Respect The History Of CBM's
It's my intention that this article will give its readers a new found appreciation and respect for the entire genre. The good, the bad and the ugly are all essential parts of the history of CBM's and in some way influence the grand scheme of what's to come.
Opinions expressed toward comic book movies, optimistic or pessimistic are often interesting, thought provoking and for the most part, fair. However, among any large and growing community there's bound to be disagreements which escalate to arguments, then name-calling and even trolling. It can be easy to become aggressive and uncaring about someones feelings or right to his/her opinions in a shared web-site setting, than when you're face to face. To the level headed, users who prefer the diplomatic approach I applaud your patience. To those on this site who choose to indulge in mud-slinging, though I respect your freedom of speech, I urge you to remember and consider the over-all history of the comic book movie genre and the shaky ground it started on before being so harsh and judgmental on CBM's. Especially those you deem unworthy additions to your personal top ten best lists.
DISCLAIMER: This is not an entire history of CBM's, just a brief summery to illustrate a well meaning point of view. So I'd appreciate it if the comments section isn't filled with; "You forgot to mention Superman Lives from the 90's, wtf!"
It's hard to believe the comic book genre of films took as long as it did to achieve the high standard of quality which we've all come to expect whenever a new film based on a beloved Marvel or DC comics character hits the big screen. Especially since the first in it's genre, Superman The Movie was so well received critically and by audiences upon it's theatrical 1978 release. Though The Man of Steel's sequels varied in financial success, other Superhero films struggled to find an audience, often flopping at the box office. Flash Gordon (1980), Supergirl (1984), and Howard The Duck (1986), to name a few, failed to reinvigorate the waning genre. Though Swamp Thing (1981) was a modest success and produced a sequel Return of Swamp Thing (1989), they still have the same issues which most likely lead to the down fall of the other CBM's that weren't Superman, they came off too campy and corny.
Even the Superman films began to sink in this direction by the franchises third installment, which favored comedy relief over dramatic story telling. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), was a well intended effort to return Superman to his former glory cinematically, but as the saying goes, "The road to hell is paved in good intentions." Superman IV's budget cuts, script re-writes and horrible effects are infamous among fans of the genre. Many believed at the time, just as Superman opened the door for the future of comic book movies, he would also be responsible for closing that door.
While DC comics Superman was prominently responsible for jump-starting the comic book genre of films with a mostly successful franchise, film endeavors to bring Marvel comics heroes to the big screen proved unsuccessful throughout the 80's and 90's. Cannon ambitiously promoted Spider-Man The Movie, before a single frame of film was shot, with posters in theaters and a teaser trailer back in 1985. But a film never materialized. Probably due to Cannon's constant financial issues. Director James Cameron was also attached to a Spider-Man film during the 90's. Cameron actually wrote an entire script for the popular Marvel character, but due to issues over rights to the character the film laid dormant in Hollywood hell for years. For better or worse, Cameron's vision of the famous web-slinger never made it to theaters. There's also the infamous 1994 Fantastic Four film produced by Roger Corman. A low budget farce produced only as a means to retain the film rights to the characters. Though never intended to be a theatrical release the film became available to fans in the form of bootleg Video tapes and in latter years on the internet. The few Marvel based films that actually saw the light of day were low budget limited releases (The Punisher 1989) or direct to video films (Captain America 1990).
Just when Superman IV seemed to put the last nail in the coffin of the comic book movie genre, low and behold, Batman (1989) exploded onto the silver screen. Creating a phenomenon which rivaled the success to the original Superman film. Batman rekindled an interest in comic book movies with fans and film studio's alike. A large number of comic book movies were green lite and fast tracked in an attempt to cash in on Batman's box office success. This time around there was massive quantity but minimal quality. The Shadow (1994), Tank Girl (1995), Judge Dredd (1995), and Spawn (1997), all failed to provide lucrative franchises and could not compete with the financial success and fan-base of Batman. Though The Rocketeer (1990) and The Phantom (1996) were extremely faithful to the source material and are better films than the movies mentioned above, they were also considered flops. However, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and The Crow (1994), proved bankable commodities, that audiences couldn't get enough of. Batman films continued with varying success throughout the 90's. Just as Superman IV threatened to extinguish the comic book movie flame, the forth installment in the bat-franchise threatened to do the same. One of, if not the most critically panned comic book movies of all time, Batman & Robin's (1997) toyetic approach and campy style was too reminiscent of the silly 1960's Batman television series as well as the corny early 1980's CBM's.
However, Batman started a trend of big budget attempts at comic book movies, though few were as successful, a continuing interest was sparked. Though the light of hope was dim for what seemed like an eternity, a light would shine again and inspire hope for the genre. Out of the darkness came X-Men (2000). Though Blade (1998) was a huge success, it actually swooped in under the radar as a CBM. Mainstream audiences had no idea the Day-Walker was a Marvel comics hero. It wasn't until X-Men that a CBM finally picked up the torch to carry and pass on and on to others. Spider Man followed and exploded onto movie screens creating a big-bang that just seems to be going on and on. Sure there are still bad ones from time to time (Catwoman 2004) , but a high standard of quality has been set, and with that standard we tend to forget how lucky we are as fans of this material to be getting quite a few CBM's a year. Especially the present big budget endeavors as apposed to the low budget attempts of the past. So Daredevil (2003) didn't live up to expectations, it may be a bad CBM, but at least it's progressively bad. Meaning, not as bad as Superman IV or Batman & Robin. I think it's safe to say those days are behind us. Iron Man, really got the ball rolling for Marvel and their union with Disney has payed-off so far. Marvel's cinematic universe is to date a major success and also a huge part of CBM history not to mention, cinema history. Looking back, I don't think anyone could have imagined Marvel based films eclipsing DC based films, especially since Superman & Batman have always been so dominant at the box office.
CBM's have endured the ebb & flow of the film industry and in recent years have truly evolved, achieving massive mainstream accessibility. Only through trail and error can any great level of success be acquired. There is just as much to learn from failure as there is from success. The last 13 years has truly been dominated by comic book movies! As we usher-in a new era of CBM's it's important to remember the past as we look to the future, and understand, film-makers may not make the same mistakes made before, but they'll most likely make all new mistakes. Fans are so quick to bash Batman & Robin because of it's camp-factor and silly-tone but without it's massive failure, there may not have been a darker, more realistic approach in Batman Begins (2005). The same can be said for Superman Returns (2006), comments and opinions often "tare this film a new one", fans jump all over the fact that "It's boring, Superman doesn't punch anything", and the list of complaints goes on and on. But it became the perfect example of what not to do in a Superman film. Which is why Man of Steel (2013) is much more action-packed and fasted paced.
There was a time when there was more bad than good CBM's, currently that's not the case. Failure is just as well documented throughout history as triumph and CBM's are no exception. So keep in mind, when bashing a CBM, that you feel let you down, it just may be the stepping stone to greatness.
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