Did Captain America save superhero movies?

After a summer of poorly received comic-book films, Marvel's most patriotic costumed hero wins over critics — and renews hope for the genre

"Captain America: The First Avenger"
(Image credit: Facebook/Captain America)

Tortured by a series of underperforming, critically-panned superhero flicks (Here's looking at you, Green Lantern), critics and industry insiders began writing obituaries for the superhero genre. But Captain America: The First Avenger — which tells the story of a Nazi-clobbering super soldier who saves America from the Third Reich — has earned great reviews, and raked in $65 million at the box office this weekend. Did Captain America rescue the genre? (Watch a trailer for the film.)

Surprise, surprise — superhero films are still popular after all: "People who think moviegoers are suffering from superhero fatigue were wrong," says Dorothy Pomerantz at Forbes. This film outperformed box-office expectations, taking in $20 million more than predicted. The success of Captain America is good news for superhero films, especially The Avengers, the superhero ensemble movie starring Captain America that is set to be released next May.

"Superhero moves here to stay: Captain America tops box office"

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But the well is running dry: The "boom in superhero movies" that began in 2000, when computer-generated imagery became a popular filmmaking tool, may have depleted the supply, says David Lieberman at Deadline. "Studios have already tapped their hottest properties" with films about identifiable, popular heroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, and, now, Captain America. As studios "dig deeper into catalogues" for new characters — coming up with oddballs like Jonah Hex or The Green Lantern — "the chances of finding a breakout property are diminishing fast."

"Report: Studios should prepare for 'the death of superheroes'"

Which is why we need more good superhero films: Given the recent "comic-book-movie glut," says Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post, it's remarkable that Captain America found an audience at all. Then again, while many recent superhero films suffer from "self-importance," "arrogance," and bloat, Captain America is a truly winning "cinematic event." If Hollywood uses it as a model for future films, we can thank Captain America for "saving comic book movies from themselves."

"The First Avenger: Captain America"

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