“How long can all this superhero business last?”

SUCH was the question asked by a friend while we were discussing whether to see the latest X-Men movie, X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
It’s an interesting question. There is probably no magic ball for Hollywood to consult to figure out when to stop exploiting a trend, be it ninjas or dinosaurs or disaster movies or hobbits, elves and dwarves.
But there is one key indicator that acts as a good guide – whether they’re still making money.
And making money they are. The Avengers movie broke the billion-dollar mark. The Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man movies are all making hundreds of millions of dollars.
Even the Tolkien franchise – which you could argue falls under the “superhero” banner, or at least features beings with powers far beyond those of ordinary men – is still going strong. Marvel’s film studio offshoot is valued more than the original comic-book arm and the comics it makes films about. (People might not being buying comics featuring Batman and Superman in large numbers any more … or, sadly, even The Phantom … but their non-comic-book-reading brethren are going to the cinemas in droves.)
And the superhero craze currently shows little sign of waning.
Kick-Ass’s graphic novelist and creator, Mark Millar, told me in 2010 that he saw a bright future in comic-book adaptations.
“The second [Christopher Nolan] Batman movie broke the billion mark. The three X-Men movies have grossed $US1.5 billion. These movies are making a fortune and they attract the A-list of writers, directors and actors. There’s no other genre in cinema that has the batting average of superhero movies. Whatever it is about these things, they’re still riding high.
“And if Kick-Ass – which only cost $US35 million to make – comes out like them, that’ll just take things to a whole new level again.”
And that was back in 2010. Now there are dozens of superhero movies in the pipeline.
Kick-Ass didn’t blow away the box-office quite like Batman, but it did do well enough to spawn a sequel, with a third on the way.
So why superheroes, you ask? And why now?
One of the reasons is that technology has caught up to the point where you can realistically depict the adventures of a superhero on screen. Somehow they made Superman work with green screen magic, but the Spiderman and Hulk movies of the ’70s just looked ridiculous (even though seeing Lou Ferrigno rip his shirt when he “Hulked out” looked cool. PS I got to hug Lou once. I felt so safe and warm.).
And the first Captain America movie? Plain embarrassing.
But current tech allows Hollywood to finally do justice to these tales, to craft realistic rockets, lasers, flying webs, flying shields and flying gods. (Even Jim Cameron had to wait for technology to catch up to his vision of filming Avatar, wisely deciding that making people wear blue paint on their faces just wouldn’t work.)
”The current technology lends itself perfectly to the superhero movies and now they can be taken seriously,” said Peter Bagge, creator of the cult comic book series Hate, when I interviewed him in 2012. “All of a sudden you can really feel like you’re in a comic book and the creator’s imagination and things are happening the way the creators tried to express in the comic book.”
So I’m afraid that for the time being those sick of capes on screen will have to put up with them. Maybe the next big thing will be sci-fi or space stuff. Or more YA vampire stuff.
But until then, get used to seeing the interwebs clogged up with debates over whether Ben Affleck will make a good Batman.

My ebook The Spartan is out now through on Amazon www.amazon.com/Spartan-Charles-Purcell-ebook/dp/B00JGEBTKG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1404127987&sr=8-3&keywords=The+Spartan

2 thoughts on ““How long can all this superhero business last?”

  1. I loved this article. As a pathetic fan of Tim Burton’s Batman, however, I was reminded of how Burton once said that his Batman would never have worked these days. He said that because they made the film in a pre-CGI era, it forced the actors to interact with props, the stage and each other rather than pretending to interact with a green screen. And in my book (and I admit I might be slightly trolling here), Burton’s Batman is better than Nolan’s.

  2. I like both Batmen … Michael Keaton’s does have a certain charm and certainly awesome in its respective era (I loved it as a teen). I read that Burton liked Keaton in the Batman suit because Keaton’s eyes look insane when he wore it …

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