Superhero movies come and go. Our superheroes are presented to us through TV series, movies, comic books, computer games, etc. For some, they formed their impression of Batman based on the 60s TV series. For others, it will have been Tim Burton’s version. For others, Christian Bale is Batman. Ben Affleck (or Batfleck) will create another version. This post is really focused on cinema releases. I am also a fan of many of the animated features both Marvel and DC generate at fairly regular intervals, and maybe I’ll write another post about them some time.
I had grown up on the 60s Batman TV series, so when a Batman movie was in the works, I couldn’t wait. I saw the sequels and reboots and joining him we had Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Superman, a Spiderman reboot. A Hulk movie. All of varying levels of quality.
Different film studios bought up rights for different comic superhero properties.
Then, Marvel created their own film studio and took a huge risk by trying to bring some of their superheroes whose rights weren’t already owned by other studios. They led with Iron Man and got Robert Downey Jr to take on the leading role.
It was a success that went far beyond most fans expectations. The film and Downey Jr’s portrayal were high quality. And the Tony Stark character had all the wealth and technology – features that had previously been the sole realm of Batman – and showed that a super hero could have all that and still have loads of fun. A superhero who is almost always smiling? Unheard of!
Marvel Studios were preparing to build on their success, with post credit teasers dating right back to Iron Man, introducing us to the idea of an Avengers movie.
The Avengers movie would not reach screens until 2012, and in the meantime we were treated to another Iron Man movie, Hulk Movie, Thor and Captain America movies in the meantime. The risk being that having such an extended build up to a movie event meant that it would be very easy to fail to meet expectations.
Then came the Avenger’s movie and comic book fandom were thrilled to enjoy a movie worthy of the build up and hype.
Marvel studios could easily have slipped in to a formulaic approach, but they weren’t done yet.
They went ahead and made a movie of one of their least well known properties, Guardian of the Galaxy. Another huge success.
Now, Marvel has a string of films in their forward plan that could easily be characterised as high risk ventures. And at the same time, DC are scrambling to recreate the success of the Avengers based on their main comic book team, the Justice League. Meanwhile, the studios that hold rights on other superhero properties that have enjoyed any level of success are also preparing further movies and spinoffs.
Comic book superhero fans will not be short of things to watch for years to come.
If you are reading this, there is a fair chance you have already watched most of the Marvel/DC movies I am about to mention. But on the odd chance you missed some, here are some quick thoughts on them. NB: This list is far from comprehensive. There are a number of movies with comic book source material not mentioned (eg: The Spirit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Punisher). For what appears to be a pretty complete list, try this link : http://flightstightsandmovienights.com/review-index/the-list/
Superman (1978) – DC – Origin story. Visual effects are good for the time but show their age.
Superman II (1980) – DC – Easily the best of this series. Iconic.
Superman III (1983) – DC – This one has not aged well. Hard to re-watch in the modern era. The computer genius tapping away on 1983 technology. *Wince*
Supergirl (1984) – DC – Poorly received and generally considered missable.
Howard the Duck (1986) – Marvel – The movie Marvel would probably like to forget. Considered by many as a yardstick of badness in movies.
Superman IV (1987) – DC – Christopher Reeve’s Superman returns to deliver a message about the threat of nuclear weapons. Watchable.
Batman (1989) DC – Michael Keaton as Batman, Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Iconic in this round of Batman films.
Batman Returns (1992) – DC – Seemed to think the formula for success is Michelle Pfeiffer + tight Catwoman costume = success.
Batman Forever (1995) – DC – Figured that Jim Carrey as the Riddler could carry the film enough that we wouldn’t notice Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton in the bat suit. Started adding some ridiculous visual effects.
Batman & Robin (1997) DC – Another leading character change. Part of a series characterised as gritty and grim, but suddenly injecting plot and dialogue worthy of the 60s TV series. The result was almost a parody of a Batman movie. A movie where you can make a drinking game out of the terrible puns and flawed plot logic.
Blade (1998) Marvel – Vampires are cool now. Lets roll out a fringe Marvel character as a movie. Wesley Snipes takes on the role well.
X-Men (2000) Marvel – The first superhero ensemble film. Populated with enough quality actors (not all of whom are given adequate screen time) to carry itself well and spawn a range of sequels and spin offs.
Blade 2 (2002) – Marvel – I actually enjoyed this one more than the first.
Spiderman (2002) – Marvel – Origin story. Successful but not really a great film.
Daredevil (2003) – Marvel – Another example of a film the makers would un-create if they could. Possibly because the action cuts, shifts between the intensity of the audio combined with theshadow world view representing Daredevil’s radar sense, was just too much for the stoner fans to absorb in a single go.
Hulk (2003) – Marvel – A painfully long movie peppered with monster too few for the time invested. Includes the origin story.
X-Men 2 (2003) – Marvel – The X Men return with a very Wolverine focused plot. A factor that seems to be at the fore of all movies in this franchise. Do stuff with Wolverine, and have some other mutants to fill things out.
Blade: Trinity (2004) – Marvel – Fandom heavily divided on this one. An unusual finale to the series.
Catwoman (2004) – Marvel – Another example of all things awful in superhero movies. Can be skipped.
Spiderman 2 (2004) Marvel – And Peter Parker is back to battle Dr Octopus. A fair movie.
Batman Begins (2005) – DC – Rebooting the Batman story with a fresh take on his origin. A good movie.
Elektra (2005) – the opposite of a good movie. This film and Catwoman are largely responsible for the lack of female led superhero films.
Fantastic Four (2005) – Marvel – A film that was reasonably well cast. Bordering on cheesy in places, I thought it was a fair adaptation of the team, with the exception of Mr Fantastic.
Superman Returns (2006) – DC – An revival of the superman story, added as a bizarre sort of sequel to Superman lore that didn’t exist. I enjoyed Kevin Spacey’s take on Luthor, in the way he maintains many of the iconic Gene Hackman characteristics from the 70s and 80s Superman movies. Unfortunately, the film suffered from poor writing and some enormous plot logic holes.
X-Men: The Last Stand – Marvel – Not the most popular X-Men movie. Probably because X2 had set up to tell the Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the most iconic X-Men stories ever, and were not able to do it justice.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – (2007) Marvel – Some more of the Fantastic Four. Far from exciting and let down in the way Galactus was presented. Again, one of the most iconic FF stories, failing in its adaptation to the big screen.
Ghost Rider (2007) Marvel – This was always going to be a high risk proposition. What actor wants to play a role where the titular character is going to be a CG animated flaming skull. Introduced some strange cowboy tales that had no relationship to the lore of the comics. Disappointing.
Spiderman 3 – (2007) Marvel – Positives: The Sandman animation was spectacular. Negatives: Pretty much everything else. I really wanted to punch out Peter Parker during this film. Plus the film failed to bring the iconic villain Venom to the big screen with any effectiveness. Another example of key character lore failing to translate to the big screen.
Iron Man (2008) Marvel – The first in Marvel’s Phase 1. A grand success and set the foundation for many further films.
The Incredible Hulk (2008) Marvel – New actor as the Hulk. Slightly more realistically proportioned monster. A sad lack of chemistry between Edward Norton and Liv Tyler. Also overshadowed by Iron Man.
Iron Man 2 (2010) – Picking up where Iron Man left off. Where so many superhero movies are characterised by the quality of their villain(s), chose instead to adapt a fairly B-List villain for Iron Man to battle in Whiplash. Instead expecting RDJ to carry the film. Which he more or less did, but with this no longer being a revolutionary new way or portraying superheroes, didn’t excite as much as the first film.
Green Lantern (2011) DC – DC’s first attempt at a film that had the potential to leverage a Justice League film the way that Iron Man and Hulk had started building to an Avengers movie. The lack of chemistry between Reynolds and Lively, which considering their real life couple status, was surprising. I actually think this movie is better than most give it credit for, but its failures at the box office set Justice League back by years.
Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (2011) Marvel – The sequel where most people wondered why would you bother. Managed to embrace the least successful aspects of the first movie for the sequel. I have attempted to watch four times and have yet to stay awake through to the end.
X-Men: First Class (2011) Marvel – A kind of prequel, reboot thingy. A fairly high risk move for the X-Men franchise that did incredibly well. Easily re-watchable and a key piece in the later Days of Future Past film.
Thor (2011) – Marvel does it again with a film about a hero who smiles…. a lot! Thor was another high risk venture because of the rewriting of the Thor lore from magical to alien. Managed to distract the audience from this fact by having Chris Hemsworth go around without a shirt as much as they could. Then adding his brother Loki as a future villain who was so well liked, he became the first super villain to have a major recurring role in superhero movies since Lex Luthor.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – This film actually performed the least of the stand alone films that would lead to the Avengers. I think it is underrated, doing a decent job of overlaying a superhero story with the WW2 context.
Amazing Spiderman (2012) Marvel – Reboot! Only 5 years since the last film of the preivous Spiderman series. Rushed out so the studio could retain the film rights. A new origin story, but also introducing a villain who was only ever hinted at in the previous movies. I think Andrew Garfield is an excellent Peter Parker, but at the same time, he confirms to me that Peter Parker is an annoying character so loaded with neurosis that you just want to slap him.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) DC – Part 2 of the Christian Bale Batman series. Completely owned by Heath Ledger as the Joker. Jack Nicholson’s Joker was considered iconic and would have made most actors afraid to take on the role. But Ledger not only did so, but made the role his own in a way that is brilliant.
The Avengers (2012) Marvel. Destroyed box office records all over. Guaranteed sequels for almost everyone except the Hulk, and that was purely because Marvel Studios wanted to keep a major draw card for people to want to come and watch the next Avengers movie.
The Wolverine (2013) Marvel – A film full of potential to delve in to a side of Wolverine that the comics cover estensively that again didn’t really translate well to the big screen. Some woeful story writing and the way the Silver Samauri was redesigned was disappointing.
Iron Man 3 (2013) – This looked like the Iron Man movie I was waiting for. Where Marvel Studios finally lined Iron Man up against his iconic villain, the Mandarin. Except they didn’t. And delivered that fact in perhaps the most disappointing way possible. An error they established grounds to undo in a short film called Marvel One Shot – All Hail the King. Plus, they tried to humanize Tony Stark following events in the Avengers movie. Really only succeeding in diluting the RDJ character that was the draw card to the Iron Man movies in the first place. With RDJ not expected to return for an Iron Man 4, I think this one was a real missed opportunity.
Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Thor is pretty. Loki is pretty. Lets make a movie that is all them. This did reasonably well, and created the link that allowed Guardians of the Galaxy to get some steam in its post-credit sequence.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Wow! Where did that come from! Despite its relatively weak showing in comparison to the other Avengers solo movies in phase 1, this sequel really stepped up delivered. To the extent that it would have to be placed under consideration for the best stand alone Avengers movies to date.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Surprisingly well done. Using alternate realities and time travel to join together the original X-Men trilogy with First Class, and managing to push the continuity reset button so that every mistake or poor choice in any X-Men related movie could be discarded and re-imagined in the future. Breathed new life in to the franchise.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) Marvel. Another huge risk, but crazily successful. Possibly because the source material is so poorly known. How many people would realise that none of the movie team were forming members of the Guardians in the comics. The only comic original member making any material appearance being Yondu. But it was such a fun movie.
So that brings us to the present, with the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer only recently being aired.
From here, I have a mixture of information leaked by the various studios, rumours, and my own thoughts and speculation.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – (May 2015) – Ultron looks great. I am a fan of James Spader and he just looks excellent. The trailer is full of snippets of things we want to know more about. I am tentative about having Quicksilver appear both here and in the Days of Future Past franchise. Especially when his scene in DoFP is considered by most to be the best scene in the whole movie.
Fantastic Four – August 2015 – A reboot. Human Torch cast as Michael B. Jordan, and Sue Storm as Kate Mara. Moving away from the two being biological siblings, though retaining the same surname, perhaps suggesting they may still be part of an adoptive family. The interesting cast I see here is Jamie Bell as The Thing. Michael Chiklis in the 2005 version was, to my mind, a great cast. As talented as Jamie Bell is, I just don’t see him pulling off the Thing’s character.
Ant Man – (Jul 2015) Marvel – A character slated to join the Avengers team, with Marvel Studios suggesting that the team will rotate, reducing the impacts of key actor contract issues. Another risky film since Ant Man is hardly considered a headliner. It will be interesting to see what Marvel does here.
Deadpool – Feb 2016 – This is an interesting solo film that is expected to tie in to the X-Men: Apocolypse story. Ryan Reynolds does not have a great track record. His Green Lantern movie was not a success. His previous portrayal of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was hated by Deadpool fans. He does seem to be a good cast. But approaching this one tentatively.
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice – March 2016. The launching pad of the DC response to the Marvel Avengers success. Hoping that this will lead to a Justice League film down the track. Some fans are worried about Ben Affleck as Batman, based purely on his previous performance in Daredevil.
Captain America: Civil War – May 2016 – Based on one of the most iconic Avengers comic stories, expect to see Captain America and Iron Man on opposite teams. May follow comic book lore and see the mantle of Captain America handed over to one of the established characters who have worn the stars and stripes in the comics. Expect to see the debut of Black Panther here in preparation for his upcoming feature film.
X-Men: Apocalypse – May 2016 – Tom Hardy allegedly to play Apocalypse, which after his portrayal as Bane, sounds like an excellent move. This will be the first film after the continuity reset in DoFP, so a lot hangs on getting this one right.
Sinister Six – November 2016 Marvel – The Spiderman Spin off. Unfortunately, to date, I am unimpressed by all of the villains presented or hinted at in the Amazing Spiderman films.
Doctor Strange – November 2016 – Apparently Benedict Cumberbatch to play this role. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I have enjoyed Benedict in Sherlock, but have been underwhelmed by his big screen appearances to date. Plus, I always associated Stephen Strange as an American character. Marvel here intend to poke around in realms of magic, which they last attempted in Ghost Rider (shudder).
Wolverine (Untitled) March 2017 – (sigh). As much as Jackman’s Wolverine has been central to the X-Men movies, the stand alone movies have been a disappointment. This one feels like a last chance to get one of these to succeed.
Guardains of the Galaxy 2 – May 2017 – Expected to have significant implications for the Infinity War story arc.
Wonder Woman – June 2017 – First visuals recently appeared. Such an iconic character, and one that is such a paradox in her own right (a warrior ambassador for peace and women’s rights who fights crime in a swimsuit). This film will divide audiences whatever direction they take it. Interestingly, Marvel have scheduled their female lead superhero film for after this one.
Thor: Ragnarok – July 2017 – This could see the mantle of Thor handed over to a new actor. Or, if the comics are anything to go by, possibly to a new actress.
Justice League – November 2017 – DC. What DC hopes will be their version of the Avengers success story.
Venom – 2017 (date TBC) – Another Spiderman spin off film. But by this stage, with all the spin offs and new super characters making it to the big screen, what will a new franchise need to deliver to differentiate itself from the pack?
*Rumour* Female led Spiderman Movie – 2017 – Really? If Wonder Woman is a high risk film, then what is this one?
Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 2018 – What is scary about this is that it represents the beginning of one of the most iconic Marvel stories ever. And in writing this, I note how often translating iconic comic story arcs to the big screen fails to impress.
The Flash – March 2018 – Hoping to spin off solo films from the Justice League platform. So much hanging on that film’s success.
Untitled Fox Project – X-Men? – July 2018 (Fox) – Hmmm, what would be a good villain to introduce here? Mr Sinister? Onslaught?
Aquaman – July 2018 Jason Momoa to take on the role. He didn’t manage to turn his Conan performance in to a new franchise. My biggest concern here is that Momoa is massively built. How would a justice league look when Aquaman is the most muscly person in the team?
Amazing Spiderman 3 – 2018 – Interesting that they are leaving this much time to the next instalment. Though that appears to be for the purpose of the Sinister Six and Venom spinoffs.
Captain Marvel – July 2018 – To be clear, this is the character Carol Danvers. Meaning a powerful female leading character.
Inhumans – November 2018. Another fringe material being launched here, probably hoping for a similar effect to Guardians of the Galaxy. The timing suggests that they may have a role to play in the Infinity War as well.
Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 2019 – The almighty conclusion to the Thanos / Infinity Gem story arc.
Shazam – April 2019 – Dwayne The Rock Johnson to play Black Adam. Historically, the Shazam character was always cheesy. It will be interesting to see what direction they take him in on the big screen.
Justice League Part 2 – June 2019 DC Avengers clone part deux.
Cyborg – April 2020 – Oh look, a Justice League spinoff character movie. Also an effort to have a black leading superhero role from the other comic company.
Green Lantern – June 2020 – Where everyone involved will take the next 5 years figuring out how not to produce the same results as the 2011 movie. A lot will need to come together for DC for this one to shape up.
Now, its just time to wait for them all to come out. Maybe I will watch a few of the past superhero movies to fill in the time.