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Too Much of a Good Thing – The Oft Unsaid Flipside of the Comic Book Movie Explosion

No, friends. This is not a hoax, a dream, or an imaginary story.

The Theater of the Absurd has been reopened here at FOG!, back in business on those crazy months that give us not four, but five glorious Tuesdays, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

Right now, we’re pretty much living in the golden age of comic book movies.

After years of suffering through films like Batman and Robin, Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher, and a Steel starring Shaq, who was somehow worse at acting than at shooting free throws, quality comic book movies have finally come into their own.

There are times where I’ve almost convinced myself that this movie

was just a bad, alcohol induced dream..

Sure, not all of them are big hits, and there are bound to be some at the lower end of the spectrum, but by and large, comic book movies are a huge industry at the moment and that can only be a good thing, right?

Well, sure. Mostly.

Until something goes awry, and then what?

Well, of course you don’t know, it was rhetorical.

Having licensed out some of their major properties like the Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four, Marvel rolled the dice with their own studio and gave us an Iron Man film back in 2008.

And it was an unquestionable success.

Robert Downey, Jr. owned the role, a movie starring a character mostly unheard of outside of comic book fans was a box office smash and Marvel began what would come to be called Phase One. That phase saw a new Hulk movie, Captain America and Thor on the big screen, another Iron Man movie, and then the fanboy wet dream that was The Avengers.

But unlike in the past, these movies were all connected. Iron Man’s ending introduced Sam L. Fury and the idea of the Avengers Initiative, and the ending of Iron Man 2 cued up Thor’s arrival. Every movie built upon the last so that by the time The Avengers hit, we weren’t wasting 90 minutes on origin tales; we’d already had a series of de facto prequels.

I distinctly remember needing new underwear after the end of Iron Man.

That success allowed Marvel to try out new properties that likely would have flamed out in years past like The Guardians of the Galaxy and, hopefully, the upcoming Ant-Man film that will be following Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the already announced Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange films along with Spider-Man jumping over from Sony to play with a studio that seems to have an idea on what to do with him.

I say “hopefully” because the flipside of building this great big chain of movies is that one weak link can sour people really quick. Putting aside complaints, valid and ludicrous, about Man of Steel, there’s no doubt that some people were reluctant to see a new Superman movie so soon after the cinematic war crime that was Superman Returns. Same goes for Incredible Hulk after artsy gamma poodles made Shrek angry in Ang Lee’s Hulk.

It seems that Hulk was NOT in fact the Key Master.

And therein lies the risk of Marvel and DC wanting to plan dozens of movies over the next half decade or so because much of them will be dependent on the success of their predecessors. To me, that places DC at a much greater risk as they are really banking on the forthcoming Dawn of Justice, which seems to be adding more characters every four minutes, to be the lynchpin in movies starring characters with no real public resonance while trying to link them together and simultaneously eschew the more widely known actors currently starring in their very successful television series like Flash and Arrow.

See, Marvel couldn’t have gotten away with Guardians of the Galaxy five years ago. But now, because of the strength of their recent history, they’ve pretty much been given the benefit of the doubt. DC and Warner Brothers, on the other hand, have a Man of Steel film that opened to lukewarm reviews, and a Batman trilogy that while vastly overrated and subjected to intense criticisms on its final entry, were the only real comic successes they’ve had in quite a while.

Comic book fans may cheer at the prospect of a Shazam film, but there are more people out there who know Shazam less as a magical comic book hero and more as a website and app you can use to identify music and movies.

I still question the wisdom of a hero calling himself the name that
can also take away his powers and revert him to normal…

Marvel’s taking some risks, sure, with Ant Man and company, but they’ve also got sequels for already proven franchises like Thor and Captain America on the horizon. DC is trying to Usain Bolt sprint before learning to toddle and while it’s awesome and ambitious and will be amazing if it works, both companies might need to dial it back just a smidge and not just try to throw every property they have at the screen and hope for the best.

It reminds me of the scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where our stonetagonists are informed that everyone was snatching up comic book properties left and right, thus the reason Bluntman and Chronic were being optioned.

I have more faith, admittedly, in Marvel right now, because they’ve proven themselves over the past several years and, in having control over the own studios and the like, we’re less likely to get something like the new Fantastic Four which looks and sounds more and more awful with every photo and piece of information that leaks.

DC, on the other side, has less control over their properties and are largely at the whim of Warner Brothers and there’s far more potential for a breakdown in the chain and an attempt to go 0 to 60 before mastering using a learner’s permit that saw a near universally panned Green Lantern, a mediocrely received Man of Steel, and only one real undeniable success in Nolan’s Batman films.

All I’m saying is, yeah, let’s be excited. But let’s also hope the rush to dominate the box office is tempered by actual planning and care and not just a slapdash run to the bank.

PLEASE be good, PLEASE be good…
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