Blast of the Week - The Future of Superhero Movies

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Blast of the Week -  What do you think about Marvel and DC’s upcoming film projects?

Mike Maillaro: After all that talk about Avengers: Age of Ultron last week, I couldn’t help but think about all the movies Marvel and DC have already announced over the next five years.  These slates are pretty ambitious to say the least….21 movies already announced and scheduled.  

  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange     (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)
  • Untitled Spider-Man film  (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok     (2017)
  • Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 (2018)
  • Black Panther (2018)    
  • Captain Marvel (2018)    
  • Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 (2019)
  • Inhumans (2019)

 

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
  • Suicide Squad (2016)
  • Wonder Woman (2017)
  • Justice League Part One (2017)
  • The Flash (2018)
  • Aquaman (2018)
  • Shazam (2019)
  • Justice League Part Two (2019)
  • Cyborg (2020)
  • Green Lantern (2020)

And that is not even counting the rumored films.  From DC, I’ve heard rumors of more solo Superman and Batman movies, Booster Gold, and Dark Universe.

Nicole Crites: Did you forget about Marvel’s anti-hero Deadpool (2016)?

Chris Delloiacono: These are just the Marvel Studios films and mainline DC movies.  Don't forget about Fox's X-Men & Fantastic Four plus Sony has films from the Valiant Universe, and there's a Vertigo Sandman in development too.  So, my first thought, the bubble is going to burst.  How many superhero movies can come out before people start skipping them.

Marvel Studios has made some really good movies but DC has to prove something before I'll buy into their slate.  Man of Steel was not good, so they better knock the next one out of the park.  How could I possibly care about Cyborg in 2020 when DC hasn't shown their films are worth the price of admission.  Plus, I could get hit by a bus long before that film hits the cinemas.  I've got a two-year-old son, so make me care before telling me what's coming out when my toddler will be in first grade.

The worst aspect of Marvel's success is the other studios that want to jump on the shared universe bandwagon.  I mean, DC makes perfect sense.  Same with multiple Star Wars films, but Ghostbusters, Robin Hood, and Universal Monsters?  Come on!  They need to make one good movie before they start planning a 46-film interlocking universe.  Hood was the biggest WTF of the bunch. What're they planning, a freaking Friar Tuck movie?  Two hours of eating and taking confession! WooHoo get your IMAX 3D tickets in Smell-o-Vision now, because that idea stinks!

Mike Maillaro: Yeah, wow, I wasn’t even thinking outside of the Marvel Cinematic and DC Cinematic universes.   I completely forget that there are 3 or 4 more X-Men movies in the pipeline right now (X-Men: Apocalypse, The Wolverine 3, Deadpool, and I’m not sure of the status of X-Force).  It’s definitely all a bit much.

Jeff Ritter: I will happily admit to being a huge comic book movie nerd. Not just the Big Two either, but films based on Dark Horse, Image, and other independent comic publishers too. I can’t begin to list them all, but movies like the recent Kingsman, the older Scott Pilgrim vs the World, even the not so great Whiteout, Cowboys and Aliens and Hercules with Dwayne Johnson are based on indy comics. Add all of those forthcoming indy comic films to the mix and you are well past the point of oversaturation, if Marvel and DC didn’t already accomplish that on their own. The saving grace of indy comics is that not necessarily superhero comics, and thus a movie like Kingsman will appeal to the spy fans, Scott Pilgrim to the video gamers, and so on.

When I look at that list I see two things: fanboy glee and public fatigue. The technology of cinema is going to continue to evolve. I predict DVD and Blu Ray will be hanging out with VHS and Beta within 5 years if not sooner. Actual film is rarity in cinemas today already--most everything is a digital upload now. The next step is projection. SCREW 3D! I can’t say that loud enough, so I’ll try it in bold, SCREW 3D! I don’t enhanced depth perception, I can tell the difference between background and foreground just fine, thank you.But what I can’t tell is if Spidey is getting ready to swing into the frame to rescue Mary Jane or Gwen or The Ancient One...er...Aunt May....until he actually does swing into frame. I think the next step needs to be “Surround Video.” If the screen in front of me shows Spidey chatting with David Letterman about is retirement in front of Dave’s theatre on Broadway, if I look at the wall to my left I should be able to see a mass of Manhattanites gathering to snap a picture of ol’ Webhead chatting with Letterman. And if I look to the right, I see The Rhino--not the mecha armor crap from Sony’s last not-so-amazing effort, but a guy in kick ass regular ol’ Rhino costume, barreling  town Broadway for a blindside sack of the Wallcrawler. Imagine this applied to baseball games, pro wrestling, video games.This is the closest thing to the Star Trek Holodeck we’ll probably see in our lifetimes and I believe the technology is close enough that it could be done, but no, we get craptacular 3D. Wait...what was our topic? Oh yeah, Batfleck is gonna suck worse than Supermurder breaking necks!

Mike Maillaro: I tend to agree with Chris on DC’s movies.  Most of the titles they announced are movies I would be interested in….BUT...and this is a big BUT… they need to show me that they can make a movie I want to see.  Man of Steel didn’t grab me at all, and despite my love of Ben Affleck, I’ve felt nothing on any of the images or teasers we’ve gotten for Batman Vs. Superman.

On the Marvel side, so far they have not made a movie I didn’t really enjoy.  I do worry about oversaturation, but so far, they have not let me down.  I suspect Ant-Man will be a big test on that.  At least Guardians of the Galaxy was a comic book I enjoyed for a long time.  I have no real connection to Ant-Man, other than enjoying the current series by Nick Spencer...but Spencer could write just about anything and I would enjoy it.

Jeff Ritter: As the Jersey boys have said, DC has proven nothing but ineptitude on the big screen. I enjoyed the first film of the Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Trilogy, but and while I enjoyed Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker I found that film to be in dire need of tighter editing. It really falls apart in terms of narrative at the end, probably because they tried to keep as much of Ledger’s frames in the final product as possible. The third move was tedious and obvious...and weepy. What happened to the formidable English “stiff upper lip?” Alfred was never such a crybaby in the comics. The less said about Green Lantern and Man of Steel the better. I refuse to watch trailers anymore if at all possible, but from what I hear my early suspicions about Dawn of Justice being a colossal trainwreck were well founded. I was almost on board with the Suicide Squad, but my first reaction was, “Hey, I love the Squad, but that’s because they’re C and D listers at best. The average non-comic fan won’t have a clue.” DC knew that, so they cast big with Will SMith, and then they jumped the shark (if I may borrow from the vernacular of stupid TV ideas and apply it to cinema) and announced the Joker was going to be in it. Red alert! do we really need yet another take on the Clown Prince of Crime, and if we do (I say thee nay, personally) do we need one still not so far removed from Ledger’s death? The popular post on Facebook in recent week of actor Jared Leto made up like the Joker as if Marilyn Manson had already done it. He looks ridiculous. Uninspired. I think that’s a good word for DC, who’s last truly great movie was The Watchmen. Since then it’s been pretty poor on a very consistent basis. You may all know jump all over me for not loving Christopher Nolan. I’m a big boy, I can take it.

Mike Maillaro: Interesting note.  Last week, I had complained that only white males had directed Marvel movies so far.  Word is they are looking at Ava DuVernay (Selma) to direct Black Panther or Captain Marvel!

Jeff Ritter: I don’t see how that really matters. Edward Zwick, a white dude, directed both Glory and The Siege, dealing with race on some level. Could they be a bit more diversified? I guess, but do we really want to see M. Night Shyamalan, an Indian director retelling his same tired tale over and over again? He already did The Spectre, somewhat cleverly disguising it as Unbreakable. If you’ve see one of his films you’ve seen them all. I want the best director I can get based on the material I’m doing. Tina Fey could write and direct a She-Hulk movie, and it would probably be pretty great because both she and the original material are pretty funny. I don’t need Antoine Fuqua or Spike Lee or Ava DuVernay directing a minority character because that just feels like pandering some quota nobody wants to admit to. If Fuqua is the best candidate to direct The Inhumans then by all means hire him for it. Let John McTiernan shoot Black Panther if he has the best vision for it.

R.J. Carter: I think that DC is a tad on the optimistic side with their slate. I may be wrong, but I think Marvel’s initial slate was pulled back a bit in the beginning when Iron Man came out, with a plan to culminate with The Avengers. Once they saw they had success, they got a bit more aggressive. DC seems to have just jumped right into the deep end of the pool.

Everything I’ve seen in trailers and stills for DC -- which is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad -- has left me completely nonplussed. They dominate television, but they just can’t seem to get a strong grip in the film industry. And perhaps that’s because their storytelling excels more with episodic than it does with grand theater?

Mike Maillaro: I think that is part of it.  I also think it’s how they are approaching movies.   They seem to look at their characters as being big and iconic, and not all that humanized.   You constantly hear the story that Warner Brothers mandate for the movies is to limit the humor. I don’t know if it’s true, but Man of Steel definitely suggests that.

It’s almost like they are trying to ensure they are the opposite of the Marvel movies.  I get the idea, but it’s just not the type of superhero movie I have any interest in seeing either.  It’s sort of the opposite of their comic events.  Convergence is fun, Secret Wars is way too serious so far.  So Convergence has a lot more appeal to me personally.

R.J. Carter: I stand by my statement I made at Archon. DC’s got a stodgy, gritty, realism approach to their movies that completely flies in the face of superhero fantasy. Marvel answers that with “We’ve got a raccoon with a machine gun!”

Mike Maillaro: Nothing amuses me more than the fact Rocket Raccoon appeared in a theatrical movie before Wonder Woman...

Chris Delloiacono: You guys make great points.  The humor in the Marvel movies is a huge selling point to me.  It's escapism and there's no reason you can't laugh a bit.  Marvel has really straddled the line of funny/campy but crossed over to the Dark Side.  I want to have fun at the movies and the DC movies don't look like that's what they'll offer.

Mike, your point about Rocket is dead on. It's hard to believe, but the raccoon will be an icon for this generation.  Perhaps more popular than almost every DC character.  Hard to believe ten years ago.

Jeff Ritter: Rocket was fantastic but Wonder Woman not yet seeing the light of day on the big screen is unfathomable. Same goes for Shazam, which could be wonderful if handled correctly, using Billy Batson as the light in an otherwise grim DC Cinematic U. shazam would appeal to such a wider demographic than anything they’ve trotted out so far and could likely be done in a way that earns a more preferable PG rating.

DC has killed their comic fanbase with neverending reboots and basically doing the same in the film division. Every relaunch of a character’s franchise starts with the damn origin story again. Everyone knows the origin of the two most iconic characters on Earth, so stop it already and do something new. That means new villains and not just another Joker and Luthor. Learn to crawl before you can walk--if a trilogy is too much for DC just make one good superhero movie again. Just one. Then it will start to come together.Other than the questionable inclusion of Antman on the release date calendar, Marvel has a license to  print money for the rest of the decade. Maybe they’ll end up printing enough for Disney to hand over to Warner Brothers and end their suffering. Batman joins the Avengers. Lobo joins the Guardians. Superman gets done right, probably not with Nathan Fillion in the tights but perhaps with Joss Whedon at the helm?  I know, everybody thinks it will never happen.I wouldn’t bet against it in the long run.  

Nicole Crites: I do thoroughly enjoy the comedy in Marvel films such as the Rocket/Groot dynamic or Iron Man/Hulk.  I will admit I’m a huge fan of the  90’s Batman movies including Val Kilmer and George Clooney both as Batman. I loved their puns and enormous amount of celebrities headlining the films.  However,  the extreme cheesiness was truly over the top with those movies. And I should probably note that I was around 10 yrs old when I saw these films which I thought were fantastic at the time.  I even wrote about them in my diary (...yes, my nerdiness started at a young age) and ranked the heroes and villains.   If they could’ve maintained a better balance of action and camp, then perhaps Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies could have been more memorable for others aside from just me.

R.J. Carter: Heresy! But then, you were only ten, so it’s forgiven.

Shazam actually has been on the big screen -- it’s just been about 65 years, that’s all. Still, I’d think a movie about Billy Batson’s Captain Marvel would be a much bigger draw than CYBORG.

DC would be better served to continue expanding their television base, perhaps even to the point of being able to procure their own channel dedicated to their fare. (Rumors are swirling that Disney may do just that with both Marvel and Star Wars material.)