Rethinking Superhero and Comic-Book Movies

When I started this site back in 2007, movies inspired by known superheroes or comic books were still in their infancy as a genre.  Who knew that 12 years later we would see a genre that would not only grow exponentionally, but also dominate most cinematic discussions?  You can see the height of this naivete with my list from June 30, 2008, where I listed what I thought were the top 10 superhero movies of all time.  Marvel had just released what would end up being entry #1 of 22 in what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); Chris Nolan had just released the second entry of what would become known as The Dark Knight Triology; and DC was starting to dominate the animated movie front via Blu-Ray/DVD.  Streaming services were starting to be visualized, but not in wide production.  Additionally, movies and franchises like Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kick-Ass, A History of Violence were actually pulled from graphic novels and small comic-book series not known by most, with studios taking some risks in developing those properties.

If the period of the late 90s and early 2000’s was consumed with fanboys/fangirls angrily drawing battle-lines between Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, then 2008 would see the rise of a war that looks to put those earlier battles to shame: the MCU versus the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).  With the events (on- and off-screen) of the past 3-5 years in both franchises, fans on each side have only gotten more steadfast in their positions and leave little room for those that enjoy both.  What is interesting is that lost in all of the debate would be the following:

  • Marvel has surrendered the animated movie arena to DC
  • While some movie-watchers bemoan the live-action offerings from DC, many do not realize that DC has been quietly producing 2-3 animated offerings per year over the past 10-12 years, with many being well-received.
  • Despite some missteps by WB and DC, the DCEU is realizing that the way to compete with Marvel is to frame their “universe” differently.  As the DCEU moves away from the idea that each movie must be firmly tied to the other movies, the storytelling and offerings improve, giving audiences credit for understanding that not every movie has to set up the next one and that not each one has to have crossovers.

As these thoughts have been bouncing around in my head, it does force me to rethink how I need to evaluate this genre that has exploded with content.  As a result, I will be revisiting my 2008 Top 10 list and framing it differently.  I will also build out lists evaluating Marvel and DC separately; to try to do both together is a fool’s errand of the magnitude of one of Don Quioxte’s quests.  This will give me some content to develop over the next 1-2 months in between movie reviews and other items.

As always, comments are welcome below…

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