Jake Buckler started talking about superhero movies, and it got me thinking. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was probably the most disappointing film of the year for me. Here’s a movie that started with great source material — the Dark Knight comics — and somehow turned itself into a dour, boring mess. But that’s not the only reason that comic book movies have to go.
There have always been comic book movies. You can look at any decade since film came out and there was a comic book movie of some sort. Some of them were pretty good for their day. But the whole comic-book movie revolution started, I’d say, in 1999 when Spider-Man came out. Here was a movie that actually appealed to people who didn’t even read comics, because it had real characters. Things kept ramping up with just a few clunkers (*cough*Fantastic Four*cough*) until 2008 when we first saw what we now refer to as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” This is code for, “If you’re not a comic-book junkie you’re never going to get all this straight.”
Fast-forward 8 years and there are now about a gazillion movies that take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and you’re supposed to remember that the infinity stone from Loki’s staff ends up in the hands of Thanos 3 movies later. Personally I can’t even believe I typed those words. You’re supposed to absorb every origin story, every in-joke and smile knowingly when Kat Dennings says “Mjolnir.”
Look, I’m as big of a geek as they come and even I’m a little tired of it. I don’t need a second job just trying to figure out how The Collector came into possession of Howard The Duck. It’s enough already.
The idea of the MCU was a grand one, and back in 2008 it seemed an insurmountable peak — the idea that a studio could actually think far enough ahead to build whole movies out of each character and finally assemble them into The Avengers in a way that made sense… that seemed impossible. But they did it, and then, they kept going. They kept making sequels and more sequels and more movies about increasingly unknown heroes (Ant-Man? Really?) and now they have a muddled mess. They’re not done yet, either; there are at least two more Avengers films in the pipeline and one more Thor … and probably a whole lot more that I haven’t even considered.
As if everything weren’t already confusing, you have this whole separate thing where now Marvel Studios still doesn’t own X-Men or Fantastic Four so there’s another studio doing those films, which leads to a film like Deadpool where you see X-Men characters that you’ve never seen before. You also have a “Quicksilver” character in two different films with two different backstories! AAUGHHHH!
And all that is just one side of the comic-book aisle. At least the Marvel movies have been a success. After producing some of the most successful films of any kind — the Batman films of 1989-1995 and 2005-2012 (I’m going to ignore the 1997 film) — Warner Bros. tossed it all and made Batman v. Superman with a completely different Batman character. And guess what, the movie flopped. Big surprise. It hasn’t stopped them from pursuing their own ambitious agenda of Justice League films, so now you have to deal with that. You just know someone is going to look you in the eye and ask why Spider-Man can’t join the Justice League.
And honestly, this is all too much to take. It’s gotten way out of control and every movie has more baggage and less quality than the one before. I get it, these films are huge spectacles with built-in audiences. But every one of them makes a little less money than the last… and a little less sense.
I say, enough with the comic book movies. This year proved that big, noisy, mostly identical movies just don’t make money anymore. It’s time to think of some new characters and go on from there. It’s going to take a little while to get up to that stratospheric level of income that the studios once enjoyed, but if they put half as much commitment into developing new, non-comicbook characters as they put into Ant-Man, they’ll be just fine.