real-life heroes.
Some experts consider most movies to be forms of escapism. They are traditionally meant to be a blend of education and entertainment, and superhero films tend heavily toward the latter element. These movies tend to be powerhouses of action, stunts and excitement, immersing the audience in a colorful and fully-realized world. Watching a superhero movie is a great chance to relax and not think about stress or difficult things in your life.
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Historically, during times of war, films have become a hotbed of patriotism and heroic films. Since the 2002 beginning of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, America and much of the world have been enmeshed in the local and global repercussions of armed conflict. Superheroes are quite similar to military personnel in some ways; they are charged with bringing peace, fighting violently if necessary, and trying to maintain a normal life. Some audience members may relate to that concept, either on a personal level or in relation to their ideas about war and any current world situations.
Moreover, most superheroes serve as a hope-inspiring figure, an image of someone who can save us all from dark and difficult times. Superhero movies promote the ideas of peace, safety and freedom. Some experts consider this message a necessary reassurance in difficult times. Unlike during earlier wars, the message in the movies isn’t about the country succeeding, but recognition that there are others with similar hope for a peaceful future.
Aside from the global and psychological reasons, superhero movies are just a lot of fun. Since the success of the first recent examples of the genre, like X-Men and Spiderman, the Hollywood film industry has begun throwing huge amounts of money at the films, to great effect. Most of the big-earning superhero films of the 21st century are written, acted, and technically produced by the best minds in the film business. Despite the glut of available films in the genre, they continue to have near-universal success; in 2008, The Dark Knight was released and shattered box-office records, making back nearly its entire production budget of $185 million dollars in the first weekend.
Superhero movies are many things to many people. To comic book lovers, they are the realization of their favorite worlds. To those feeling the strain of economic, personal, or national problems, they are a welcome escape for a few hours. Regardless of why people see superhero films, it seems pretty clear that the genre is riding a nearly unprecedented wave of popularity across the world. So grab your popcorn and your chocolate and look for a good seat in the middle of the row, because it looks like superhero films will continue to have a wild ride.