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Re: Summer Movie Preview 2014
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, at 10:37:14
In Reply To: Re: Summer Movie Preview 2014 posted by Stephen on Thursday, April 10, 2014, at 16:59:17:

> > But I'm optimistic that the film itself will
> > be successful, despite the inevitability that sooner or later Marvel is going
> > to release a dud and drop the bottom out of the superhero fad.
> I was waiting for that to happen for a long time, but it's been almost 14 years since X-Men surprised everybody by opening to $50m+ its first weekend (back when that was an impressive number) and nearly 12 years since Spider-Man did $100m+ its opening weekend. In that time period we've survived two Hulk movies, Daredevil, Elektra, Catwoman, Superman Returns, Fantastic Four Meets the Silver Who Cares, etc.
> That's more than a decade of steady superhero movies with some big duds. I don't think we can call it a fad any longer...

You're probably right that it's unfair to call it a fad. But let me elaborate a little on why (1) that wave of bad movies didn't kill the genre, but (2) why the genre is still vulnerable.

First, the superhero genre is safe until a new blockbuster genre catches on. In the absence of that, studios will keep coming back to it if for no better reason than they don't see a better alternative. So while I do think a couple of superhero movies can still drop the bottom out of the superhero genre, it's also true that there needs to be something else waiting in the wings to replace it, kind of like how X-Men was there right around when people started tiring of Schwarzenegger/Stallone action movies, and how Terminator and Rambo were there right around when people started tiring of space epics.

Back to superheroes. It's worth saying that the Daredevil-Elektra-Catwoman-Hulk-Fantastic Four era (2002-2007) almost DID kill the superhero genre. Two or three individual franchises might have survived it, sure -- the big three being X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman. But even two of the three of those were hit hard by 2007 and needed rebooting.

But then 2008 arrives, with two key smash successes that utterly reverses the death spiral. One, The Dark Knight arrives with huge expectations and somehow manages to exceed them, both critically and commercially. It's Batman, so that success does not demonstrate that its success can cross-over to other superheroes, but at least encourages both studios and fans to consider the possibility.

But more importantly, there is Iron Man. I think without Iron Man, a success of shocking proportions, studios don't really try to make expensive movies out of second- and third-tier superheroes anymore. They stick with Batman, for sure. They probably still reboot Spider-Man, just because the first two made SO much money. But the probably give up on X-Men after the Wolverine prequel (2009) dies. They probably don't make Man of Steel. The more minor superheroes like The Green Lantern never get a shot. The whole Avengers project fizzles, possibly even before they get up to making it. (If they do, it's done on the cheap, as seemed to be Marvel's original plan. Remember how they balked at paying Samuel L. Jackson to return?)

What I'm getting at is that the reason the genre is as strong now as it ever was is because of the periodic smashes (X-Men, Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Avengers) rather than an absence of duds. This is why, though I didn't quite phrase it that way, I don't think Guardians of the Galaxy will kill the genre even if it's an abject failure.

But I still think the potential is there for a couple of higher profile failures to suck the wind out of the sails. Suppose Avengers 2 and Superman vs. Batman come out around the same time and both happen to be disappointing? (I'm also assuming there aren't any surprise successes elsewhere, like if somehow they make The Wonder Twins, and it's the greatest movie ever.) In that scenario, Spider-Man and X-Men are still (kind of) fine, but Batman goes on ice for years and DC Comics gives up on Justice League. Marvel keeps going, but at reduced budgets and without solo features for anybody but the headliners.

At that point, the genre might still be rescued -- just as it was in 2008. But maybe next time there isn't a Jon Favreau or a Christopher Nolan there to catch it.

So that's kind of what I was getting at. The genre is entrenched and resilient enough against individual failures by second-tier heroes, but I still see it as vulnerable to a couple of failures in the wrong places.

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