They say history repeats itself, don't they? As it once was, movie studios that used to rely on a few big budget releases scattered throughout the year to make up their profits floundered in the '60s, leading to the New Hollywood revolution that put the focus back on directors and smaller pictures. However that movement didn't last very long, and the 1970s, thanks to the release of Spielberg's Jaws, saw the end of New Hollywood and brought Blockbusters once again back to the forefront. It's a cycle that's repeated itself for seemingly all of cinematic history.

However, since the release of X-Men in 2000 - and more importantly Sam Raimi's Spider-Man in 2002 - superhero movies have slowly become one of the most successful movie genres in cinematic history. What were once every-other-year events have quickly become the go-to genre for movie execs, with the majority of a studios' income being pumped into these mammoth blockbusters. And for a while the films themselves seemed to prove that the superhero sub-genre was diverse enough and fluid enough to stave off trend fatigue in a way big-budget disaster movies of the '90s or musicals of the '50s just couldn't.

The latter half of the 2000s in particular saw comic book movies that weren't restrained by audience expectations or executive meddling. 2008 specifically marked a turning point for the genre, with The Dark Knight proving that superhero movies could be mature and unrestrained by convention, while Marvel's Iron Man was doing something unprecedented by setting up an ambitious cinematic universe of interlocking movies and franchises. Hell, even the much maligned Spider-Man 3 managed to take risks and indulge in areas that no other superhero film had before - even if it did fall flat on its face by doing so.

But 2016 has become emblematic of studios finally sketching themselves out a rulebook of what a superhero movie should be. X-Men: Apocalypse threw out all the flair that made the '60s inspired First Class and time-bending Days of Future Past so enjoyable, and for the first time doubted its own merits by trying to ape what everyone else was doing. Over-stuffing its cast list and bringing in an unconvincing villain that thrived on mindless, meaningless destruction, Apocalypse lost all of the intimate charm and good-will that set it apart from other flicks in the genre. And Batman v Superman... well, do we really need to go through this again? Although it wasn't as bad as some would have you believe, it was disappointing to see the movie throw away all of its strongest themes and ideas so it could act as a bloated jumping off point for the rest of the DC universe.

Even the best movies that came out this year, like Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, still amounted to nothing more than inconsequential time-sinks in the long run. Although the movie retained Marvel's signature humour and continued to introduce perfectly cast characters, by now we expect more from the company, and this box-ticking can only momentarily distract you from the fact that nothing is happening in these films that you haven't seen before. To be fair to Marvel though, the boxes they're ticking are pretty good; but when you're pushing two films out a year that follow the same template as five that came before, you can't expect the audience to continue coming back for more.

The plot of Civil War itself sets up grand stakes; the registration of superheroes and the politicising of their lives and identities threaten to be major game changers for the entire franchise. But this central divide between characters we know and love ultimately amounts to nothing thanks to a final scene that reaffirms that they'll ignore their issues if they're called on for help. And we know they will be, because Marvel has already told us that the two-part Infinity War starring the whole cast will be out in a few years' time. Announcing these movies so far in advance is suffocating, and it only makes discussion around what's going to happen next pointless.

Because no matter how many click-bait "Which Superhero Is Going to Die Next?!" articles try to persuade you otherwise, you know that, ultimately, none of them are going to be offed. You know Captain America isn't going to die because you know Chris Evans is contracted for 3 more movies. There's a reason the only mutant to die in X-Men: Apocalypse was a C-rate side-character only seen in one movie before that one. Superman might be dead for now, but even without the ham-fisted tease at the end of Batman v Superman you know he has to be back for next year's Justice League. And it's not only deaths, it's any major change that could transform these movies significantly; all developments are rendered moot when characters don't have time to react to them because they're too busy stopping yet another city destroying villain.

But at least Civil War could still be an enjoyable flick despite its flaws, something which can't be said for DC's recent mega-hit, Suicide Squad. We'll not review the film here (if you want to know how bad it is, just look at any one of the 900 negative reviews out there), because, really, the story of its production is much more interesting than anything the actual film has to offer. Completely reworked in a state of panic after Batman v Superman critically and commercially underperformed, Suicide Squad was re-cut, reshot and reimagined into a Frankenstein's monster of a film. The original, darker edit was deemed too dreary, undesirable in a post-Deadpool and Civil War world. The film was retrofitted into something it was never supposed to be - and the hack job clearly shows now that it's being projected onto the big screen.

Because with rushed schedules, a desire to catch up to the competition and a willingness to put the cart, far, far before the horse, Suicide Squad sold out whatever soul it may have had for conformity. The last lingering hope that DC's movie universe could ever be any good, all of the pre-release promise of Suicide Squad is lost in the finished product. The best moments from the trailer turned out to be just that; contextless snippets that don't really have any connection to anything going on around them. Likewise, all that hoo-hah about Jared Leto's cringeworthy on-set shenanigans seems to be for naught, as the majority of his scenes were left on the cutting room floor thanks to poor test screenings.

But all of these on-set antics - including most of the cast getting matching "squad" tattoos - point to a movie that was made with genuine passion and energy. Even if it doesn't always sound like the healthiest working environment, it's clear that the people making Suicide Squad genuinely thought they were making something special. Yet this anarchic energy that seemed to be a perfect fit for a film about devil-may-care antiheroes failed to show up on screen. Like many recent superhero films Suicide Squad has plenty of bark but no bite; its anarchistic aesthetic threatens to subvert yet only covers up the fact that, ultimately, it's the same corporate film you've been watching for the past five years now - only much, much worse.

In the end, director David Ayer can talk all he wants about the critics being wrong about his mess of a film. He can continue to peddle the PR line that he made Suicide Squad for "the fans", but let's be real: no movie that has to make $800 million worldwide just to break even is made for "the fans". No movie that's recut at the last minute by a trailer company in order to capitalise on recent trends is made for "the fans". No movie that's written in six weeks and needs to be successful so WB doesn't have to cancel eight other movies they have in development can ever be made for "the fans". These films have become exercises in printing money, and it's starting to become clear that they're not even very good at being that.

As budgets rise and audiences become more and more disgruntled, it's only a matter of time before the diminishing returns become too much and the superhero genre suffers the same fate as the Western or Creature Feature. But it didn't have to be this way. Comic book movies can be powerful, diverse pieces of art when done right; these heroes are so iconic and so timeless that they can be used in any story that needs them. From heist flicks, tense horror stand-offs to, yes, your world-ending disaster movies, comic book heroes are inherently adaptable. Yet 2016 has proven that studios have already decided what a superhero movie should be. And if Suicide Squad is anything to go on, that idea is the antithesis of the imagination and constant reinvention that has kept these characters relevant for 70 years now.