It seems nowadays that every summer the cinema is filled with action-packed superhero blockbusters, almost more than we can handle.
But it wasn’t always this way – recent advancements in film technology have ensured that the corny old films which brought in only the die hard fans are a thing of the past.
The last thirteen years have done wonders for legitimising comic book films as something for adults, instead of just young boys. Beginning with the X-Men films, the first of which was released in 2000, they came in steady trickles for the first few years including Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Daredevil, Hulk and Catwoman although the large majority of these films either tanked entirely or weren’t taken seriously by their primary audience; comic book fans.
Searching For Legitimacy
Arguably the first film to legitimise superhero films in popular culture was Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, released in 2005. It was far from the first Batman film, some of which had been popular with subcultures – especially Tim Burton’s films – but it was the first to be directed by a complete comic book geek, and it did incredibly successfully. Two sequels followed, the last of which was released in 2012; DC was beginning to win the comic book movie war, simply by making them as gritty and full of action as possible.
But Marvel wasn’t far behind.
Although the X-Men and Spider-Man films were run by Marvel, their biggest success came in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, which is arguably one of the most loved of the new Avengers.
Releasing it in a partnership with Disney lead to games, action figures, costumes and even playable Iron Man slots online. The blockbusting success of Iron Man paved the way for the Avengers movies and was followed by two sequels, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America films, which culminated in The Avengers first film in 2012.
The Future of Comic Movies
Although you might have thought that these comic book-related movies would have a short shelf life, they have entirely dominated the summer’s film releases every year.
Marvel is currently beginning its next step with a second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron, and numerous sequels for all of the main characters; soon they will even move beyond the Avengers itself and into Guardians of the Galaxy, a much lesser-known part of the Marvel universe. The beauty of a franchise like this, where the stories of several different films intertwine and a lot can be missed through skipping a film, is that it’s guaranteed sales for the company.
As was to be expected, DC have followed suit, riding on the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, all three of which were unprecedented successes – the second instalment, The Dark Knight, still holds the record for most Academy Award nominations of any superhero film ever made.
Although it took them a little longer than Marvel to produce a string of connected films, Christopher Nolan’s 2013 Man of Steel kicked off the brand anew and now its sequel, Batman vs Superman is in the works for 2016. Gal Gadot is set to become Wonder Woman in this film as well as two others, perhaps progressing forward to a Justice League film not dissimilar to Marvel’s Avengers franchise.
Right now, we’re at the height of comic book film popularity, and this is largely due to the ability of Marvel and DC to produce their own films. No more terrible versions of Catwoman, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four – legitimate comic book films with huge audiences are here to stay. For a while at least.