As we sit on the cusp of the most anticipated weekend of the year for many comics and movie fans, there are a lot of details that we actually already know about the future of the comic book movie for the next several years. Recently, Marvel Studios announced release dates for several untitled films on up through 2019, and rumors continue to persist about Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment readying a slew of DC Comics-related films to match their already impressive lineup of forthcoming TV programs. While many fans see these things as new projects to look forward to, some fans are becoming vocal about worries of dreaded oversaturation.
The idea isn't without merit. When one kind of product floods a marketplace, it tends to devalue all of the other participators of the trend that follow. Comic books have spawned some of the hottest properties in the history of the film medium from 1978's Superman and 1989's Batman through 2002's Spider-Man, 2008's The Dark Knight and 2012's The Avengers. The success of these movies has led to reboots and sequels that are still coming (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron), and there's no sign of comic book adaptations slowing down for many summers to come.
That will certainly lead to the idea of the comic book movie burning out and becoming unsuccessful, right? Well... not exactly.
Have Comics Films Already Burned Out?
Some fans think that comics-based cinema has already started showing signs of burnout, particularly with this year's release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. People are correct in pointing out that not only was the film critically the most poorly received of the five Spidey films thus far, but it has also grossed the least amount of money.
Instead of taking this as proof that the franchise may need to be reevaluated, some are saying this is obvious empirical proof that comic book cinema is on its way out the proverbial door.
Of course, these same fans fail to see some pretty big signs pointing to the contrary. There's the improved critical and financial reception for two comic book sequels released this year: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
The year 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger was considered a critical and commercial success, but its performance in both departments was decidedly modest when compared to other entries in the Marvel cinematic universe, only outdoing 2008's The Incredible Hulk in box office take. Winter Soldier was not only received more positively by critics, but it set box office records for an April release and has gone on to make $712 million worldwide.
In the case of Days of Future Past, it is largely seen to correct many of the X-Men movies' previous mistakes. It also earned the best reviews of the series so far, and it currently has the highest worldwide gross of the entire franchise (a franchise that pretty much gave birth to the whole age of comics films we're in now, by the way).
Anyway, ASM2 has still grossed $700 million worldwide.
Why You Can't Lump All Comic Book Movies Together
One problem with the argument claiming a burnout is occurring is the idea that all comic book movies can be placed in the same category. That adheres to a rather old misconception about comic books themselves. Neil Gaiman explains this in the Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics documentary, stating that he always needs to make a distinction to people that comics is a medium, not a genre.
The old analogy of a medium as a beverage pitcher comes to mind. The comic books are the delivery system. Like pitchers, you can fill them up with whatever you want, and chances are that no two will pour the same drink.
The same can be said of comic book cinema. While you can lump the movies together as their own genre a bit more feasibly, there are many other genres which inspire individual superheroes. Batman and the X-Men are characters in very different kinds of stories.
And the upcoming Marvel Studios release Guardians of the Galaxy is based on a comic book and part of the same franchise as The Avengers, yet it's not exactly a superhero movie.The new DC-based series Constantine is also definitely not a superhero show. Instead, it dives into the darker realm of mysticism and the world beyond.
Movie and television studios alike are beginning to embrace the various genres featuring comic book characters that don't wear capes and cowls. While they may have all originated on the comic book page, that's usually where their similarities begin and end.
After this coming weekend, who knows what other new projects we'll learn about? We'll see if Hollywood begins to more actively diversify among the many genres you can pull from comic book source material. The possibilities are practically limitless.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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