Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FILM: Marvel Movie Surge (Commentary)

On July 14, 2000, when the first X-Men movie was released into theaters there was no expectation for the comic book movie market that had been dormant outside of a handful of Batman movies over the previous ten plus years to explode. Yet we sit here ten years later finding multiple comic book releases flooding into cineplexes with Marvel out in front leading the charge.

While DC and Warner Bros are only just starting to rev up their movie adaptations of DC stories (Green Lantern, Superman 6 and Batman 3 on the way), Marvel has three comic book films coming in the summer of 2011: Thor in May, X-Men: First Class in June, and Captain America: The First Avenger in July.

All three are from Marvel's big name franchises, the first movie for both Thor and Captain America (not counting the 1990 direct-to-video Captain America movie that I have enjoyed in the past) and the fifth movie under the X-Men banner. These are safe bets to garner a mainstream audience and with the rising ticket prices all should easily cross $200 million domestically in the U.S.

But for every The Dark Knight, there is also a Jonah Hex, where a smaller and even more niche comic book franchise gets greenlit into a film and the quality of the product begins to wane in an attempt to change the material enough to get a mainstream audience to even look at the film.

Marvel has had their own misfires (Elektra, Punisher: War Zone) and with a solid decade of having produced a steady stream of Marvel films, including three Spider-Man movies (a fourth is on the way), two Fantastic Four movies (a third/reboot movie is being talked about) and the previously mentioned four X-men films (with fifth out in 2011), Marvel has widened their adapting gaze at their entire comic book library and as a result I fear audiences are in store for some films from smaller books that won't have the built-in brand name audience to support their creation.

Instead because of the interconnected universe that is created with comic book companies like Marvel, it would be a better idea to introduce the movie adaptations of these smaller characters by making them a part of a much bigger film. Marvel did this smartly already with the Fantastic Four sequel, where instead of giving Silver Surfer his own film that would probably not do well as the character has not been able to even support his own solo title with this generation, they took the character and his story and made it the defining tale to be told in the Fantastic Four film, surrounding the newcomer with characters the public already knew and loved.

Marvel President Kevin Feige has talked about possible movies with Iron Fist, the Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, all titles not starring top tier characters of the Marvel universe and I have to think that it would be best for some of these characters to be introduced in other Marvel films (like Black Widow was in Iron Man 2) and even then the subsequent films should be created as films solely on their own merit and the inclusion of the superhero should be secondary with absolutely no need to focus exclusively on the character's origin unless its ancillary.

I know that the Avengers movie has been cast and moving towards production but with this being a Marvel movie-centric commentary I wanted to mention my idea for dealing with the problems Marvel had with Edward Norton. Now Marvel merely recast the role for the Avengers movie but with my love for continuity between films and the fact that they had already recast the character once in the last five years I would have liked for them to have gone in a different direction.

That direction being exchanging the Hulk's spot in the Avengers with his just as gamma-radiated cousin, She-Hulk. Bringing in Jennifer Walters would give movie audiences a different perspective to the powers and prison of the Hulk, and it would help balance out the male to female character ration that is awfully lopsided for the Avengers film. In the way that James Cameron and Avatar made giant blue women attractive, Marvel could have used similar technology to bring everyone's favorite green gal to the screen and be visually appealing at the same time.

Unfortunately that is a path that was not chosen and with how much trouble Marvel has had with the Hulk franchise, I can't see another Hulk film in the foreseeable future let alone a chance to introduce She-Hulk, unless they decide to go that route in following Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D. films. Either way, next summer will be a good measuring tape for Marvel's movies and whether there can be such a thing as overexposure in the movie industry.

Check out Geek Plate's Tumblr for today's Marvel themed picspam.

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