Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr. the saviours of comic book movies

Actor Robert Downey Jr. promoting the film &qu...

Image via Wikipedia

Before the likes of X-Men and Spider-Man, comic book movies were in a dire place. Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, had effectively destroyed the Batman movie franchise and put other comic book movies on hold. Marvel (and DC eventually) had to go dark to save the comic book movie industry. After Marvel released Blade, which won worldwide acclaim, Marvel decided to push forward with their superhero blockbusters. Starting with X-Men.

Produced by 20th Century Fox, X-Men was a revolution for comic book movies. Part sci-fi, part action X-Men pushed new boundaries for superhero films. Rather than follow the classic route of men in spandex saving the day, the mutant flick was an un-conventional superhero film dealing with issues of prejudice towards those who are different. It’s break out star was Australian actor Hugh Jackman who played the clawed mutant Wolverine. Though over a foot taller than his comic book counter part, Jackman was able to convey tons of emotion, with few lines making for one of the most captivating heroes in superhero film history. He made the audiences sympathize with his character’s tortured past, but at the same time he maintained a cult ‘badass’ approach that made him an instant star upon the films release.

X-Men’s success paved way for a new wave of superhero movies. Two years later on 2002, Sony released Spider-Man which went on to earn two sequels, Universal released the iconic monster Hulk to mixed reviews, whilst Fox began throwing out superhero movies such as DareDevil, Fantastic 4 and Electra.

2 sequels later for Jackman, the stardom began to wear off. Though he had enough popularity to warrant a solo movie in 2009: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the X-Men films began attracting criticism for focusing too heavily on Wolverine. Other crucial team members such as Cyclops and Storm were not being given enough screen time and the X-Men movies began to fall flat. The comic book movie industry was not helped by the fact that Sony’s Spider-Man 3 was critically panned, thus putting the web slinger’s adventures on hold for the time being.

Enter Marvel Studios with Iron Man. To freshen the industry up, Marvel decided to debut one of their B-List superheroes on screen. Directed by Jon Favreau and starring Hollywood rebel Robert Downey Jr as genius Tony Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow as his assistant Pepper Potts, Iron Man saved the comic book movie industry from effectively ‘selling out.’ Downey Jr. made Iron Man fun and witty but added depth by exploring the characters narcissistic routes, giving us a hero we’d never seen before. Iron Man‘s gritty opening, with Stark realizing the truth behind his legacy as weapons manufacturer, put the film on a winning path of a hero trying to redeem himself. The film earned worldwide acclaim, and kick started a revolutionary cinematic universe, containing A-lister The Incredible Hulk as well as other b-list heroes such as Captain America and Thor. Next year will see all four team up with the addition of Jeremy Renner as the archer avenger, Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson as the sleek spy Black Widow.  This will all happen in the Avengers movie, which proves to be the most ambitious superhero movie to date.

And to think we might not have this to look forward too if it hadn’t have been for Hugh Jackman.

If it weren’t for Hugh Jackman we probably wouldn’t have Robert Downey Jr. As a superhero anyway. Jackman made superheroes cool again with his bad ass raging Wolverine, whilst Downey Jr. just made them even cooler with his rich playboy one-man army. Forget Nolan and Batman, Wolverine and Iron Man are the true superheroes of this generation.


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