Yes, but let me explain why.
Comic book movies were never really “in vogue” throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. Oh sure, Superman was seen as a classic portrayal of the Man of Steel, and Tim Burton introduced us to a much Darker Knight than most people had seen in Batman. But these movies were exceptions rather than rules. Hollywood toyed with comic books for a long time before investing heavily in them. Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, Captain America and more were all tried but rarely spawned sequels or the faintest whiff of a movie franchise. After Batman and Robin debuted to horrific reaction in 1997, most of the studios ran scared and swore off going anywhere near capes and tights. Yet one year later a movie sneaked into the cinema and did something that most people thought was impossible: it made comic book characters…cool.
Contrary to what most people have you believe, it was not X-Men that signaled the start of the comic book renaissance; it was Blade. Wesley Snipes cut his way through movie audience expectations a whole two years before Patrick Stewart and co. introduced the uninitiated to mutants. Here was a comic book hero who was damaged, dangerous and vengeful. Here was a character audiences could relate to more than George Clooney’s campier then camp Caped Crusader or Sly Stallone’s mumbled mess of Judge Dredd. Blade showed the studios that comic book movies could be cool and profitable. X-Men cemented that fact in 2000. Since then, there has been at least one popular comic book adaptation every year in the cinemas.
In 2002, Sony swung Spider-Man into the cinemas and into the history books. Taking over $800 million at the global box office, it proved that comic book adaptations were a serious and profitable business. A sequel hurled past audiences in 2004 to great acclaim and a franchise was born. Fox had released a sequel to X-Men, and Universal had experimented with a “thinking man’s” Incredible Hulk. A third Spiderman was scheduled for release in 2007, a Superman reboot was due in 2006, and a Batman reboot was being prepped for 2005. Audiences couldn’t get enough. The coffers were swelling and the Hollywood execs were laughing all the way to the bank.
The Middle of the Middle of the Middle?!
In 2008, Marvel launched its own film studio with the release of Iron Man. Starring Robert Downey Jr., the film took a ton of cash. Since then, you’d have had to be living on Planet Zog not to notice the freight train of comic book movies trundling out of Hollywood. We’ve already had another reboot of Superman with a prize fight between him and Batman scheduled for next year. Thor, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Avengers, (the now Amazing) Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk…the audience appetite for comic book heroes seems to be strong. Am I the only one feeling slightly stuffed?
Will the End Ever Come?
Not whilst people throw their money into the tills it won’t. I admit that I have seen some brilliantly directed and well-told comic book movies. Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier remain two of my favorite films from 2014. Yet I have also seen some poorly directed and badly told comic book movies. Fantastic Four, Iron Man 2 and the first Captain America rate low on my Richter scale.
I don’t have a problem with good storytelling. Batman Begins was great storytelling. I do have a problem with poor quality and lazy filmmaking. There are too many average-to-poor comic movies being released into the cinemas just to ring cash into Hollywood’s coffers. I couldn’t give a toss about Ant-Man or the Fantastic Four reboot, yet they’re both going to be inflicted on the world later this year. Green Lantern was awful and the less said about the third Spider-Man movie reboot in less than 15 years the better.
So what’s going to happen? Personally I think the market will continue to over-saturate with masked avengers and caped crusaders until one day in a not-too-distant decade, someone sitting in a cinema somewhere will get up, walk out and ask for their money back.
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