EDITORIAL: The Dismal Future Of Comic Book Movies

EDITORIAL: The Dismal Future Of Comic Book Movies

I heard that there was a 500 dollar contest and thought, “I could use a laugh.” Seriously though, read on for my thoughts on what I consider to be the approaching comic book movie Apocalypse..they're getting worse folks!

First of all, things are going amazing. I’d like to say hi to Gusto, IM53, Durf, Trudy, SRS and all the old fellas who used to yuck it up.

Comic Book Movies (CBM) were once a possibility and the hopeful future. Superman had a great start and got worse with each outing. Batman made CBM history and started out strong only to fizzle away. Made for TV movies were created and to no one’s shock all were a massive disappointment. Then lesser known characters (I.E. Spawn, Blade, Hellboy) were able to receive big screen treatment with a smaller budget and provide a reasonable profit and critical reception while maintaining a charm to fans.

Soon, more CBMs were in the pipeline. Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman were all coming to theatres and fans of the fledgling genre hoped studio executives would learn from mistakes in Daredevil, Hulk, Catwoman and Punisher to provide general audiences with a respectable adaptation of a medium. No one who should ever be taken seriously went into X-Men and expected an hour and 45 minutes to encompass 50 years of comic history. X-Men provided a great start to a cinematic take on the characters. Wolverine wasn’t a four foot five tall person made of 300 pounds of yoked muscle, but he was recognizable and served as the fish out of water character to introduce everyone to the world of the mutants.

Christopher Nolan did the unthinkable and convinced WB to let him do a darker and serious take on Batman, and after what was alleged to be the darkest and most serious take on a superhero (Daredevil) made a lot of money but no one enjoyed it, he should be commended for that alone. However, the hopes of studio executives learning were just that – hopes. We were treated to Fantastic Four and Ghostrider. Of course there were wildly profitable and engaging sequels like Spider-Man 2 and X2, but audiences were also given films like Elektra, X3 and Spider-Man 3.

However there was hope. We were treated to great treats like 300 and Watchmen. We even got Road to Perdition. The Dark Knight was released and was a very good movie. Marvel was making an entire cinematic universe. There was talk of Geoff Johns making Green Lantern into the next Star Wars. We received a lot of half movies and complete misses. Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America could almost be re-cut into one excellent film. There was a plain terrible Fantastic Four sequel, a Wolverine failure, a re-imagination of a sequel to a sequel to a movie which should have been made in the 1980s (Superman). We got some moments in movies that were awesome, but we also got things like Punisher: War Zone.

Then after all the lessons learned and successes and failures we had more hope. Spider-Man was getting a reboot, The Avengers was coming and Christopher Nolan was going to close out his take on Batman. There were also rumors galore. Early murmurs of a Fantastic Four reboot started. Marvel was going to announce Phase 2. Superman was going to get a reboot.

It’s no secret that 2012 was box office magic. Avengers set records, The Dark Knight Rises closed out a chapter of cinematic history and MIB3, The Hobbit and a few other movies made a lot of noise in the midst of a global recession. Then came what we all had time and time again – hope.

Chasing a carrot isn’t a bad thing, but being beaten with the stick holding the carrot is. My thoughts on The Amazing Spider-Man are known, it was terrible. But for the most part, I was excited about the future of all things CBM. Then I took an objective look.

This year I was treated to the absolute worst movie I have ever seen in the theaters with Man of Steel. I didn’t see Iron Man 3 in theaters, but caught a copy and thought that with all its problems, it’s still an engaging movie. My complaints were solely comic book related, and within reasonable parameters, holding any movie to the lore and mystique (no pun intended) is not viable. The Wolverine was okay, I had no real issues with it except the whole final fight.

I then thought of what we have – the future. I am now looking forward to a Thor sequel, a Captain America Sequel, an Avengers Sequel, a marvel television show, a DC show about Green Arrow, a Fantastic Four reboot, an X-Men movie based on a book that will either be the greatest CBM or the worst, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. Oh, and MOS being the jumping off point of a DC cinematic universe.

It all seemed fine for the most part. Then I actually thought about it. Batman vs. Superman is a sequel to a movie with very mixed reviews, with the obligation of introducing a rebooted batman, continuing Superman’s story and showing the possibilities of the DC universe. It seems lofty when David Goyer is writing it and Green Lantern also needs to be rebooted, and the rest of the cast is either a CW television show or nonexistent. We will get three Avengers movies, but seriously…what then? The New Avengers? West Coast? Great Lakes?

Also, what else is on the docket? Star Wars? The carrot of phase 3? Three more Spider-Man movies? I’m sorry, but just like a one-off comic run…I’m close to done. Now, nothing will replace the feelings of seeing Superman or Daredevil or Thor on screen for the first time (no matter how many times that happens.) But sooner or later while watching the film, the feeling wears off and the movie takes over.

With anything, people will love and people will hate. Take any subset of culture and when it becomes popular you will find and almost Stalinesque nature come out in people. Magneto is this…Spider-Man is that…Wolverine is short. It is all heartfelt, but misguided. It becomes not about the movies and about how an individual believes a character should be portrayed. Some things you clearly can’t change, but some are the core of the character. As much as TASM got right about Peter Parker - the movie itself was not good. As great as Cavil looked as Superman and as much emotional turmoil it tried to show he went through – it didn’t work as a movie.

It’s unfair to expect Andrew Dominik to direct Daredevil or to expect JJ to salvage Star Wars. It’s unfair to expect studio executives to see CBMs as nothing more than a genre, for every Anchorman there are 25 Adam Sandlar movies. For every The Outlaw Josey Wales there are 25 The Terror of Tiny Town. My point is that CBMs are a genre and while no genre exists where all movies are amazing, we are all already emotionally connected to characters. However no one went to see Pink Cadillac and thought, “That is what I want out of a Clint Eastwood movie.”

The future of CBMs, as it stands, is comprised of reboots, sequels, sequels to reboots and the occasional first attempt. Studio executives will do what they do – try to make money. There is a reason for this of course, some characters are simply better than others. With what movies cost to make and market then expecting Ironfist or a Silver Surfer movie is self-defeating. That isn't to say that those movies couldn't work, but that if you change Stark from a serious businessman to a devil-may-care playboy…it works. Try changing a non-feeling alien to anything interesting to general audiences.

The whole point is this – we will continue to pay for films with “our” characters in them, however, use discretion when ranting about how Mandarin was raped or raving about MOS. If fanboys can be divided then keep in mind how general audiences might feel. But no matter what you do, above all else, please make sure Josh spends his 500 dollars well.
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