Comics on Film: A Look Ahead at 2019's Superhero Movies

Comics on Film: A Look Ahead at 2019's Superhero Movies

Jan 11, 2019

Avengers: Endgame

Welcome to a new year! 2018 proved to be a very eventful year for comics-based cinema, producing hits from the beginning of the year to the end. From Black Panther to Aquaman, it was a good year to check out films based on the characters that define our modern mythology.

This year isn’t going to be a slouch either, though. The superhero genre seems to be at perhaps its greatest prominence in history, and we’re going to be seeing a number of movies based on characters from both Marvel and DC Comics, along with a wholly original superhero-inspired film series and a character who hangs his hat with publisher Dark Horse Comics.

So, without further ado, here are the superhero-inspired films hitting theaters in 2019. Perhaps more than ever, there’s likely something for everyone on this year’s list of forthcoming releases.

Glass

Glass (January 18)

The long-awaited direct follow-up to M. Night Shyamalan’s 2000 hit Unbreakable and also a sequel to 2016’s Split, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) will be welcoming Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) to their world, while also getting their own long-awaited return to movie theaters. Unbreakable is often referred to as one of the major catalysts of the modern age of superhero cinema, even though it’s derived solely out of its director’s imagination.

Shyamalan demonstrated quite a lot of reverence for the kinds of heights that superhero stories can achieve, with the original film being directly fashioned out of the structure that he identified for most superhero origin stories: the birth of the hero, followed by struggles against criminals, and culminating in a battle with the arch-enemy.

Glass aims to take things further, but on a totally different cinematic landscape. The original Unbreakable arrived mere months after the original X-Men film kicked off the current golden age of superhero cinema, and made an indelible impression on the movie-goers of the time. Can Glass do the same in a world far more familiar with superheroes? We’ll find out later this month.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel (March 8)

A highly-anticipated new entry in the ongoing saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel will fill in some details concerning the MCU’s little-seen era of the 1990’s. Long before Tony Stark had his fateful encounter with the Ten Rings but long after Captain America went down into the icy waters of the Arctic, we get to become acquainted with a new hero (Brie Larson) who gave the likes of Nick Fury (Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) their first-ever look at a truly exceptional hero.

Beyond that, though, Captain Marvel marks the first Marvel Studios film to be led by a sole female protagonist, while also filling in some interesting MCU history that’s both earthbound and up in the stars. It’ll also show us the power and potential of a hero who — on her own — would likely be able to challenge Thanos directly (at least pre-Gauntlet).

Captain Marvel looks like a promising and engaging film, but it will also give us our own first-ever look at someone who will likely prove to be the Avengers’ secret weapon in their upcoming final battle with the Mad Titan. As both a single 'episode' of the MCU and a building block for what’s to come, Captain Marvel will most definitely be one to watch.

Shazam!

Shazam! (April 5)

The only DC Comics-based movie hitting this year to be inspired by a good guy, Shazam! brings to life one of the most beloved and longstanding DC characters, while also showing us the more superheroic side of that shared universe’s magical realm. The transformation of young Billy Batson into the magical powerhouse that is Shazam (or Captain Marvel, for us longer-term fans) makes for an inherent power fantasy for anyone who dreams of being bigger and stronger just by uttering a single word.

Also, though, if Billy’s journey of self-discovery is as rewarding in the movie as it often is in the comics, then this should prove to be a new kind of memorable outing.

We also shouldn’t forget that Shazam! marks the seventh entry in the so-called DC Extended Universe, following up last month’s Aquaman in the chronology and giving us a more lighthearted look at some little-seen light to be found in that world (at least outside of Themyscira and Atlantis). Will this be a movie that stands alongside Wonder Woman and Aquaman as indicators of this world’s true potential on the big screen, or are we more likely to pair it with a critical dud like Suicide Squad? We’ll find out in just a few months.

Hellboy

Hellboy (April 12)

Marking the character’s return to the big screen for the first time since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the new film features David Harbour (Stranger Things) putting on the horns for an R-rated reboot from director Neil Marshall. With a screenplay partially credited to the character’s original creator Mike Mignola, Hellboy has the potential for greatness as long as the things that have made the character endure for nearly 26 years remain intact.

While it’ll likely be difficult to overlook the absence of the previous series’ imaginative writer-director Guillermo del Toro and its pitch-perfect lead actor in Ron Perlman, Marshall’s track record in high-profile TV shows like Hannibal and Westworld along with Harbour’s sarcastic and well-timed delivery will hopefully bring the demon Anung Un Rama back to an active film series with a vengeance.

And, hey! Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson?! Bring it on!

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame (April 26)

As big and sweeping as Avengers: Infinity War was in serving as the culmination of a decade-long film series global audiences have grown so invested in, the excitement and stakes surrounding its upcoming follow-up are, inconceivably, even bigger and more potentially powerful than what we observed shockingly last April. The emotional power exhibited by Infinity War in its closing moments was palpable, and with everything we know going on both in front of and behind the camera for its follow-up, there’s a lot riding on Avengers: Endgame.

With the original Avengers and a handful of others now being the only major superheroic forces for good left in the MCU itself, they’re going to need to call on new friends and dig deep into themselves to operate after the tragedy endured by them and the universe at-large at the hands of Thanos.

With many heroes dead (or apparently so) and the wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet still out there after his ultimate victory, the Mad Titan will undoubtedly be challenged after awakening a sleeping giant in something so rarely seen by these titular beacons of heroism: the Avengers’ rage. Here’s hoping that Endgame delivers on the hype that breathlessly awaits a dividing line and definite turning point between the past and future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix (June 7)

A lot of interest is focused on the newest entry in the X-Men film series. As the longest-running series in the modern conception of the genre to go without some kind of major reboot, Dark Phoenix may be the last hurrah for the nearly 20-year-old superhero film series in its current form. After the sale of 20th Century Fox to the Walt Disney Company is finalized, Disney will undoubtedly be looking at ways to fold in the long-running X-Men characters into the larger fabric of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which could make Dark Phoenix the end of an era.

Still, cynicism abounds in many fans because this new film represents an attempt on the part of the filmmakers to adapt a story they already unsuccessfully tried to adapt 13 years ago in X-Men: The Last Stand. But, Dark Phoenix has a promising young and returning cast, and writer-director Simon Kinberg undoubtedly wants to give it his all in order to make a good first impression through his directorial debut.

Kinberg, the man that many franchises turn to for creative bolstering, likely understands better than anyone the implications of what’s riding on this latest entry in the X-Men film series. If Dark Phoenix truly is the last time we see the characters under the familiar guise of the long-running X-Men film series, all we can really do before release is hope that this last hurrah sticks the landing.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5)

In 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming made for a brilliant and memorable debut of the MCU’s vision of Peter Parker going solo, and with much of the same creative team returning for this sequel, there are a lot of high hopes riding on Spidey’s big screen solo return. Taking place sometime after Avengers: Endgame, the film will also feature the return of Nick Fury and Maria Hill as played by Samuel L. Jackson (he’s showing up a lot in this list!) and Cobie Smulders respectively, which calls back to some memorable encounters that Fury and Peter had in the Ultimate comics over the last 20 years by the likes of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley.

Adding longtime classic Spider-Man villain Mysterio to the mix — played by Jake Gyllenhaal, no less — will hopefully make Far From Home another solid solo Spidey film with Tom Holland in the lead. While it’s anyone’s guess at this point how the events of Infinity War and Endgame have altered Peter’s life by the time we meet up with him again, Spider-Man’s presence in the MCU at-large continues to be an ongoing benefit to the truthfulness of the character’s roots.

Here’s hoping that this isn’t the last time that Peter Parker graces the same universe as the Avengers with his friendly neighborhood presence.

The New Mutants

The New Mutants (August 2)

While technically an extension of the aforementioned long-running 20th Century Fox X-Men film series, The New Mutants very much appears like it wants to set itself apart from more typical superheroic adventures by being a more angsty, cerebral and perhaps even horror-inspired take on where someone can take characters that first appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics.

The New Mutants has often been one of the more well-regarded X-Men spin-off comic books, particularly under the watchful eyes of writers like Chris Claremont and more recently Zeb Wells, some of the characters associated with the series have leaked into other films like 2014’s Days of Future Past. In general, The New Mutants at their best represent the flexibility of Marvel’s lesser-known X characters in their potential appearances in other kinds of genres.

If Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants end up being the last of the 'old guard' of the X-Men film franchise, The New Mutants itself should hopefully make for a memorable and unique finale.

Joker

Joker (October 4)

While a lot of mystery still clouds this list’s only supervillain movie, various leaks of set photos and production videos are creating an intense amount of interest in exactly how deep and dark this film will go in examining, arguably, the world’s most infamous and well-known comic book villain. While the idea of a film featuring the Joker without any kind of presence from Batman (at least as an adult) might make some nervous, director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix certainly have a lot of material to work with.

The Joker’s massive popularity and wide variety of creative potential could tell a story that ranges from giggle-inducing to horrifying, from hate-filled to heartbreaking. In the comics, the Joker has often been a character who serves as a warning: more than simply insane, he’s often depicted as a response to a world that can be cruel and dismissive, with a method surrounding a madness tempered only by a twisted carnival-borne brand of sadism.

"All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy," as the words of Alan Moore warned us in 1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke. If the world throws you away without a word, what happens if someone comes roaring back with a knife in their hand and a smile on their face? Something tells me that even if we may not want to know, Phillips and Phoenix may want nothing more than to tell us.

 

And that’s it! Which comics-based movie are you most looking forward to in 2019? Sound off below in the comments, and we’ll see you next time in Comics on Film!

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