Paul Dano as The Riddler in The Batman

Paul Dano Knows Why Comic Book Films Are Flailing

Leave it to the erstwhile Riddler himself, Paul Dano, to explain why superhero films are struggling. The formerly bulletproof genre had a rough 2023, with both Marvel and DC Studios releasing underperforming films.

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Marvel got tripped up in their ever-expanding mythology, which led to a lackluster reception for films and series like Secret Invasion, The Marvels, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. After firing future franchise villain Kang due to Jonathan Majors’ assault conviction, the company has paused to rethink its future.

DC Studios hasn’t fared much better, with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom underperforming after its predecessor earned over $1 billion at the global box office. Parent company Warner Bros. was also heavily criticized for shelving Batgirl despite finishing production on the film.

And the less said about Sony’s Spider-Verse and the disastrous Madame Web, the better.

Dano discussed the dire state of the superhero genre during an interview with The Independent. The actor starred as the Riddler in 2022’s The Batman, which was both a critical and commercial hit.

“It’s an interesting moment where everybody has to go like, ‘OK – what now?’ Hopefully from that, somebody either breathes new life into [comic book movies], or something else blossoms which is not superheroes. I’m sure there will still be some good ones yet to come, but I think it’s kind of a welcome moment.”

“It’s a larger thing, too,” he continues. “As soon as the word ‘content’ came into what we do – meaning making movies or TV – it meant quantity over quality, which I think was a big misstep. And I certainly don’t need that as a viewer or as an artist.”

Dano is right: The comic book genre couldn’t remain on top forever, and the intense demand naturally churned out inferior entertainment. No genre dominates the box office forever and audiences crave fresh stories and perspectives. Of course, studios won’t stop making superhero films anytime soon. But they may be more judicious in choosing what makes it to the big screen.

(featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures)


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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.