Earlier this week, Steven Spielberg gave his opinion on the superhero genre, and felt that it was likely to go the same way as the western—it would die and there would only be sporadic entries in the genre thereafter.
At the recent press day for his directorial debut Before We Go, Chris Evans, who is one of the pillars of the current superhero boom, gave his response to Spielberg’s belief that eventually the superhero genre will die out and give way to something else.
Evans agreed that what’s really driving the genre right now is the technology, and that technology isn’t exclusive to superhero films: I certainly think that given the fact that technology has finally advanced, they’re always going to be looking for other films to match their technological accomplishments. Any film that can incorporate these larger-than-life characters and fantastical locations and plots, the technology wants to prove they can do it so whether it’s superhero film or fantasy in general, that’s going to surge for a while.
He continued that it’s important to figure out how we define “superhero” movies, and that the genre can thrive as long as there are fresh approaches: In terms of superhero in general, existing properties that we know and love, it’s going to be a matter of the tone they strike. You could look at Jason Bourne as a superhero. You could take any superhero movie and if you ground it enough, if you make it real enough—that’s what I think [Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Joe and Anthony Russo] do really well. Certain superhero movies feel like “superhero movies.” Russo movies almost feel like human stories with a little bit of superhero sprinkled in. So you might get exhausted of the larger-than-life powers I suppose, but as long as the filmmakers keep on reinventing the flavor and the approach and the tone, audiences are going to still go.
Of course, the western was also approached in a variety of ways before it eventually flamed out. That didn’t happen in a bubble, and historical forces outside of the film industry (namely, the Vietnam War) contributed to the decline of the Western, and it’s difficult to know what, if anything, will spell the end of the superhero genre.
What’s certain is that it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon, and it will certainly be thriving when Evans returns to it with Captain America: Civil War, which opens May 6, 2016.