It’s amazing how far we’ve come since Bryan Singer’s X-Men hit theaters in 2000. Viewed by many as ground zero for the comic book movie era – though Blade might have something to say about that – its success ushered in a new wave of blockbusters that included Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series (launching in 2002) and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (which started in 2005). There may have been some bumps along the way (Daredevil and Catwoman), but the groundwork was laid for superhero movies to become the thing in Hollywood.
Today, it seems silly that the original X-Men film wasn’t a guaranteed hit at the box office. Four of the biggest studios in the industry (Disney, Fox, Sony and Warner Bros.) have their hands in this lucrative pot of gold, and in some cases are using films to emulate the comic pages. The concept of a shared movie universe that incorporated multiple crossovers was quite ambitious when Marvel Studios released Iron Man in 2008, but like X-Men, it only set the stage for things to come.
WB’s recent announcement that there are ten DC adaptations scheduled from March 2016 (Batman v Superman) to June 2020 means that there will be over 40 films based on Marvel and DC properties over the next six years. And while Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are responsible for a large portion of gross revenue, this development won’t stop the studios from dipping into the sci-fi, fantasy, and action genres during this time as well. With so many “event” projects vying for audiences’ attention, Hollywood could be on the cusp of collapsing under itself.
But is it?
From fans commenting on websites to professional film journalists, many have the same thing on their mind: with so many superhero movies scheduled for release (not to mention, nearly 15 previous years of the genre being in the limelight), are we about to witness an audience burnout with regard to comic book movies?
One look at the box office numbers for Guardians of the Galaxy may cause some to scoff at that notion, but from a certain point of view, it’s a valid concern.
Hollywood works in cycles, with a different type of film being the number one option for moviegoers over specific time periods. Right now, many consider this to be the “golden age” of superhero movies, much like the 1950s represented the glory days of the western.
The idea of the marketplace tiring of superheroes sooner rather than later is one that is brought up frequently, but fans of those films rightfully point out that comic book adaptations are no different from romantic-comedies or action flicks – meaning that several entries in multiple genres pop up over the course of a calendar year.
2014 saw four high-profile superhero films (after four the year before). In the grand scheme of things, is that really that many?
Granted, we’ve never seen Marvel and DC films arrive in such high volumes (2017 will see nine such projects open in theaters), but with four major studios currently involved in this gold mine, inflated numbers are to be expected.
While it’s unlikely that everyone playing this game achieves the same level of success (hi, Amazing Spider-Man 2), the notion that moviegoers are suddenly going to lose interest overnight simply isn’t true.