It seems like almost immediately after I made my post about upcoming anime live action movies, I read an article in the Times about the mad rush of superhero comic movies and the idea that their popularity may be just about ready to peak. It definitely makes sense. After all, there have been well over a dozen comic book adaptions in the last several years. Many of them have been very, very successful, like the entire Spider-Man franchise, Iron Man, and most recently, The Dark Knight. Others were epic box office failures, like Catwoman and Elektra (I know, we were trying to forget those two even existed, right?). It’s been quite a mixed bag, but the high end is very, very high. I guess when comic movies are breaking record after record, people are going to start to think it’s too much of a good thing. It’s gotta end somewhere, right?
And yet, if SDCC is any indication, comic movies are going to be going strong for at least the rest of the decade. We’ve got the Wolverine movie coming up, and what, I think DC’s going to do a Justice League movie? Not to mention the Watchman hubbub that’s been up since the trailer debuted in theatres with The Dark Knight. You know what I’d really love to see though? I wanna see Marvel to a Civil War movie. That would be so many kinds of epic. Despite the fact that we’ve seen so many superhero movies already, there are still endless possibilities because the DC and Marvelverses alone span hundreds of titles. With Hellboy and Hellboy II, it’s clear that more independent companies also want in on the potential cash cow too, not to mention that manga-oriented companies like TOKYOPOP and Viz are also very interested. We’ve got enough material here to go on forever!
I don’t doubt that the fanboys and girls will be endlessly willing to keep going to see these films in theatres. I don’t doubt that midnight releases will continue to feature long lines full of cosplay and excited debate. Batman is more than seventy years old; we still love him. But the hardcore fans only make up a fraction of the audience, and I wonder how much tolerance the general public has for superhero genre, especially considering most still don’t consider it a very “serious” kind of movie. How seriously can you take a guy dressed up like a bat? Fighting a clown? Kids stuff, right?
We of the fandom understand that Batman has perfectly legitimate, intelligent and relevant themes hidden beneath the mask, smoke, and mirrors, but from experience, I know that most people don’t care to look for those things and just go for the action-packed fighting or whathaveyou. It’s a cheap thrill, and cheap thrills get boring after a while. Is “educating” the general public about the more serious themes of comic books an achievable task? Would they really care to learn when they can easily get their fix of “seriousness” from what they already deem to be serious movies? Would having them understand the underlying themes of movies really even help slow or stop their gradual progression to boredom? I’d like to think so.
The Times article I mentioned earlier claims that most superhero movies follow the same sort of storyline. Hero meets villain. Hero confronts villain. Hero defeats villain. For the most part, I suppose this is true — Superman defeats Lex Luthor (kind of), the X-Men defeat Phoenix (kind of), Spider-Man defeats Venom (kind of?) — but the beauty of any genre is its ability to break free from the conventions that define it. The Dark Knight is actually a great example of that, or really, any Batman storyline involving the Joker. Does he ever really win? Is chaos something you can really defeat? What would defeating the Joker actually mean? Full of deep questions, see?
Personally, I don’t think the comic book movies are going to stop any time soon, though they may start to diversify and stray away more from the straight-up superhero path. Sin City and 300 are also great examples of this (okay, well, 300 is debatable, but it’s still pretty different). Eventually, the general public may come to realize that comics don’t just mean kid’s stuff. In the meantime, they’ll probably keep watching anyway. We seem to be good at hyping things up, after all. :P Franchises do best in trilogies, so I hope they’ll lay off of Spidey a while longer. I wouldn’t mind if they took a bit longer with the X-Men followups either. But Iron Man 2? Hell yeah! More Batman! Yes, please! More Superman? Sure! Bring it. We’ll watch ‘um. And we’ll smash a few more box office records while we’re at it.