Thor & Captain America - Who can rescue us from the onslaught of superhero movies?
Ten years ago, when the X-Men and Spider-Man arrived in cinemas, we were excited. Ten years on, as the C-List of superheroes shuffle to the cinemas, we say enough is enough.
Last night US viewers of Super Bowl XLV were not just treated to an intense battle between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, they were treated to some of the most expensive commercials in TV history, with advertisers charged up to $3m for 30-second slots on America’s biggest sports night. With such a huge audience gripped to their armchairs for hours on end, Hollywood execs showcased their wares for the upcoming summer season, with Marvel Studios in particular showing their hand in particular with first looks at their Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger adaptations.
That’s right, Thor and Captain America. Thor, a Norse god from a parallel universe, is being played by ex-Home & Away actor Chris Hemsworth. Captain America, that suit and all, will be portrayed by Chris Evans, last seen suited up as The Human Torch in Fox’s risible attempt at the Fantastic Four. Marvel’s efforts aren’t alone – 2011 will also feature Ryan Reynolds step into a CGI suit for The Green Lantern (not to be confused with last month’s The Green Hornet), while the X-Men: First Class gives the series that kickstarted the superhero trend a reboot, minus Wolverine, the series’ most popular character.
Anybody else feeling a tad unfussed over that lineup? How many more origin stories are we expected to sit through? Will Hollywood admit that after years of Batman and Spider-Man adaptations, 2011 marks the rise of C-List superheroes in their place? Has the barrel been scraped and how long until that barrel gets a reboot and a clean lick of paint?
Name one good movie with a golden eyepatch in it? That's right - you can't
Aside from the disappointing calendar of forthcoming superhero flicks, the past week two headlines dominated the movie world – the first onset pictures of Sony’s Spider-Man reboot and the news that Henry Cavill has been cast in the role of the Man of Steel in 300 director Zach Snyder’s attempt to revitalise Superman. Oh and Hugh Jackman’s 6000 calorie diet for his next Wolverine movie, in which the Aussie actor stated ‘we finally have the character’ – glad to know it only five movies to get there Hugh.
As for the Wolverine project, Jackman also said “Straight off, it's not a sequel, it's a stand-alone.” So it’s not a sequel to Wolverine: Origins, which itself is supposedly set before the original X-Men trilogy (despite the fact the actor was 8 years older). Confusing us further, X-Men: The First Class director Matthew Vaughn has said of his prequel, “I'm trying to make a movie that stands on its own two feet. Hopefully there'll be a lot more of this version of the franchise.” Wait… what version, I thought it was a prequel?
When the first X-Men film hit cinemas in 2000 and grossed $269,000, it kickstarted an all-enveloping trend which has shown no signs of dying out. Superhero movies have a built-in audience that stretches back decades, appealed to kids, young adults with disposable income and older, nostalgia-ridden adults, plus they had built-in brand recognition. Why develop an entirely original concept and cast an expensive actor when you can purchase the rights to a superhero franchise and cast relative unknowns (Tobey Maguire, Eric Bana)?
It doesn’t matter what version of the X-Men franchise you’re telling or whether or not Wolverine discovers a time machine or becomes a pirate – It’s Wolverine, it’s a license to print money. Ten years later we are left primarily with ill-judged reboots, endless sequels, or the cinematic debuts of third-tier comic favourites.
A year after X-Men, Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man swooped into action and broke the US opening weekend record. Suddenly the A-list of superhero franchises were snapped up or brought into production by their respective studios, Universal prepped Ang Lee’s Hulk, Warner Bros. took Batman out of early retirement to ‘Begin’ again and Fox cast their Fantastic Four.
The reason for Sony’s quick decision to reboot the Spider-Man series for release in 2012 or Marvel’s own The Incredible Hulk were simple – for Marvel’s superheroes at least, studios had a window of opportunity to build franchises from their heroes and if they declined and let a few years go by (Universal turned their back after Hulk’s dire critical consensus), the series’ went back to Marvel. Hence the 2012 Avengers supergroup of Iron Man, Hulk (recast again) and the aforementioned Thor and Captain America (plus previously-unseen Hawkeye), a movie whose groundwork will have been laid in five big-budget releases that came before it.
I'm just asking for a little less cynicism for us as an audience (brought to you... by CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION - Spider-Man 2012!)
The success or failure and undoubted expense of The Avengers could largely decide the future of the superhero genre – Marvel’s project is so ambitious that they’re not putting all their eggs in one basket, their putting all the biggest stars that they still attain the film rights to in one movie.
Dredd is back... minus Rob Schneider we hope
Whether or not The Avengers stuns the world or whether Zach Snyder can actually make Superman cool again, I’ve had enough. I don’t want to watch Spider-Man get bitten by a radioactive spider again, I don’t care about Ryan Reynold’s super-powered green jewellery and for god’s sake Hollywood, who decided we as an audience wanted another Judge Dredd movie? He betrayed the law, we get it.
Aside from the purple, figure-hugging sight of The Phantom, it’s tough to think of any superhero whose revival hasn’t yet been plotted for the silver screen at this moment in time. With unwanted sequels (Transformers 3, Pirates 4) aligned beside unloved superheroes, 2011 looks to be a lean period for Hollywood’s coffers, though every fault of their own.
I’m not asking for Hollywood to re-invent the wheel with original, brilliant material – there’s never going to be seven or eight Inception’s or District 9’s for the summer season. I’m just asking for a little less cynicism for us an audience (Brought to you... by CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION – Spider-Man 2012!’) and perhaps a look beyond their immediate horizons for untapped material. After all, there’s another industry that is making record profits and has an identical in-built audience to comics – video games. Oh wait, there’s already over 50 video game adaptations in pre-production right now? Perhaps it’s better the devil you know…