Superhero Supernova

Lainey Posted by Lainey at April 8, 2011 07:28:07 April 8, 2011 07:28:07

Written by Sarah

It’s an apocalypse of superheroes: four movies in less than three months and more on the way. You might think it’s all just nerdery, but there are bigger implications for the movie industry. It’s not just the money involved—though there is a lot of money involved—it’s what it could mean for studios if these movies work out. If Thor and Captain America are a hit this year, and The Avengers next year, Warner Brothers could go for a Justice League set up similar to the Avengers model. They’re already trying to turn Batman into a self-perpetuating franchise like Bond. We may complain about the overabundance of comic book and superhero movies, but this stuff consistently sells. These movies are accounting for more and more of the studios’ profits. They’re becoming a dietary staple.

So what’s the prospect for this summer’s crop of superhero movies in the wake of all the reveals at Wonder Con last weekend? I did a super scientific straw poll (thanks to Dave and The Comic Vault for the assist) to find out what actual comic book fans are expecting from the herd of movies—Thor, X-Men: First Class, The Green Lantern and Captain America—on display this summer. Here’s what I found out.

Captain America
has the most buzz among comic fans, though the buzz is subject to “whoever released the most recent new footage is the most interesting thing right now”. While Ryan Reynolds might be the most “memorable” person cast out of all the new superheroes, Chris Evans in the Captain America suit has everyone the most excited. The trailers for Captain America have everyone jazzed—the visuals, the overall the look of the film, the costumes, it’s all resonating with the fans. Where The Green Lantern’s CGI suit has everyone anxious (I’m scared of it, too), Cap’s suit, silly helmet and all, is cause for excitement.

The Green Lantern
, however, is cause for concern. Reynolds makes fanboys nervous. They don’t buy him when he’s not being funny (that Amityville Horror remake was pretty terrible). The effects from the footage so far aren’t as impressive as the stuff being shown in the other films. Comic book movies are as much about the ride as they are about the costumes, and The Green Lantern doesn’t look as fun. But Thor is problematic, too. Though it boasts the most impressive cast—Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins in particular, and director Kenneth Branagh—Thor himself is a tough sell. He’s not even consistent in the comic books so how are filmmakers supposed to nail him down?

As for X-Men, it has the most recognition but at this point the movie universe has gotten pretty far from the comics and First Class is just more “retooling”. There have been good movies in the franchise in the past and right now, X-Men: First Class has more to do with getting back to the previous standard than appeasing fans. Also, it’s a known property at this point. There are a few new characters in First Class but it’s mostly younger versions of people we’ve already met. Another of the big selling points of a comic book movie is seeing characters realized for the first time and the surprise is pretty much gone from X-Men. Still, with its brand recognition among general audiences, interest is still present. I’d say this one is a wash.

What about the new kid on the block, Superman Henry Cavill? I talked to my friend E, a comic junkie and Comic Con regular, and a big fan of Superman. He likes the look of Cavill. He buys the idea of that guy in the cape and tights. What he isn’t sure about is reviving Superman at all. Like we keep saying—HE’S BORING. Even fans of the Superman brand think he’s boring. Captain America is working around a similar problem, for now, by setting their movie in World War II—an era friendlier to Cap. But the new Superman will be a modern Superman, and he’s struggled with modern audiences. E’s concern is my concern is everybody’s concern—how do you make Superman, the most straight edge Boy Scout superhero, exciting?

Time will tell with Superman. We have a long way to go with that one—there isn’t even a suit yet. And the fortunes of the superheroes this summer will have a lot to say about the kind of chances Warner Brothers is willing to take with Superman next year. The futures of a lot of projects—most notably Joss Whedon’s The Avengers—depends on these movies having a good run in 2011. As do the futures of potential Movie Stars. Reynolds is one big role away from breaking into the top tier of actors and Chris Evans, who’s been on the cusp for ages, is also poised to move to the next level. Successful movies could put Hemsworth and Cavill on the path of The Next Big Thing. The implications are ripe for all involved. Who are you supporting?

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