Superhero movies are the big thing in Hollywood at the moment – in fact, they’ve totally dominated the cinematic scene since the turn of the millennium.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men franchise, the DC Extended Universe, the Dark Knight trilogy, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy, the Amazing Spider-Man movies, Ghost Rider, Green Lantern, Hellboy, the two Fantastic Four franchises… we could go on for ages listing the comic book movies that have been released since the year 2000.
Individual movies regularly either break or get near to the $1 billion mark in terms of their worldwide gross and, inevitably, they’ve had a pretty huge impact on cinema as a whole. Opinion has changed about the superhero/comic book movie genre and the way in which Hollywood operates has been fundamentally altered as a result – and that will continue to be the case for years to come.
In this article, we’ll take a look at that way superhero movies have impacted the world of cinema as a whole. Here are fifteen ways the superhero movie genre has changed cinema.
15. Proving That Replacement Actors Can Work
In the past, replacing actors has always been seen as a bad thing. It disrupted the natural flow of a franchise, took audiences out of their illusion, and generally made the franchises it happened in look bad. The superhero movie genre has changed that by proving it can work – and it’s done so on numerous occasions.
Most notably, it’s happened with Bruce Banner AKA the Hulk. Edward Norton did a decent enough job as the character in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, but Mark Ruffalo replaced him in 2012’s The Avengers and has been brilliant in the role ever since. Don Cheadle took over from Terrence Howard as James Rhodes AKA War Machine in 2010’s Iron Man 2, after Howard had played the character in 2008’s Iron Man, and Cheadle has been fantastic in the role since then. Fandral of the Warriors Three was played by Josh Dallas in 2011’s Thor, but was replaced by Zachary Levi in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, and the transition was seamless. The change from Thanos being played by Damion Poitier in 2012’s The Avengers’ post-credit scene to Josh Brolin in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was also unnoticeable. And there have been others, so you get the point!
14. Actor Contracts
Never before have actors been prepared to sign contracts that commit them to a single movie franchise for four, five and six instalments – but that’s exactly what’s happening now, thanks to the precedent set by comic book movie franchises.
To give you a few examples from the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone, Chris Evans signed on for six movies, as did Chris Hemsworth, while Robert Downey Jr. originally signed on for four, but ended up extending his contract three times to make it eight, and Sebastian Stan signed on for a whopping nine movies. Even the likes of Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman are contractually obliged to return, should Marvel Studios ask them to. That kind of thing is now prevalent across the board at Marvel, Fox and Warner Brothers – and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes commonplace in Hollywood.
13. Never Has One Genre Dominated So Much
Every era is remembered for a specific genre of movie being dominant. In the 1960s, it was epic historical dramas, in the 1970s, it was war movies, in the 1980s, it was action movies and, in the 1990s, it was disaster movies. However, since the turn of the millennium, comic book movies have dominated cinema like no other genre before it.
At the time of writing this article, seven of the fifty highest-grossing movies of all time are post-millennium comic book movies (two of which are in the top ten and five of which are in the top twenty), three of 2017’s top ten highest-grossing movies are comic book movies, four of 2016’s top ten highest-grossing movies were comic book movies, one of 2015’s top ten highest-grossing movies was a comic book movie, four of 2014’s top ten highest-grossing movies were comic book movies, three of 2013’s top ten highest-grossing movies were comic book movies… and we could go on. Comic book movies are regularly going over, or at least approaching, the $1 billion worldwide gross mark – and that’s pretty damn incredible.
12. Serious & Big Name Actors Are Prepared To Play Ludicrous Roles
Up until recently, it was something of a surprise to see legitimately huge and respected stars appearing in comic book movies. Granted, it had happened a few times – such as Jack Nicholson in 1989’s Batman and Gene Hackman in the Superman movies – but, these days, top stars aren’t just prepared to appear in comic book movies, they’re literally campaigning for roles in them.
Every big star – from respected stage actors to Academy Award winners – wants a slice of the comic book movie pie, no matter how crazy their character is. Ian McKellen played a mutant who can control metal, Patrick Stewart played a bald telepath in a wheelchair, Mark Ruffalo played a scientist who transforms into a giant green rage monster, Bradley Cooper played a talking raccoon, Jennifer Lawrence played a blue shape-shifting mutant, Michael Caine played Batman’s butler, Benicio del Toro played an intergalactic hoarder – the comic book genre is basically a who’s who of Hollywood’s biggest, most respected and talented names (and nobody ever expected that to happen).
11. No Genre Has Ever Transcended Itself So Much
The lines between movie genres have always been blurred, but no one genre has ever transcended itself as much as the comic book movie genre does. Comic book movies have crossed over into countless other genre territories, proving that it can be done successfully, and that has made the genre so widely appealing.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a fantastic espionage thriller, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are brilliant science fiction space operas, The Dark Knight was a richly thrilling crime saga, Ant-Man was an awesome heist movie, Deadpool and The Mask were both hilarious comedy movies, the Blade trilogy was comprised of three pretty gory horror movies, and Thor: Ragnarok is set to be a classic buddy movie. This kind of thing has given every genre the incentive to blur those lines more than ever, which is great.
10. Studio Rivalries
It goes without saying that movie studios have been competing with each other since the dawn of cinema. By the very nature of the business (like any business), if two movies from different studios are released simultaneously, they are, by default, in competition with each other. However, since comic book movies became more prominent, never have studios more directly rivalled each other.
The rivalry between Marvel Studios/Disney and DC/Warner Brothers is particularly fierce and a great example to illustrate this point. Granted, Marvel are well ahead at the moment, but what is becoming more noticeable is DC being reactive to what Marvel are doing. Marvel created a cinematic universe and DC followed. Marvel Studios formed a team with the Avengers and DC are following suit with the Justice League. Marvel Studios released the relatively obscure Guardians of the Galaxy and DC followed with Suicide Squad. Marvel Studios’ movies are funny, DC’s were dark, so DC lightened up a little. This kind of thing has never been more obvious in the world of cinema.
9. Studio Joint Ventures
For a movie genre that has created one of the most fierce studio rivalries in cinema history, it sure knows how to do the exact opposite in bringing studios together as well! The movie rights to Marvel’s comic book characters have long been split between the likes of Marvel Studios, Fox, Sony and Universal but, in an unprecedented move, Marvel Studios and Sony came together to allow Sony’s Spider-Man to appear in Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In 2015, the studios reached a deal that allowed Spidey to make his MCU debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. He will appear in his first MCU solo movie this summer and go on to be the franchise’s main star going forward. It shows that anything is possible and could lead the way for some crazy crossovers going forward. Freddy Krueger versus Pinhead? Yes please! Godzilla in the Pacific Rim universe? Go on then. Oh and, more pertinently, there could be the small matter of the possibility of the Avengers versus the X-Men or the Justice League. Just saying.
8. Mid & Post-Credits Scenes
It’s not as though mid and post-credits scenes are a new thing – The Muppet Movie had one in 1979 and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off had one in 1986, for example – but they’ve never been as common as they are now, which is thanks largely to the influence of comic book movies.
The likes of Nick Fury appearing in the post-credits scene of 2008’s Iron Man to announce the Avenger Initiative really showed the impact that such scenes can have and it’s now customary to expect at least one scene in the middle of and/or after the credits in comic book movies (this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had five). Movies like Kong: Skull Island, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Frozen, Fast & Furious 6 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 are just a few examples of major non-comic book movies that have featured mid and post-credits scenes in recent years.
7. Cinematic Universes
The concept of cinematic universes has long been a thing, but never have they been as extensive as the ones being formed by comic book movies – and other genres are seeing how successful they are and following suit.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fox’s X-Men franchise and the DC Extended Universe have all had multiple movies released in them to date and are showing no signs of stopping. Now, Universal are creating a movie universe for the classic monsters called the Dark Universe, and Warner Brother and Legendary Entertainment (in partnership with Toho) are creating a movie universe for the likes of King Kong and Godzilla called the MonsterVerse. With more cinematic universes on the way, we have comic book movies to thank for this prolific modern fad.
6. TV Crossovers
Movies and television are, by their very nature, intrinsically linked, but never has there been such a definitive and extensive link between the two mediums as there is now between comic book movies and television. The Batman television series spun off onto television in the 1960s and Blade: The Series was a continuation of the Blade movie trilogy in 2006, but these days there is so much more linking comic book movies to television.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has seen fifteen movies released to date (sixteen once Spider-Man: Homecoming is imminently released), has spun off onto television no less than six times, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and there are four more series set to be released in the coming months (Inhumans, The Defenders, The Punisher and Cloak & Dagger), while Most Wanted had an unaired pilot made and Damage Control has been ordered. Stars from the movies have appeared on the small screen, creating an explicit link between it and the big screen productions – something that is bound to influence other genres in the near future.
5. One-Shots & Short Films
In addition to the franchise’s movies and television offshoots, the Marvel Cinematic Universe also includes a number of shorter productions – and these come in the form of five “One-Shots” and two short digital series. The One-Shots are The Consultant, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, Item 47, Agent Carter and All Hail the King, while the digital series are WHIH Newsfront (which has ten episodes across two series) and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot (which has six episodes in its single series).
They’re all just funny and entertaining little films that fill in a few gaps from the movies and show a bit more of what’s going on in the wider MCU as a result of the events of said movies – and it’s only a matter of time before other movie genres start to follow suit, because it’s such a great idea.
The marketing for comic book movies is next level. Simply put, never has cinematic marketing been so intensive. Trailers, television spots, websites, merchandise, posters, the aforementioned One-Shots, tweets, Facebook posts and all manner of marketing methods are thrust in our faces on a daily basis to keep us interested and promote comic book movies to the masses.
You can’t go a day watching television, surfing the internet, using social media or walking down a street without seeing some form of marketing for comic book movies. As fans, we come to expect something to appease us on a daily basis now – to the extent that we’re disappointed if we don’t hear from the likes of Marvel Studios or DC/Warner Brothers for a few hours! The success that this kind of marketing has created has resulted in movie marketing in general being stepped up.
It goes without saying that, in order for a movie to be made, it has to first be scheduled as such – and movies always have been scheduled accordingly. That being said, never have movie studios been so advanced and jam-packed in their scheduling as they are now – thanks to the comic book movie genre leading the way in that regard.
We now know which comic book movies are going to be released for years to come – with Marvel Studios going one better and laying out schedules for entire “phases” (or chapters) of their Marvel Cinematic Universe. This has resulted in other non-comic book movie franchises – such as Universal’s aforementioned Dark Universe – doing the same thing. It’s something we can now expect to see becoming more widespread in Hollywood in the coming years.
2. Fan Theories & Rumours
Movie fans have talked about movies since day one – that’s a given – but, these days, discussions about the comic book genre mean that fans are talking about movies more than ever before. Fans are always theorizing about comic book movies (whether or not Red Skull is still alive, Stan Lee playing the same character in every cameo etc), discussing castings, moaning about or celebrating the latest news – and it’s inevitably starting to rub off on other genres.
Other studios are taking the comic book route when it comes to so many different aspects of their movies – as we’ve already discussed in this article regarding things like credits scenes, cinematic universes and the like – which is giving fans of all genres more to talk about and, quite frankly, that’s a beautiful thing.
1. Fan Expectations Are Through The Roof
Comic book movie fans are some of the hardest to please and their expectations are now bordering on the impossible. They expect to see regular trailers, television spots, concept art and, of course, at least five or six comic book movies every single year in order to meet their expectations and appease them.
The studios behind comic book movies are their own worst enemies in that respect. Churning out movies and various forms of teasers so regularly mean that fans of the genre are constantly expecting to see something new online. If at least some news doesn’t hit the internet on a daily basis, they get annoyed and negative comments get splattered all over the place. As a result, the studios are going to have a hard time keeping their fans happy in the coming years, that’s for sure.
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