After years of playing catch-up to Marvel Studios, yesterday Warner Bros. announced an ambitious plan for their slate of DC superhero movies, plotting ten blockbusters to land between 2016 and 2020. And combined with the various strategies their rivals at Fox and Sony are planning long term, that’s over 30 comic book movies from major studios hitting theaters in the next six years. A couple of months ago, we were already wondering if this was too much product, and frankly, the question is worth asking again. Is Hollywood flying too close to the sun, threatening to fatigue audiences with superhero sagas?
It seems like 2017 might represent a tipping point. Following WB’s announcement, there are now nine spandex centered movies slated to arrive in those twelve months, and they are as follows:
"The Wolverine 2" – March 3, 2017
Untitled Marvel Movie – May 5, 2017
Untitled DC Movie – June 23, 2017
Fantastic Four 2 – July 14, 2017
Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 – July 28, 2017
Untitled Marvel Movie – November 3, 2017
Untitled DC Movie – November 17, 2017
Untitled Sony Female Led Spiderverse Film – TBA
Venom Carnage – TBA
Undeniably, this amounts to a lot of movies, but can they all be successful? The simple is answer is: no. Just yesterday, news came down that Fox had shifted the Mark Millar adaptation "Kingsman: The Secret Service" from October 2014 to February 2015, which isn’t exactly a vote of confidence, especially following a presentation at Comic-Con last month that inspired little excitement. And while Marvel is currently the king of the comic book heap, and with Sony scrambling to save their Spider-Man franchise, fortunes can change, and narratives can be reversed. So how can the competing studios ensure they’re not going to be stuck with a bunch of duds?
It’s simple. Change it up. The blockbuster comic book formula is pretty tired by now, so studios and filmmakers need to find a way to make superhero movies feel fresh and exciting. Even though it followed the template of "Star Wars" and the Indiana Jones movies, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" felt new and invigorating to audiences, because it deviated from the standard Marvel playbook (but not entirely —the plot stills involves a random bunch of people chasing a steel ball for two hours). Meanwhile, Sony saw what happened when you follow the playbook with scrupulous (but also unfocused) fidelity with the two latest installments of their "The Amazing Spider-Man" franchise, which rebooted five short years after Sam Raimi‘s trilogy ended, bringing next-to-nothing new to the table, except for cosmetic changes and an unwieldy attempt at world-building.
Over at Fox, "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" followed up the promise of "X-Men: First Class" and has thus fully revitalized the mutant-centric franchise for a new generation. And while "The Wolverine" wasn’t so great, it seems that as long as Hugh Jackman pops those claws, audiences are going to show up. Meanwhile, WB is the biggest wildcard in the bunch. Can the studio replicate the Marvel blueprint, but with a grittier approach? Will characters outside of Superman and Batman be compelling enough to stand on their own? Are they rushing headlong into a "Justice League" film —widely expected to follow "Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice," and what could very well be one of the 2017 titles— without properly mapping out that world first?
These are all big questions to be answered, but more crucially, will audiences be interested? As the YA genre has shown, just because a film fits into a certain box doesn’t mean moviegoers will automatically buy tickets (shed a tear for "The Mortal Instruments" and "Beautiful Creatures" and pray for "The Maze Runner" next month). And the next breakout blockbuster hit in in the next few years might render comic book movies passé, sending studios scrambling to ride the wave of the next big thing.
But for now, with Marvel and DC scheduling films into 2019 and 2020 respectively, both studios are confident they will deliver the goods consistently, with the expected rate of return to make the genre viable. But what do you think? Is this too much? Are you ready for something different? Tell us below.