The future of comic book movies (part 1)

Earth 2
A long time ago comic book movies ruled the cinema, people flocked to every property imaginable and it seemed as if those adaptions had become a reliable source for money, but then they vanished from earth, retreated to the niche they came from.

So what went wrong?

Let’s look at the history of comic book movies and
their eventual downfall.

If you want to check out the Earth 1 version click here.

2011 – the year of oversaturation

June 1st X-Men: First Class
To make the comic book fans complain less Matthew Vaughn was attached to this project, which put the X-Men into the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Like all prequels this movie suffered from the fact that it was a prequel and we already knew how it would end.
X-Men first class repeated everything we had already seen in X2: X-Men United but with more special effects. The setting during the Cuban Crisis did nothing to the plot than making it look sophisticated and having an excuse to fire hundreds of missiles at once. It gave us a story we had already heard and doing little more than that it ended with the premise of a possible sequel and henceforth a reboot of the series.


June 17th Green Lantern
Much like most origin movies (and especially in a summer where 4 origin movies hit the screen) Green Lantern was content with going through the standard motions, offering little drama for the tired old story of a man who turned into a superhero, but as usual we had to wait until the end of the movie when the hero would finally turn into said hero and deliver the thrills.

Buried (no pun intended) under a load of cheap CGI Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively were nothing more than stock actors waiting for the action to happen without ever developing a connection to the audience.

While not a critical success Green Lantern was moderately successful enough for Warner Brothers to rush a sequel within two years, but plans for a standalone movie featuring the Flash were scrapped.


July 22nd Captain America
Continuing the trend of superheromovies that justified their existence by pointing a sign towards an inevitable team-up movie Captain America offered sporadic interesting ideas but at the same time it felt like 2010’s Iron Man 2 serving more as a set-up than a story that could stand on its own two feet. The fact that Captain America had the biggest cliffhanger for an Avengers movie yet didn’t help.


July 29th Cowboys and Aliens
After Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World had already underperformed and demonstrated that targeting the nerd-community was not financially feasible Jon Favreau put the final nail into the coffin showing that an obscure premise doesn’t warrant good actors and special effects.


December 23rd The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
Hyped beyond belief and with the heavyweights Jackson and Spielberg behind the project The Adventures of Tintin was an ambitious project with a lot of potential, but similar to 2008’s Speed Racer Tintin barely managed to contain enough story to fit on screen. The visuals while being well done couldn’t help the film’s shaky execution and uninspired acting.


2012 – The year of the downfall

February 17th Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Continuing his own genre of Cage-sploitation Ghost Rider 2 made the first movie seem like a serious arthouse-movie. Incomprehensibly plotted and desperately trying to evoke the feeling of Crank 1 and 2 by its directorial duo Neveldine/Taylor the movie failed to do so and bombed worse than Jonah Hex.


April 25th The Avengers
After 4 years of preparing the movie audience for a team-up movie The Avengers blasted on screen featuring Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Captain America. Directed by first timer Joss Whedon Avengers spiraled into a colorful overstuffed wreck cashing in on anticipation more than on actual content. The central conflicts of previous movies were ignored since there simply was no time to feature all five heroes with all their interesting stories. The movie spent too much time setting up the eventual special effect overkill instead of character drama.

Despite it’s horrific quality fanboys and the Transformers-crowd catapulted Avengers into the top spot with high inflated 3d prices doing their best to make the movie even more successful. Marvel immediately greenlit the second Avengers movie.


May 25th Men in Black III
After Men in Black II had already been a repetition of the first one without aforementioned’s charm MIIIB 3D managed to underwhelm even more so having Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return for their paychecks.


July 3rd Amazing Spider-Man
After refusing to let Sam Raimi realize an original take on Spider-Man Marc Webb was put in charge of rebooting Spider-Man five years after the last incarnation of the character. Giving us teenage angst in 3D the only thing that distinguished Amazing Spider-Man from Raimi’s take was the fact that Spider-Man now had webshooters – which nobody cared about except the same people who discussed that flames on Optimus Prime did misrepresent the character.

The rest of the audience who had had to suffer through 4 origin stories last year skipped Spider-Man and watched Star Trek 2 instead.

July 20th The Dark Knight Rises
More overstuffed and pretentious than Inception Christopher Nolan returned to Batman with another take on his “gritty realistic” portrayal of the Dark Knight. Having no death to boost the interest in the movie the villain Bane and Christian Bale’s Batman could not carry a movie that was overlong without ever making a real point.

While everyone went to see the last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman people soon realized that they had suffered under a mass delusion because of their empathy for Heath Ledger and that Nolan was in reality a hack that couldn’t write dialog to save his life.
The Dark Knight Rises was nominated for a golden raspberry and at the Academy Award ceremony the academy apologized for nominating Inception as best picture.

Christopher Nolan went mad making a movie even more backwards than Memento.

With a running time of 4 hours Otnemem was the final thing audience ever saw from Christian Bale and Nolan.

November The Wolverine
After Darren Aronofsky left the project the movie spiraled downwards. What started as an ambitious project quickly turned into X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2 in 3D giving us 2 hours of Hugh Jackman running around interrupted by poorly choreographed fight scenes. Because of overall disinterest and the disappointing reception of The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers The Wolverine was forgotten quickly.

December The Man of Steel
Proving that he could not only wreak havoc on his own ideas Zak Snyder set out to his next tour de force. Under the guidance of Hack Nolan Man of Steel was not just another sub-standard superhero story exploiting iconic imagery and reusing villains like Zod, it basically proved that Superman was the most boring superhero of them all with no notable story to tell. On top of the nonsensical script by David Goyer Snyder’s forced slowmotion made Man of Steel look even worse than The Dark Knight Rises, turning it into one of biggest financial failures of comic book history.
Snyder’s take on Superman became the symbolic nail in the coffin and marked the end of the era much like Richard Donner’s Superman had been its beginning.


2013 – The year of sorrow

Justice League
As signaled by Man of Steel the era of comic book movie was coming to an end, but since the Avengers concept had paid off financially Warner Brothers had felt assured in their rushed attempt to duplicate the project. Featuring an all new cast Justice League made the Avengers look like a first rate movie. The entire story was barely existent and whereas Avengers had tried to introduce the different heroes Justice League just threw them into the mix, wandering from action piece to action piece.

May Iron Man 3
While things looked promising at first seeing as the Avengers was finally o wayut of the Iron Man 3 was seen as a possible breath of fresh air in the genre that had gone from open and adventurous to by the numbers and tedious. The fact that finally the Mandarin would make an appearance stirred up the last bit of interest, but it turned out to be just another turn of Robert Downey jr. acting snarky with a special effects overkill at the end, proving once more that superhero movies would never be more than an excuse to have a big final fight.

Robert Downey jr. took home the golden raspberry for worst actor, his comeback from 2008 was short lived and once again Downey hit rock bottom.

Green Lantern 2
Where The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers had had the advantage of hype 2013 should mark the year where audiences around the globe grew aware of the low quality of those productions. The fact that Green Lantern 2 and 3 were shot back to back did not help the poor boxoffice receipts and Warner Brothers was forced to witness the Lantern’s light vanish.

2014 – The year when the backlash kicked in

Nick Fury
Trying to revive the interest in another Avengers movie by putting out another tie-in production Nick Fury once again served as nothing more than 2 hours of waiting and promising a bigger plot to come. Having Samuel Jackson in the lead helped the movie a little but not enough to turn Nick Fury into a blockbuster.

Avengers II: Electric Boogaloo
After problems arose between Robert Downey jr. on Iron Man 3 due to discussions about his salary and the fact that the third installment was so poorly received Marvel fired Downey and replaced him, hoping that when buried under CGI it would make no difference who was playing Iron Man.

Avengers II featured even more Marvel villains (basically everyone who hadn’t yet been featured) – that was about it.

2016 – The year we tried to forget

Hellboy III
Having been pushed away from The Hobbit and At the Mountains of Madness getting canceled Guillermo Del Toro’s bad luck streak continued as the sequel to Hellboy was taken out of his hands and given to a director who was less expensive than Toro. Featuring an all CGI Hellboy (Perlman getting replaced for money reasons as well) Hellboy 3 was a disaster to put it mildly.

The Dark Knight Returns
When the disinterest in comic book adaptions had caused most of the big productions to move to other properties Zak Snyder returned to make his final masterpiece of terror.

Proving that burying Superman and Watchmen was not enough Snyder managed to get the rights for Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns giving us an adaption as tediously literal as Watchmen, but this time without Jackie Earl Haley.

The Dark Knight Returns was the official end of comic book movies although Zak Snyder threatened to eye The Sandman.

Like Rodriguez with Sin City 2 he never made good on this promise.

The future is not set in stone,
As in the DC-multiverse there is more than one Earth
See how events might unfold on Earth 1 here.

Wolfgang Verfasst von:

Der Host des Flipthetruck Podcasts. Mit einem Fokus auf Science Fiction und Roboter sucht er ständig jene Mainstream Filme, die sich nicht als reine Unterhaltungsfilme zufrieden geben.

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