With the coming glut of new superhero movies over the next five years, I see three possibilities. A) The vast majority do well, with some smashing records, with only a few flops here and there. B) The overly saturated market sees quite a few franchises crash and burn, with only established titles (specifically, the MCU and X-men series) surviving. C) The viewing public, domestic and international, just gets fed up with the fad and abandons the genre altogether. Twenty years from now, writers will write joking listicles making fun of the superhero obsession of the early 21st century. (I’m going with B.)
Anyway, here is what we are looking at:
Phew! Here are all the movies given projected dates so far.
Avengers 2: The start of this year’s comics fusilage, and the only sure-thing on this list. An exhausted Joss Whedon departs the MCU after this, and while smart money would bet on the Avengers and/or MCU surviving for many years to come, there are no guarantees.
Ant-Man: Utterly ridiculous. And yet, people said the same thing about Guardians of the Galaxy. Something so wacky like this depends entirely on execution. Will we get another GotG, or will we get Green Lantern?
Fantastic Four: This series has been box-office Kryptonite so far, and early whispers have this latest reboot unfortunately shaping up to be yet another confused, disastrous mistelling of the adventures of Reed Richards and the gang. If it defies expectations, however, expect the characters to be folded into the X-men-verse as FOX, like Warner before it, tries to imitate Marvel’s MCU.
2016: Deadpool. Superhero movies starring antiheroes have been a tough sell — just ask Frank Castle. And the title character will be turning to the camera to address the audience quite frequently — I’m guessing this will be jarring to non-comics-readers not used to his breaking of the fourth wall. And then, add on his physical disfigurement, which did not help another antihero named V at the box office at all. Still, I’m rooting for this favorite of ’90s comic book nerds, and hope that the producers do not take the source material too seriously.
Batman v. Superman: This is the biggest roll of the dice on this list, and one of Warner’s most controversial decisions. It is obvious how desperate they are to rip off MCU’s model, but rushing a DC version of the Avengers with a mediocre director with just one lukewarmly-received Superman movie under his belt may wind up being a body-blow to Time Warner shareholders. Let’s not forget that Marvel/Disney spent time building up their stable of superheroes with their own movies before unleashing The Avengers. They gave the go-ahead for the ridiculously expensive Avengers movie only after some of the component parts gained traction with the public. Also, in their model, it doesn’t really matter that the Thor and Hulk movies suck balls — the success of the flagship title, along with the well-received Iron Man and Captain America movies, keeps the MCU afloat. In other words, even if one movie fails, the rest of the MCU can absorb the blow. With DC, on the other hand, if this project bombs, that’s it. They’re finished. The DCU explodes on the launchpad, and many other titles on this list would be quietly cancelled as a few coke-addled heads roll at the studio.
Captain America: Civil War: At first glance, it seems strange that this is not an Avengers title. After all, two of them lead this production, one of them being the most highly paid actor in America (here in the role of the villain). And, it will feature plenty of other heroes such as Spider-Man. Still, it makes sense: Cap titles tend to focus more on political intrigue and less on the battles royale of the Avengers. The fights will be smaller-scale as Cap once again finds himself taking on non-superpowered government agents that are supposed to be on his side, with the climatic battle with Tony Stark saved for last. Expect this to be the biggest-earning Cap movie to date.
X-Men Apocalypse: It looks like the original cast has been all but retired — except, of course, Hugh Jackman. Fox cannot conceive of an X-men movie that does not have Hugh Jackman in it. This is similar to the comic-book world, where Wolverine’s face was plastered everywhere, even on comics that don’t really have to do with him. Anyway, the X-Men series has been remarkable solid with only one critical failure to date, not counting Jackman’s solo outings. This should be another solid entry, even if it gets overshadowed by the MCU as usual.
Suicide Squad: The movie that made Jared Leto shed his Jesus hair in order to give us the latest take on the Joker. As noted before, antihero comic-book movies have a poor track record, and this one features flat-out villains. Something this outrageous can only work if it is fun, fun, fun, as opposed to the grim world of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman. If, on the other hand, it tries to be even grimmer and darker, expect a short run followed by digital release in just over a month.
Gambit: The character first revealed in Wolvie’s unfortunate solo outings. This represents the third antihero movie of the year, and there is no way all three will be successful. I would be mildly surprised if even one is a hit. And Channing Tatum, while a great actor in many ways, seems about as well-suited to this sort of thing as Ryan Reynolds. I do not have my hopes up.
Dr. Strange: Damn you, GotG. You have given the green light to projects that otherwise would not have even made it past the bathroom stall where a Disney suit was thinking up this shit while bumping his third line. Anyway, Benedict Cumberbatch could totally pull off this, well, strange character… assuming competent direction and a good script. Both of which are less than assured. The fact that this project has already been pushed back from its original summer 2016 release raises concerns.
2017: Wolverine 3: NO! Hugh Jackman, stop it! STOP IT!!!
GotG 2: Probably a safe bet as long as they stick with the vision of the original, which is the only possible vision with a ridiculous source material. Fun uber alles, and let the viewer park his brain at the door. If they try to go darker and edgier, this property is DOA.
Fantastic Four 2: This project is the first on the list that might not even appear. If FF1 defies expectations, then this will be the one to have them meet the X-Men. And by X-Men I mean, of course, Hugh Jackman.
Wonder Woman: As a card-carrying feminazi, I hope this makes it to the screen no matter what happens with Batman v. Superman. This will be the first female-led superhero movie since the 2000’s abortive attempts with Catwoman and Electra. It will also be only the second time that the most famous female superhero of all time makes it onto the screen, as opposed to her male peers.
Untitled Spider-Man Movie: Sigh… Well, as Spidey and Sony have apparently joined the MCU, it’s anybody’s guess how this will look. But the web-slinger’s prospects are also now irretrievably entwined with the fortunes of Disney’s movies — if the MCU fails, then so does Spidey. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone will presumably not be watching.
Thor 3: Expectations could not be any lower. Aside from Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, of course, who will presumably once again serve as the only reason to see this movie.
Justice League 1&2: This movies might not even exist. Disney and to a lesser extent, Fox can project sequels of sequels because they aren’t going away anytime soon. Warner, on the other hand, has just one lonely meh movie of the DCU released and already, they are assuming they are direct competitors. It’s like a taco cart guy with one successful taco cart declaring himself on the level with Chipotle. Warner suits better pray the moviegoing public is ready to support yet another superhero franchise, sight practically unseen.
LEGO Batman: I’m not sure why this on this list, tbh. I’ll only say that as LEGO also does Marvel, the LEGO-verse might be the only way to have a DC vs. Marvel crossover.
2018: The Flash: Movies based on TV shows do not exactly have a shining history of success — going the other direction seems much safer — but producing a movie that completely ignores the concurrent TV show of the exact same name seems even more wrong-headed. In any event, like all DCU movies, this one might not even appear, so speculation without seeing Batman v. Superman’s numbers is beyond premature.
Avengers: Infinity War 1&2: Can the gang survive the loss of Whedon? Maybe. Will these projects see Cap & friends meet Hugh Jackman? Nobody knows. Will these movies be so expensive that they make Titanic look like a grindhouse B-flick? Absolutely.
Black Panther: I always thought that putting “Black” in the name of black heroes is mildly insulting. Nobody calls Tony Stark “White Iron Man,” do they? Bah. In any event, this will be the first comics movie featuring an African American lead. Ever. Unless you count Hancock. Which nobody does. So there’s that.
Unknown X-Men movie: This is getting out of control.
Aquaman: The comics character who used to be the butt of jokes, and was a running gag in the Entourage TV show, is now getting his own movie. Standard disclaimer on how no DCU show might actually appear, etc.
Captain Marvel: The first female Marvel character to lead her own movie. Scarlett Johansson had to content herself with Lucy. There is no justice.
2019: Shazam: Did you know that this character used to also be called Captain Marvel? Having two movies of the same name, in theaters within months of each other, would have illustrated just how insane the genre has gotten. In any event, two big challenges here: a) the character’s powers are much the same as Superman’s, and b) the lead character is actually a small boy who is able to transform into a grown-up. Which leads to obvious unease with the audience if he’s getting beat-up or risking loss of life or, God forbid, he’s in a sexy situation. Also, note how far into the future we’ve gotten.
Inhumans: Like GotG, this represents yet another franchise within MCU and just like GotG, is just as insane. We are a long ways from Tony Stark hammering out the first Iron Man suit in a cave.
2020: Cyborg: Are you surprised that the black member of Justice League is planned to get his own movie second-to-last? That freaking Aquaman got one before he did? That the only reason he isn’t dead last is because the suits want to put as much distance between the new Green Lantern and the Ryan Reynolds version as possible?
Green Lantern: Speaking of, if they wanted to be bold, they could have the character John Stewart (black) as GL here instead of Hal Jordan (white). There will be many Justice League movies between now and then in which to kill off Jordan, and John Stewart has a long and storied comic-book tradition as Hal’s understudy, as an arguably better GL overall, and as a great nighttime TV show host.