It seems as if every time you finally watch that new comic-based movie everyone is so hyped up about, 10 more are announced. This comes as no surprise, given the immense popularity behind these films.
When Spider-Man broke records with its 2002 release, producers jumped right onto the bandwagon, taking inspiration from comic books to make movies such as Hulk and Fantastic Four. It didn’t take long for The Dark Knight, Watchmen, Kick-Ass, and Iron Man to appear on the big screen too — and studios are not even close to being done.
Now we have Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, Wonder Woman, and according to Den of Geek — a total of 69 upcoming comic book movies within just a few years. It may seem overwhelming, but these movies continue to be in high demand.
However, is all of this hype surrounding comic book films just a trend that will fade out soon, making way for a new frenzy? Or could this actually be a new era of film?
Like the Golden Age of Hollywood, this seems to now be the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies. As Western films remained significant for decades, I think that comic book movies will as well — except now, we have superheroes instead of cowboys.
Part of their popularity may come from our current level of technology. Today’s audiences don’t have to believe in a person being able to fly or destroying monsters with only their fists — they can just watch as it happens with their own eyes. With all of the special effects, high budgets, and 3D visuals, comic book characters can finally live up to their full potential.
Another component is society’s shift in perception and the acceptance of comics as a valid literary and art form in the mainstream. Even just a few years back, I found that reading comic books deemed you a “nerd” or a “loser” (unless you had awesome friends who read them with you). I felt like it was even harder for girls, because not only did you get the derogatory labels, but comic books were also considered to be “for boys.” Rarely did you see a young girl’s room decorated with Spider-Man or Batman, and those who did were often ostracized by classmates.
However, our society has become more accepting in general these days, and being a nerd has actually become something desirable. You now see adults decked out in superhero themed T-shirts and accessories, while owning “old school” comic books and vinyls has become cool.
You see some people pretending to be nerds to impress others, and some fans cosplaying as their favorite comic book characters at conventions. Where was this when I was in grade school? I would have been one of the coolest kids there!
Not only do we have the technology and acceptance to turn beloved comics into high quality films, but they are popular because they already had a fan base. Teams didn’t need to build ideas or characters from scratch, because the story, along with the audience that comes with it, is already at least partially there.
Even the platform itself plays a major role in their popularity. Comic books had a specific audience. Although they have always been popular in general, film is a platform that is much more mainstream worldwide, with its universal audience and convenience on Netflix, on the Internet, and in most movie theaters.
Live-action comic book movies are also seen as more of an action or comedy flick, and less of a film just for geeks. Even if you didn’t read comics yourself, chances are you already know many superheroes yourself and may be curious to see how they will play out on the big screen.
Despite all of this, there are other factors that question the longevity of comic book films. Are these movies in danger of oversaturating the marketplace? There are already so many comic book films coming out from 2016 to 2019, with a few even confirmed already for 2020. Back in 2013, director Steven Spielberg predicted Hollywood films were headed towards a “meltdown,” where budgets will have ballooned to such huge amounts of money that the industry won’t be able to sustain it. Each movie released has to fight to be more popular that the last one, and more money has to be spent on even bigger effects and even better graphics.
With this comes more and more movie reboots. They can only reboot Spider-Man so many times (seriously, stop it — especially repeating the origin stories!) before people are tired of it. Special effects are so overdone that we will begin to become desensitized, if we are not already. In good news, at least they’ll have to be more creative with movie choices, and keep our attention by focusing on the plot.
For example, think of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was a film with amazing quality and an insane budget, yet reviews were not very positive and said that the plot and the movie itself weren’t as great as the graphics.
Despite this, I feel they will stick around. Comic books have been around for decades, and now they are not only in movies, but successfully booming in all mediums such as in TV series (Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix) and in awesome video games based on them (The Wolf Among Us). They have also evolved to society’s needs. While “good” comic book heroes of the 1960s could easily solve problems with a few punches, the society of today wants something more.
Iron Man, Batman and Captain America do not just fight enemies to save the world, but many fight human issues such as insecurity, fear, and loss. Today’s heroes are flawed, and that is what many people want to see — extensions of ourselves, but wearing cool outfits. Perhaps people just like to feel as if they could be similar to a superhero. As Superman said: “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
With their popularity, mostly universal appeal, and already made fanbase, you can expect comic book movies to stay around for a good while longer. While they may be replaced one day with a new era of movies, comic books have finally begun to be treated with the respect they deserve. Gone are the associations of them being childish and for losers, and in comes the hype, demand, and huge amounts of money to keep turning them into movies. ~Natalia Makarski