As a life-long comic book geek, the influx of comic book movies over the years has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes when a comic is faithfully adapted to the screen and you get to live out your geek fantasy by seeing characters you love come to life on the big screen.
For me it all began in 1978 when the super-hero to end all super-heroes was unleashed on an unsuspecting world and Richard Donner made you believe a man could fly. There had been other super-hero movies, of course, but it was Superman... followed by Superman II... that defined what it meant to make a comic book movie work.
A decade later, Tim Burton would give us Batman. While lacking the darker elements that made Batman be Batman, it nevertheless was a decent interpretation. Unfortunately, like Superman, it was a franchise doomed to degenerate into idiocy after its second outing.
What followed was a murky period filled with a few highs (Spider-Man, Spider-Man2, and Blade come to mind), a few disappointing lows (the Fantastic 4 and X-Men franchises), and a few epic disasters (Elektra, Catwoman, and Superman Returns were all soul-crushingly awful).
But then the current cinematic super-hero renaissance began.
Christopher Nolan finally gave us Batman.
Robert Downey Jr. was flawlessly cast in a series of brilliant Iron Man movies.
Captain America and Thor were given fantastic films, then Marvel owned the cinematic universe when The Avengers brought everything together.
Even 20th Century Fox finally got their shit together when they rose above their X-Man disasters by releasing X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine, both of which were excellent.
DC Comics has fared less well, unleashing turds like Green Lantern and Man of Steel, but I remain hopeful. More or less. Time for a look at ten upcoming super-hero film projects...
- Thor: The Dark World. Haven't seen it yet. Hear it's great. I expect it to be great.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Previews look amazing, and it looks like we'll finally get to see S.H.I.E.L.D. the way it was meant to be seen and the way the boring-ass television show will never reach.
- Amazing Spider-Man 2. I thought the reboot was okay, but wasted a lot of time retreading old territory. This should be a much better film.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past. Despite being helmed by Bryan Singer, who fucked up both the X-Men and Superman franchises, the previews look pretty darn amazing. Hopefully Singer finally has material so awesome even he can't screw it up.
- Guardians of the Galaxy. I just don't know. This is one wacky property (Rocket Raccoon!), but Marvel obviously knows what they're doing given their flawless run of films, so I'm trusting it will be worth watching.
- The Fantastic Four. The past two F.F. films were tragically bad, but I am very hopeful that 20th Century Fox's recent turn-around will knock the reboot out of the park. This is one franchise that really deserves a great film.
- Ant-Man. Beloved director Edgar Wright has been working on this film a very long time, and I had no doubt he would come up with something brilliant and unique. Now it seems he is re-tooling the material to fit better into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which gives me pause. And yet... I hear rumors that Paul Rudd is being considered for Hank Pym, which would be perfect. So I keep positive.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron. There's no movie I am anticipating more than this one. If, for no other reason, to see more Iron Man.
- Batman vs. Superman A version of Superman I hate and Ben Affleck horribly miscast as Batman. Oh well, here's hoping.
- X-Force. Since 20th Century Fox is limited to the X-Men/Mutant and Fantastic Four franchises, it's kind of smart to expand in new directions within those territories. Whether or not this is the way to go is anybody's guess, but the introduction of Cable (who happens to be the future-son of Cyclops and Jean Grey) and his X-Force could be a logical follow-up from time-traveling Days of Future Past.
But what's missing? Time for a look at ten super-hero projects I want to see happen...
- Wonder Woman. I mean, holy crap. COME ON ALREADY! I dare say that no other character has a more fascinating, movie-ready, cinematic story to tell than Wonder Woman, and her film could be positively epic... assuming somebody steps up to the plate and actually tells it that way.
- Catwoman. Despite the flaming pile of excrement we got with the Halle Berry crap-fest, The Dark Knight Rises gave us Anne Hathaway as a Selina Kyle so flawless that she demands her own film.
- Black Panther. The back-story for the Black Panther is the stuff movies were made for. This has all the potential to become Marvel's answer to Nolan's Batman, and the fact that they can't seem to see that blows my mind.
- Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds was perfect casting, but the movie they built around him was a pile of heinous shit with an idiotic story and horrible special effects. Despite it all, Green Lantern remains one of the best possible comic book characters for the movie treatment. Sadly, the odds of that happening any time soon are slim.
- Doctor Strange. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps edging ever closer to the realm of things magical, Doctor Strange becomes a necessity. The fact that he has some very interesting story possibilities is just the icing on the cake.
- Death. Neil Gaiman's Death: The High Cost of Living is ready-made for a movie. It could be a great one.
- Daredevil. I never thought that the Ben Affleck movie was that bad, but there was absolutely room for improvement. A great flick for the Man Without Fear is worth persuing.
- Namor. The New 52 version of Aquaman shows that DC's premiere underwater super-hero can actually work without being lame. Yet the odds of him getting a movie outside of some kind of Justice League effort are crazy-small. But on Marvel's side they have Namor, The Sub-Mariner, which has no such baggage to sabotage things, and there's little doubt his story would make a compelling film. But something tells me his introduction might better be served as conflict material in an Avengers film? I dunno. But he needs to be on the big screen.
- Black Widow & Hawkeye. Well, mostly Black Widow. But since female leads in a film are shunned by Hollywood, I guess Scarlett Johansson can bring her boyfriend along. Black Widow's brilliant efforts as a supporting character have shown she's totally deserving of her own movie.
- Alpha Flight. Canada's answer to the Avengers could actually be a more interesting take on a super-hero team for movies. The characters would certainly provide for some deep material to draw from. And the fact that most people have never heard of them could make defying expectations less of a challenge.
There are loads of other properties I think would make good films... The Hulk, The Flash, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Deadpool, Power Pack, Luke Cage, and Doom Patrol, to name a few... but the above ten would probably have the best chance. If they're handled correctly.
And that's the trick isn't it?
Assuming studios keep getting it right more than they get it wrong, there's no reason that the success of the super-hero film genre has to end any time soon.
And now, just because this entry wouldn't feel complete without it, my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance Scorecard" is in an extended entry...
The Amazing Spider-Man... B-
The Avengers... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass 2... C
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher War Zone... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... D
Superman Returns... C+
The Wolverine... B
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B