The Collapse of the Comic Book Movie

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According to reports, Marvel has films mapped out to 2028. From now until then are at least 11 confirmed films, and rumors of films nearly equal to that. Furthermore, Warner Bros, who owns the rights to DC Comics, also has at least eleven confirmed films in the works to match the enormous success of Marvel.

Just think about that for a moment.

If my math is right on this, and I’m hoping it’s far too high, that means there are at least 22 comic book films in the works. If 2028 marks the end of the Marvel era (and if Marvel’s executives are reading this right now they probably just chocked on their coffee in amusement), I will be 36 and taking my kids to see The Avengers 6 to watch as the members of a movie series with a GDP greater than Canada battle aliens from wheelchairs.

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Jokes aside, that is an absurd amount of superhero films that these studios are betting are going to be just as popular and financially successful as they are today. Let me argue for a moment why this is a problem.

I should first preface this by saying that, for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed the comic book films that have come out in the last few years. Some of the most talented filmmakers, actors, and writers in the business have increasingly taken part in the development of these films, and the results have been high quality films that are smart, entertaining, and visually stunning. For the proverbial avalanche of comic book films coming out, at least they’re largely good.

That being said, there are simply way too many of them coming out and I’m willing to bet their effect on audiences is going to increasingly diminish as the Iron Man, Batman, and Spiderman reboots and sequels start reaching up into the double digits, super heroes with names we can’t pronounce start taking their place, and the plot lines descend into the trenches of fan fiction because that’s the only thing left to use.

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Secondly, there’s the overwhelming dominance of superheroes at the box office. If you look at the highest grossing films of all the time, three out of the top ten are comic book films that have come out in the last 2 years (The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and The Dark Knight Rises). Go farther down the list and the number increases with the more recent films coming farther and farther up the list. If the trend continues, the highest grossing films of all time will be filled with The Avengers sequels and the most popular individual superheroes.

The problem with this is that studios will wonder why they should support the development of any other film. Other than the big franchises like Star Wars (which is beginning to adopt Marvel’s style of solo films as well), Pirates of the Caribbean, and of course the various comic books, most films come with a considerable amount of risk. And if studios can eliminate that risk, they will do everything they can to do it.

Just imagine that the year is 2024 and you glance at the films showing at your nearest theater to find a list filled with every comic book character’s personal franchise. There are no indie films to be seen, except at your scarce artsy theater, and those begin to vanish as their budgets evaporate. It’s not sensationalist nonsense. Hollywood can become a monopolistic corporation when there’s buckets of money to be made, as there are with comic book movies today.

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But I don’t think it will last. While I’m admittedly not the biggest comic book fan, there’s still only so much of one particular interest before it loses its appeal. And there are only so many reboots and iterations before the stories become over-saturated and shameless cash grabs. When the ideas go downhill, and the actors start to get shuffled out because they’re tired and too old for their roles, how much longer will audiences really be interested enough to pay for comic book movie after comic book movie?

That being said, Guardians of the Galaxy, did give me some hope. The movie was hilarious, satirical, and highlighted superb chemistry among characters that had no backgrounds. Furthermore, the movie was incredibly fresh because it brought forth completely new characters and focused on them as a collective team. I can say that among the future installments in the Marvel Universe, the Avengers 3, which will bring together both The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy is by far my most anticipated because I can only imagine the conversations to be held between characters like the goofy Chris Pratt and sarcastic Robert Downey Jr. as their personalities tangle and pull.

Still, the future of comic book films looks simply far too heavy to work, and it seems inevitable that these studios will collapse under their weight. For now I will continue to enjoy the introduction of new and fresh characters, but it won’t be long until I, and likely many others, start wondering whether comic book heroes belong in the movies any more.

About Matt Harrison

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