At the moment, comic book movies are enjoying almost unrivalled success and are currently ruling the roost in Hollywood. For instance, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time and the likes of Fox’s X-Men and Warner Brothers’/DC’s own expanded movie universe are amongst the most talked-about franchises in the industry.
With that in mind, it’s hard to see where it could all possibly go wrong for the genre. Marvel Studios, Fox and Warner Brothers/DC all have movies planned for the foreseeable future, so they obviously have confidence in their productions and aren’t predicting a slump in the demand for them.
However, for some fans of the genre, it’s actually becoming worryingly apparent that it could all go wrong relatively soon if certain changes aren’t made and if certain things don’t start to happen fast. That’s right, the unthinkable might occur and comic book movies might start to wane as a collective entity.
This article will take a look at why that might happen and, subsequently, what could and should be done to rectify the issues in question and keep the genre fresh and interesting. Here are ten ways comic book movies risk becoming stale.
10. Using The Same Heroes Over & Over Again
Batman, Superman, Hulk, Spider-Man and the Punisher are just some of the comic book characters who have all been played by at least two actors in different franchises in recent years. Then, when you consider the over-reliance on the likes of Iron Man and Wolverine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and X-Men franchise respectively, you see just how much certain heroes are being overused in the comic book movie genre.
With that in mind, there’s only so much longer those same characters can be used before they start to become boring. Some great characters are yet to even get a sniff of big screen stardom – Sentry, Wonder Man, Captain Britain, Martian Manhunter, Doctor Fate and Cable for example – while the aforementioned group are being repeatedly used. Something should be done about it quickly to ensure the repetition doesn’t start to bore people.
9. Focusing On Heroes
There has literally never been a comic book movie based on a supervillain – can you believe that? Granted, the likes of Avengers: Age of Ultron have the villain’s name in the title, but there is no doubt that movie, for example, was focused on the titular team of heroes rather than their robotic foe.
This is something that Hollywood is seemingly trying to rectify, however, which is a good thing. Suicide Squad is on the way and, in spite of Sony Pictures abandoning the titular hero from the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, some spin-off movies focusing on Venom and the Sinister Six may still happen. Apocalypse also has his name in the title of the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, though there’s no doubt that the heroes will be the stars of that movie.
There are some extremely awesome villains in comic books and more movies focusing on their origins and exploits would surely go down well. The likes of The Joker, Doctor Doom and The Masters of Evil, for example, would make for great movies – and it would certainly freshen up the genre to see such movies becoming a regular thing.
8. Boring & Weak Villains
With so much emphasis on the heroes in comic book movies, the villains are often neglected and quite a few have ended up being rather boring and underwhelming – both in terms of their character and threat level.
Look at Iron Monger, Whiplash, Aldrich Killian, Malekith, General Zod, Silver Samurai and Ronan as recent examples – did any of those characters compel audiences? Were any of them developed to a point that they were actually interesting? Did audiences ever feel as though the heroes they were facing were ever truly at risk of being killed or defeated by them? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “no.”
Villains need to put audiences on the edge of their seat by presenting a legitimate threat to the heroes they’re facing. Instead of just mirroring the heroes’ levels of power, it would be good to see a few more who dwarf the powers levels of their opponents – that way, the threat would seem real, the heroes would have to think outside the box to defeat them and audiences would be on the edge of their seats.
7. Lacking The Balls To Kill Characters Off
Largely related to the last point (in the sense that the villains these heroes face are never so threatening that they ever make audiences feel as though they’re capable of killing the them), the movie studios behind the big superhero franchises seem completely unwilling to take risks when it comes to killing heroes off. All that ends up doing is making movies predictable and “safe,” with audiences far from being forced on to the edge of their seats when it comes to the hero versus villain battles.
Marvel Studios copped out in the recent Avengers: Age of Ultron. They killed off Quicksilver – a character with whom audiences never got the chance to build a rapport and, in that sense, it really wasn’t that big of a deal when he died.
While seeing the likes of Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Hulk or Captain America killed on screen would undoubtedly be risky for the people behind their movies, it would certainly be refreshing too. It would mean movies became less predictable and would certainly have audiences on tenterhooks when they watched superhero movies in the future.
6. Becoming Too Formulaic
As already specified, certain elements of comic book movies are becoming repetitive – the focusing on heroes as the titular characters, the villains being too weak, forgettable and uninteresting etc – but the actual structure and formula of said movies are also becoming very predictable.
What tends to happen in a large number of comic book movies is that the audience is introduced to a hero with a certain set of powers – he or she may have gone through some kind of transformation or process to get those powers – and they then go up against a villain with pretty much the exact same powers, ultimately beating them by the skin of their teeth (Iron Man with armoured villains, Superman with other Kryptonians, Captain America with an evil super soldier, Hulk with an evil Hulk, Thor with a fellow Asgardian etc).
The likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier tinkered with the traditional formula somewhat but, as a general rule, they are all essentially the same. This really has to change – perhaps by utilising the aforementioned idea of focusing on villains for a change and maybe even giving a villain a victory.
5. General Oversaturation
There have been eleven films released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The X-Men movie franchise already has released seven films in it. Man of Steel kicked off the DC Cinematic Universe two years ago. Then, when you consider that the recent Amazing Spider-Man franchise, the Dark Knight Trilogy, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, the Blade trilogy, two Ghost Rider movies, a Green Lantern movie, Superman Returns, a Spawn movie, two Hellboy movies and a Jonah Hex movie (as well as several more comic book movies) have all been released in the last twenty years, you start to realize just how saturated the genre is.
Now, on top of that, consider that DC and Marvel properties alone will see another 27 movies based on them between now and 2020. That averages out at around five per year – which is asking an awful lot of fans, if movies studios are expecting said fans to watch them all. It could simply be a case of fans becoming more selective about which comic book movies they watch, causing some of them to flop at the box office.
Given that Marvel is already displaying the confidence to release movies about talking trees and raccoons, exactly how will that confidence manifest in a few years’ time?
DC are already showing confidence in releasing something as obscure as Suicide Squad so early in their franchise – and they haven’t even earned the right to show that confidence yet – so goodness knows what the likes of Marvel and Fox will be putting out in a few years’ time if their success continues in the short-term.
We could end up with movies about Throg (the frog with Thor-like powers) or Squirrel Girl (a mutant with Squirrel-like abilities). Or, if DC obtain the success they’re hoping for, will we see an Arm-Fall-Off-Boy movie go into production (and yes, if you don’t know who he is, his “power” is exactly what it sounds like)?
Granted, those are unrealistic and extreme suggestions, but it gets the point across. There are so many awesome unused characters to make movies about – here’s hoping studios don’t start getting too cocky.
3. Using Up The Big Storylines
Captain America: Civil War, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Avengers: Infinity War – with movies like those coming to our screens in the next few years, how the hell is Hollywood going to top that in the future?
The Civil War movie is based on one of the most popular stories and biggest events in Marvel comic book history. It will pit two teams of heroes against each other as their views on the Superhuman Registration Act differ to the point of conflict.
Batman v Superman will pit the two most iconic heroes in comic book history against each other and will ultimately see them join forces to form one of the most iconic superhero teams in comic book history.
The two-part Infinity War movies will loosely adapt the biggest cosmos-spanning arc ever written for Marvel, as Thanos wields the Infinity Stones that will grant him godlike powers.
Come 2020, in a nutshell, there are very few directions in which the comic book movie genre can go that will come close to being on a par with what it has already done.
2. It Could Just Be A Fad
Hollywood is known for its fads. For example, in the 1960s it was beach movies, in the 1980s it was slasher horror movies and in the 1990s it was teen movies. Could it simply be the case that the 2000s and 2010s are experiencing a comic book movie fad that will run its course naturally in the not too distant future?
History says “yes” to that question. Very few movie sub-genres (which is, essentially what comic book movies are – action/fantasy/sci-fi movies that happen to have comic book characters in them) remain popular forever.
Horror as a genre is evergreen, but supernatural horrors, slashers and gore-porn are three sub-genres that experienced a high before a new horror fad took over.
Essentially, amidst the countless other reasons that comic book movies could fade – all of which are fixable – it could just be the case that interest will wane regardless due to the ongoing concept of trends.
1. DC & Warner Brothers Might Give Up
As unfathomable as the idea of this happening may be, there is actually every chance that DC and Warner Brothers might just have to admit defeat when it comes to rivalling Marvel in the movie business – and that would significantly dampen the whole comic book movie genre. They have already shown signs of fear – moving the release date of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to March of 2016 so it doesn’t clash with Captain America: Civil War.
March is hardly prime time for cinematic success and if Batman v Superman flops – the biggest DC movie ever released, no less – why would they risk continuing the franchise with lesser movies like The Flash and Aquaman in the cards?
Batman seems to be the only character DC can get right on the big screen lately – and they’ve risked spoiling him with the controversial casting of Ben Affleck. Moreover, Man of Steel – the only movie we can base the success of the current franchise on – only grossed $668 million. When you consider that Sony Pictures scrapped the Amazing Spider-Man movies after the second instalment grossed $709 million, you’ll see these are worrying times for DC and their failure could be damaging for the genre as a whole.
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