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This Superhero Life

Everything feels broken, but superheroes are indestructible.

Five of the 10 highest-grossing movies released in the United States in 2017 are superhero stories. Ho-hum, you may be thinking, comic book movies always make a lot of money. This is true, though more now than ever. If the number holds at five—and with Justice League just days away, it could easily rise to six—it will be the largest preponderance of superhero movies at the top of the box office in the history of the movies. In fact, only once has the top 10 included four superhero movies—last year.

But it’s more than just financial success powering this narrative. There is something complicating the inevitable feeling of the superhero crescendo, if it is that: Four of the year’s 10 best reviewed films are also superhero movies, according to the aggregators at Rotten Tomatoes. Wonder Woman (92 percent), Logan (93 percent), Thor: Ragnarok (93 percent), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (92 percent) all reside on both lists. (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the only box-office winner that failed to crack the RT list, clocking in at no. 58 with a respectable 82 percent freshness.) Collectively, these five films have earned more than $1.5 billion in the United States and nearly $4 billion across the world. They are the lifeblood of the movie industry.

But while Hollywood has perfected one highly specific genre—tales of freakishly gifted beings and darkened vigilantes in pursuit of justice—the rest of the business has been grounded. Down 5.1 percent domestically, the movies have never been more imperiled, diffused, or plain ignored. More and more, when we say “movies,” we mean “superhero movies.” It’s difficult to know

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