Are Comic Book Movies Dying Instead of Thriving?

Green Lantern's Light

Image by JD Hancock via Flickr

June has marked the release of one of the year’s most critically panned movie. No I’m not talking about the mediocre movie The Hangover Part II. I’m not talking about the brilliant X-Men: First Class. As much as it pains me to say it, Martin Campbell‘s Green Lantern may become the worst disaster for comic book movies since the likes of The Fantastic 4 hit cinemas. And it was all going so well this year…

As I’ve mentioned before about the likes of Thor and X-Men: First Class, comic book movies have needed to drastically improve in order to survive at the box office. Throwing a special effects extravaganza at audiences just doesn’t cut it anymore. Movies need to develop interesting characters, and generate a good story before worrying about spectacular special effects. That’s where comic book movies are struggling. With so much choice now for comic book movies, the films can’t afford to be lazy. Thor told a great father-son story, First Class added some historical gravitas to a superhero story whilst Green Lantern fails on just about every level…

Terrible plot holes, bad pacing, boring characters (unlike the comic book versions) and a bland story keeps Green Lantern’s feet firmly on the ground. It’s also an example of how a generic ‘popcorn’ superhero movie just doesn’t cut it with critics and fans alike. If Green Lantern bombs, DC will probably shy away from moving forward with projects such as The Flash and Wonder Woman. This could cause serious ramifications for comic book movies because; Marvel’s on screen catalogue of comic book characters will eventually run dry. With no alternative to go to, fans will inevitably get bored of Marvel throwing every B-List character under the sun at them. The same goes for DC’s Batman and Superman franchises. They will eventually run dry and DC will have nothing left to offer.

That’s what’s most disappointing about the Green Lantern movie. There was so much riding on it, and despite having Green Lantern wiz Geoff Johns behind the scenes; the movie has killed off all momentum for DC. Yes they have The Dark Knight Rises coming next year, but considering that’s up against Marvel’s Avengers, don’t expect it to reach the heights of The Dark Knight.

If the genre is dying, every upcoming comic book movie needs to be unique. The initial awesomeness of seeing Marvel’s finest united on screen will undoubtedly hold off bad reviews, but other projects such as Spider-Man, Wolverine and Superman might not be so fortunate unless they give the characters and the story proper attention. It’s time studios take these movies seriously. From the moment the initial GL trailer hit the net and viewers were treated to a classic Ryan Reynolds ‘I KNOW RIGHT’ scene, it was clear Warner Bros weren’t treating GL seriously. And that’s why the genre is struggling. It needs more X-Men: First Class, less Van Wilder in space.

2012 will be make or break for the comic book movie genre…

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  1. It would seem to me that it’s fairly common to have a critical/commercial bomb or two in any genre, especially comic book films, during the year.

    Look at the list of ’em in the last 15 years:

    Elektra (2005)
    The Punisher (2004)
    Catwoman (2004)
    Hulk (2003)
    Batman and Robin (1997)
    FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

    My point is this: there will always be the awful ones. And a lot of the time, we see them coming. (Green Lantern looked terrible to me from day one, and I’m not even a comic book fan). Really, what this signals is a potential parting of the ways between Warner Brothers and DC Comics – or at least a serious re-evaluation of how to handle the material. With Marvel’s brand of comics excelling so well on the big screen, DC will need to absolutely seek out new talent akin to Christopher Nolan (who has singlehandedly elevated the 21st century comic book film into a serious art form).

    • I completely agree with what you’re saying about it being fairly common for there to be a comic book movie bomb every now and then, I just feel DC couldn’t afford Green Lantern flopping. It’s such an amazing comic book character, and to waste it on screen as you say, will probably result in Warner Bros and DC to re-evaluate their relationship. I don’t think they will part ways as there’s just too much history there for them to part over one failure. I agree with you about new talent akin to Christopher Nolan needing to be brought in. I can’t wait to see how he and Snyder reinvent Superman for the big screen. If Green Lantern earns enough to warrant a sequel, aside from a new director, Warner Bros need to reach even deeper into their pockets to salvage the Green Lantern franchise.

      • What I also find disappointing about this whole situation is that Martin Campbell did such a great job in rebooting James Bond not only for the 1990’s (with Goldeneye) but for the 2000’s as well (with the ultra-cool Casino Royale). Campbell also brought the decidedly archaic “Zorro” to the big screen in the well-reviewed and fairly large hit “The Mask of Zorro”. I wonder what went wrong with him…was the script he was given bad?

      • Well if they just followed Geoff John’s classic origin tale ‘Secret Origin’ for the basis of the movie it surely would have worked fine. It must be the script and financial reasons behind the film’s downfall. Not much is shown of The Green Lantern Corps and their life on the planet Oa, which leads me to believe Warner Bros didn’t put in enough money to keep the special effects running longer. If they just cut out the giant special effects cloud Parallax, and gave more character development to the actual Green Lantern Corps it probably could have worked out fine. I suspect much like what happened with Fox in the original X-Men film, Warner Bros tried to spend as little as possible (a whopping 150,000,000 though) as a safecard so that if the film does well, they can pump more money into the sequel. Unfortunately that’s come at the expense of the film’s quality it seems.

  2. Haha yeah i mean come on, $150 million can’t buy you decent special effects? Spider-Man, Iron Man and Thor all had a budget equal or less to that, and they all looked perfectly fine if not extraordinary. What’s interesting is that there is an article in the New York Times today that starts out with this line: “It’s shocking how little $150 million buys you in Hollywood these days.”

    • Haha that article you mentioned sounds great. Green Lantern the next Star Wars? No chance. X-Men: First Class was a rushed production yet sill churned out special effects. I also hate the 3-D trend Hollywood’s in lately. Unless the film’s shot in 3-D (Avatar) don’t bother with terrible conversions that just distort audiences view of the movie for a one or two pointless effects.

      • Completely agreed. In fact, the 3D trend is dying down substantially (check out my latest tweet for an article about it), and I think its because of the consistent greed in filmmaking. If something sells well, they’ve gotta have more of it, originality and subsequent consequences be damned. It shows with sequels, prequels, reboots, adaptations and now, the resurgence (and apparent decline) of 3D. I think Pixar and James Cameron have been the only two mainstream entities that have utilized 3-D to its potential…everyone else has either piggybacked off the 3D craze or bastardized it for their own gain.

      • 3-D will definitely decline, and hopefully sales will eventually reflect that. When I know the film was converted to 3-D post production I usually try and grab the weekend 2-D showing. I just hope regular audiences start doing the same.
        I wonder what Pixar could do with a Marvel property in 3-D? There’s Marvel characters that Pixar could easily deploy into the world of animation and get great results. Ant-Man, Spider-Woman and Ms Marvel are the type of characters that could work in a Pixar 3-D animation film. As for ordinary films, I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s technique of shooting in IMAX.Whilst it requires a lot more manual work, the results for IMAX pay off far better for superhero movies. I really hope Nolan brings this on board with Superman: Man of Steel.

      • That is a very interesting proposition – a Pixar/Marvel film. Pixar has already shown they are capable of writing, directing and producing an action-packed, high-quality action film with The Incredibles. Since Disney owns both the cinematic rights to Marvel AND Pixar, I’d say that’s at least one giant hurdle that’s been cleared.

        As for Nolan’s involvement with the Superman film, I’m hoping it’s more then an ancillary thing. I’d be more excited if he were, say, writing the script or directing it. As it stands, I absolutely HATED Mr. Snyder’s film “Sucker Punch” (my review of which can be found here: http://suckerpunchcinema.com/main/2011/03/sucker-punch/), but I thought his first film, the remake of Dawn of the Dead, was actually a very portent horror picture.

        Also, it’s important to note that “Green Lantern” actually cost Warner Brothers $300 million. $150 million was for production costs, and another $150 million was for advertising and marketing costs. That’s a lot of money to throw down the drain.

      • The Incredibles was a fantastic achievement for both animation and the superhero genre. It’s such a shame we weren’t given a sequel. I’m not sure if the Fantastic 4 animation rights below to Fox, if not then a Pixar Fantastic 4 movie could easily replicate the kind of success The Incredibles had.

        I too hope Nolan has more involvement with the Superman film then what’s been let on. One thing I am confident about is the promised new take on the character. Bryan Singer’s film was too nostalgic to to the Donner films, so a new take is greatly needed for the character. Snyder’s work on 300 and Watchmen convinces me he’ll be able to handle the action scenes perfectly,which is a massive benefit to franchise that has lacked spectacular action scenes. Even Nolan hasn’t perfected action scenes just yet. The camera work in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight was far too choppy in the action scenes.

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