EDITORIAL: What It Takes For A Comic Book Movie To Be Successful

EDITORIAL: What It Takes For A Comic Book Movie To Be Successful

I’ve always wondered about this and never have I come up with an answer. Click on and tell me if you can come up with an interesting theory...

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By Alexandre - 7/10/2012
superheroes Superheroes
When we debate over what success really is, I believe what we want from our beloved comic book movies are for them to achieve sequels and set themselves up as definite franchises. As much as we all on this site argue that the Box Office doesn’t really mean much, unfortunately it does. I would agree that achieving universal critical acclaim is very rewarding but it always ends up being all about personal preference.

As a regular member of this site, I tend to enjoy reading some of the editorials written by my fellow peers. A common piece which seems to get covered constantly is that of the many different opinions on how certain comic book heroes should be portrayed on the big screen. “Click to read my take of a Justice League movie”,” how Flash should be handled on screen” ever seen any of those? I don’t have any problem with their opinions nor do I find myself disagreeing with them but I do however wonder how come they possess the secret to achieving a picture perfect comic book movie.

Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear what a successful film in terms of Box Office actually is. When looking at whether or not a film is a success, you have to compare the budget of the film compared to the Domestic Box Office take. If a film’s domestic gross is less that the production cost then it would be considered a flop.

I have seen many comic book heroes adapted to film and many have failed and succeeded. Many were so good; some even a bit close to the source material (Hellboy 1 and 2, Watchmen, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, A History of Violence, etc.) and yet failed to achieve a major domestic box office hit. So how sure are we that even if done right our favorite heroes will become blockbusters?

If good writing isn’t just enough then what is? Does it take CGI or 3D or even a combination of all three for it to be enough? Action without a doubt must always be a part of super heroes, so the need to appeal to action junkies must never be too hard. But how many things does a movie production team need to blow up in order to achieve a full house?

I hate to even mention these two because there is always heat attached to them but two very successful films that share one thing (good writing), but go in different directions in other terms of production, clearly adds on to the contradiction of what makes a good comic book movie. Don’t guess too hard, I’m talking about The Dark Knight and The Avengers. One clearly shies away from the green screen as much as possible while the other is not afraid to exploit its benefits. Both are so different and yet so good. Spiderman 2 is another one which I would add to this. In comparable terms, it too has great writing and its share of green screen time but it is way cheesier than The Avengers and The Dark Knight. It even feels different from the other two but they’re all big hits.

I’m beginning to see something, there really aren’t any ingredients. It’s all just a big gamble at the end of the day. Maybe the popularity of the hero has a major thing to do with the end result? Gee don’t you think? (Pointing out the obvious to myself.) But here is when everything goes to shit; I think we can all agree that in terms of overall popularity, Spidey, Bats, everyone in the Avengers have always been more well-known than this...
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So just when you think you know the secret, Sir Michael Bay (I call him sir because it really takes a certain kind of special person to really shit on our face the way he does) rewrites the rules. His films have it all, action, CGI, things blowing up, Megan Fox (hot babes) and the end results are always positive. Money wise that is; well, the end results after viewing Megan Fox is always positive too, wink wink. The writing and cast is so shitty, it still manages to surpass itself. So you must be wondering, this is all it takes then really? Nope and I’ll tell you why; Ghost Rider. It has the CGI, action, hot babes, horrible cast, bad writing and yet it doesn’t even bank Transformer numbers. This is driving me crazy! Is there even an answer?

We in cmb.com indulge ourselves as true wise fans who clearly know what it takes to make a successful comic book movie but these films all contradict our theories and they also contradict themselves. One would think good writing is the most important thing but sometimes it isn’t. We argue how the source material is enough but then come people who do more compelling things with an original concept and make the source material seem like it was written by a 3 year old and vice versa.

So how can a comic book movie become successful? I really don’t have a clue; maybe it’s all just luck. Forget good writing, CGI, 3D, babes and boobs, cast, a tragic death, things blowing up or even a big budget; in the end no one really knows. Do you?
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CristianCorbett - 7/10/2012, 1:08 AM
nice write up man.
Orphix - 7/10/2012, 2:48 AM
If you judge a movie purely in terms of box office then you are always going to struggle to find that winning 'formula'.

It really is a lottery.

However, if you judge a film's success on how great a viewing experience it is then it always comes down to good writing, a great script, strong storytelling. Many films have 'failed' during a theatrical release and gone on to be considered classics and making loads of money on DVD (or VHS as it was) sales and reshowing on TV.

The Magnificent Seven, Shawshank Redemption, Citizen Kane, The Thing - they all struggled in the cinema but are still 'successful' films.
comiccow6 - 7/10/2012, 3:42 AM
I bevile it depends on actors, the script, the plot, and how close it is to the source material.
MisterFixit - 7/10/2012, 5:18 AM
charismatic actors (former iron man), appeal to all age groups
(ex. Spiderman, Avengers), novelty
(ex. cars that become robots, team up, a point of view never before
seen, as in batman), great visual effects, great writing, great word of
mouth, comics accuracy. I think a mix of everything is needed, and it is not easy
MisterFixit - 7/10/2012, 5:35 AM
something never before seen,
however, has a much better chance of succeeding. Take for example the saw series:
7 movies, total budget $67M, total grosses $860M. It's 12,8 times its production costs. In proportion earned more than almost any other film
jessepostal - 7/10/2012, 5:45 AM
It's all about entertainment, majority of movie goers want to be entertained and transformers delivers the goods. Sure there not intelligent movies but that's not what majority of the people want. It also helps that it was a successful cartoon. More people know transformers from the show than the comic. Transformers appeals to every demograph as well, the action goers,car lovers,sci fi,children,80's kids,parents, everyone gets something. Michael bay gets a bad rap but the guy knows what he's doing and knows how to market to everyone for the most cash grabbing movies. Ghost rider goes for the comic crowd and action fans. Parents are not gonna take there kids to see a flaming skull. Also I've noticed a lot of people on here don't enjoy mindless entertainment like transformers and ghost rider, I love them. Not every movie has to have great dialogue, majority of people don't talk like they do in some of your "favorite movies"
6of13 - 7/10/2012, 9:56 AM
True enough it is a bit a of luck but IMO some films get the praise they do because they are good. In the end, a film does come down to entertainment value but also do we care enough about the characters concerned. In the case of The Avengers, I this is all true. I deeply cared for all the characters and in particular Loki. And that is all thanks to Thor.

TDK is a very engaging film which means you have to concentrate somewhat more when watching it. When I watched TDK for the 2nd and 3rd times I started noticing some of the smaller details within the film that actually have large consequences. The same is not true for Transfomers. It is not as engaging as TDK or even how I imagine TDKR is going to be. You can turn your brain off when watching Tranformers.

Unfortunately Green Lantern received alot of critism before it was released which did not help and turned alot of away. Therefore what makes a comic book movie or any film successful is desire. Did people want to see Transformer sequels. Yes they did. Did people want to see The Avengers. Most definitely. Do people want to see TDKR? Emphatically yes.

With movies like Green Lantern and Ghost Rider the reverse is true i.e. people just were not as keen to watch those movies as they were with The Avengers.
MoonDoggyX - 7/10/2012, 11:17 AM
jessepostal hit the nail on the head! People just want to be entertained. When I go to the movies, I want to be entertained first and foremost. Movies like Transformers catch a lot of flack on this site because it is full of "Armchair movie makers".
Ghostt - 7/10/2012, 9:44 PM
I have often tried, and failed, to describe this elusive thing that successful movies have called the 'cool factor'. Iron Man, TDK, and Sin City all had it.

The cool factor is when they blow your mind with a perfect mix of great script and dialogue, great director and cinematography, and perfect actor for the role.
CrowPirate1 - 7/11/2012, 8:49 AM
I think.. well, to me, it's the Villain. There has to be an engaging enough story, and the main characters have to be likable, and the plot has to be quick moving and action packed...

but bottom line, there HAS to be a great villain and very good satisfying end to him/her/it and the plan.

Even comedies, had to have something good to play off of.. or it's all juts silly. Animal House had Dean Wormer... etc... if everyone is silly.. or if the villain is weak.. or if the ending is crappy.. it is anti climatic.. and you feel let down.

Take the first Hulk movie. I still don't friggin understand that ending.

It just all petered.

to me, the Avengers movie had the great ending because the stopped the invaders, plugged the hole, and beat down a God. TDK stopped the Joker AND Twoface. (though it shortchanged the latter), it was satisfying.

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