A simple, but terrific (and possibly frightening) observation has been made by our friends over at Rope Of Silicon: over the next four years, if everything goes according to plan for every studio, we’re going to see twenty-three (count ‘em) super hero films. Because, as you know, the comic book movie arms race is officially on. Oh sure, this is a Cold War that’s been raging for several years now, but as studios take "monkey see, monkey do" with Marvel‘s success really to heart, things are really beginning to heat up. Because of course, just yesterday it was revealed that Warner Bros. is attempting to get aggressive and make seven super hero movies from their D.C. Universe properties over the next four years.
Likewise, the studio that paved the way, Marvel, has seven films due between now and 2018 (2018 being the year most studios have planned up until, though Marvel apparently sees the horizon up until 2028). Between the "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" properties they own, 20th Century Fox has five films planned. For its "Spider-man" series, Sony has four films planned until 2018.
And that’s just four studios, as Universal is rumored to be mounting a “Namor: The Submariner” movie for 2016. But that’s 23 super hero movies between today and presumably summer 2018. Here’s the full layout so far. Marvel is obviously ahead of the pack in terms of planning, but everyone’s catching up on pace.
Update: this piece has been amended to include additional films, subtract already released movies, changed release dates, revealed titles and more.
"Captain America 3" (5/6/16)
"Doctor Strange" (11/4/16)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (5/5/17)
"Thor: Ragnarok" (11/3/17)
"Avengers: Infinity War Part I" (5/4/18)
"Black Panther" (7/6/18)
"Captain Marvel" (11/2/18)
"Avengers: Infinity War Part II" (5/3/19)
20th CENTURY FOX
"The Fantastic Four" (6/9/15)
"X-Men: Apocalypse" (5/27/16)
"The Wolverine 3" (3/3/17)
"The Fantastic Four 2" (7/14/17)
Untitled Fox/Marvel (7/13/18) [Lots of speculation, some can be read here]
WARNER BROS. (D.C. UNIVERSE)
"Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice" (3/25/2016)
"Suicide Squad" (7/5/2016)
"Wonder Woman" (6/23/2017)
"Justice League: Part 1" (11/17/2017)
"The Flash" (3/23/2018)
"Justice League: Part 2" (6/14/2019)
"Green Lantern Corps." (6/19/2020)
Untitled Spider-Man Movie (7/28/17)
Spider-Man (Animated) (7/20/18)
Of course this does not include all the other blockbusters being planned. Disney plans six “Star Wars “and related ‘SW’ spin-off films up through 2020 and Marvel/Disney will have four Marvel super hero TV shows going on Netflix by around 2018 (presumably being groomed for their own movies if the shows prove to be hits). Did we mention Disney/Pixar also has five films planned up until 2018?
And you’re only going to see more and more of this multi-planned film attack until some studio takes a huge kick in the teeth financially and something they’re banking on backfires. You’re going to see the Disney plan, which they essentially riffed from Marvel, in effect: one main brand tentpole every other year with spin-offs in between. This also means every studio is going to try and create their own new franchise in the hopes that it could be spun into a mega franchise. Right now someone at Universal is thinking: "How do we get a Jason Bourne film every other year with Treadstone/Blackbriar spy spin-off films in the in-between years. Should we reboot the whole damn thing or is this Jeremy Renner kid gonna finally take off?"
Considering the shitty year WB is having—which you can read about here— their Tom Cruise tentpole “Edge Of Tomorrow” underperformed, the Adam Sandler vehicle “Blended” tanked and “Jupiter Ascending” got kicked to 2015 to ensure their summer financial quarter didn’t go belly up, you know somewhere in a laboratory, someone is doing some kind of test research to glean how soon they can possibly reboot the “Harry Potter” films without an audience backlash ("and make sure to cross-reference that ‘Spider-Man: Too Soon’ report!”).
Unless something changes, 2018 is only the tipping point. WB’s D.C. plans show they believe there is not one path to Marvel’s super success. Have two characters maybe not strong enough for their own films? Lump them together (see “Green Lantern and The Flash”). Need your super hero team-up like yesterday and not five solo films from now? Easy, just fast-forward trough it all with "Superman vs Batman: Dawn Of Justice" (and hope and pray for the best; and someone get Zack Snyder off the notion that he is Christopher Nolan because far from it).
In short: a glut of the same ol’, same ol’ is coming, only more of it in yearly doses. It will be interesting to see if audiences eventually get sick of these films and for how long this kind of oversized dominance can continue. In the shadow of it all, it’s not difficult to glean why filmmakers not really interested in this kind of cinema (Soderbergh, Gilroy) and actors not well tailored for these characters have moved towards TV. With that in mind, if it all goes topsy turvy, it’s easy to foresee a future where TV is exclusively for adults and cinema is now the domain of teens, 20-somethings and the guys that run movie geek blogs. But something tells me a sea change will eventually cut across it all and change things up.