Superhero movies, left and right. So far, we’ve had fifty superhero movies from Marvel and DC comics franchises beginning with Fox’s X-Men. Many were good, some were bad. Most of these effects-laden films turn out to be high-grossers despite some being critically-panned, ensuring that there will be more superhero movies to come. Inspired by the success of these movies, television followed suit. TV series from both Marvel and DC began to flood the airwaves and the net, and there’s more to come. While these films and shows provide fans and non-fans with plenty of entertainment, what is worrisome is when the general public starts to ask the question, “Another one?”
After giving us the greatest superhero movie so far, The Avengers and later the somewhat disappointing Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon felt Marvel was getting too heavy handed with how the films should be made. His leaving the Avengers seemed to have sent an early warning bell. Ant-Man turned out fine. We haven’t heard any cracks after the Captain America: Civil War premiere. Was he wrong to leave?
With all the superhero movies and TV shows, there’s that chance that the public might get tired of it all and ask the studios to hang up all the masks and capes like the supers in The Incredibles did. Personally, a geek like me probably won’t. I’ve watched almost every high-grossing theatrical superhero movie by DC and Marvel since Tim Burton’s Batman. Did not watch the 2015 Fantastic Four though. Not being racist, but blackwashing The Human Torch was not a good idea to begin with, followed by the publicized changes to other characters and the story. Not to mention the concept of an early reboot and Fox’s stubbornness not to sell the franchise to Marvel Studios. It was a disaster the likes of a Yellowstone eruption. How can you say the movie was bad if you didn’t watch it? To me, it was Fantastic Four in name only. Not worth the time and money watching and millions of other viewers agreed. Like the aforementioned Fantastic Failure, even as a comic book fan, some movies made me question whether film outfits need to take a break in making more. Batman and Robin, 2003’s Hulk, the 2005 Fantastic Four, Blade Trinity and X-Men: The Last Stand.
Though critically panned, I enjoyed Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Spider-Man 3. Many of you might think I have a low bar on quality. To each his own but I admit these movies were sub-par but serve as worthwhile distractions compared to 2003 Hulk and Blade Trinity. I’ll admit to anticipating better sequels to these movies but after studios take a breather. A Raimi Spider-Man 4 would have been nice; Fox teased us that the Silver Surfer was still alive, and I wanted a better Ghost Rider movie.
A New Era
Things changed with 2008’s Iron Man. It was a surprise hit for fledgling Marvel Studios and a B-level Marvel comics character. Robert Downey Junior gave us a great performance and seeing Samuel L. Jackson in the end as Nick Fury teasing moviegoers to potential team-ups with other heroes made our mouths water. Then the Incredible Hulk reboot surprised fans with the concept of a shared universe by showing Tony Stark speaking with General Thunderbolt Ross in an end credits scene. Thus, viewers began the habit of sticking around after the credits to see what’s in store. That further invigorated the superhero movie trend. Except for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, for two years we had less stellar offerings until Iron Man 2 came along in 2010. Marvel Studios proved the shared universe concept with Thor and Captain America while other studios kept doing their own thing. Walt Disney recognized the potential of Marvel, bought the company and gave us the 2012 blockbuster The Avengers movie setting a high bar for superhero films and making other studios realize the potential of shared universes. The Avengers was followed up by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Both films earned over a billion dollars worldwide. By then, there’s no stopping superhero movies.
But Wait, There’s More!
It’s clear that we’ll be seeing superhero movies well beyond 2020. Provided nothing goes terribly wrong—massive terrorist attacks, wide-scale film studio hacking, World War 3 or a succession of box-office bombs. Marvel/Disney has divided its superhero program in phases and after Ant-Man, we are currently in Phase 3 with a planned Phase 4. After Batman V Superman, Warner/DC is filming the Wonder Woman follow-up to complete their heroic Trinity and Justice League is in the works. Suicide Squad is coming very soon. Fox’s Deadpool was a massive success and provided X-Men: Apocalypse becomes a hit, will ensure more superhero movies from Fox. In a couple of Weeks, we fill finally get to see Captain America: Civil War which we hope will be as good as Captain America: Winter Soldier and not as disappointing as Avengers: Age of Ultron. This November, Marvel will be releasing Doctor Strange, and they just announced the Marvel/Sony Spider-Man: Homecoming.
On TV, Marvel has ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter; Netflix has Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones. DC has Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. More and on the way such as Netflix’s Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders; Freeform’s Cloak and Dagger; and ABC’s Marvel’s Most Wanted (AOS Spinoff). Fox is developing two TV shows based on the X-Men franchise. Wow, that’s a lot of heroes—and villains.
In a Hollywood suffering from an apparent lack of creativity with reboots and remakes of 80s and 90s movies and TV shows, comic books provide decades of great source material (something they grossly neglected in the past when it came to superheroes) with a lot of stories that hold up or can be adapted for the present. We also have a general public who don’t know these stories and us geeks who want these stories to come to life on the big screen. Unlike DC, all of Marvel’s franchises now, no matter the studio have ties to the cinematic universe and these studios can always tickle fan and public interest by combining these characters.
No, the world may not tire of superhero films and TV shows provided they’re done right. The shared universe concept could keep or renew viewer interest in waning shows. It’s like one gigantic novella kids can watch to adulthood and adults can view until retirement. It’s something terribly difficult to maintain, but they could probably place a gap when something big like Harry Potter comes up. In a world filled with problems, wars, terrorism, ineffectual leadership, people need heroes to look up to—even if they’re fictional. People need to be distracted and entertained from their stressful daily lives and see how these heroes spectacularly fight against the evils of the world. Then again this could be just a decades-long fad like reality-TV, which unfortunately is still around. Unlike reality TV, we know very well that when watching superhero films and TV, we know for sure that everything’s not real. Isn’t that what entertainment is about?