Unless you’ve been avoiding movie theatres for the last, I don’t know, ten plus years, chances are you’re aware that comic book movies are having a (very long) moment.
For the most part, this has been a seriously enjoyable ride for nerdy superhero fans like yours truly. The industry has brought us epic productions like Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther and Wonder Woman.
But it has also delivered some duds. Not naming any names (cough, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, cough).
Back in 2016, SYFY theorised that perhaps the colossal success of many comic films (even the not so great ones) was allowing for production houses to push out movie after movie, a little too fast and a little undercooked.
And at this year’s New York Comic-Con, this same theme appeared to pop up in a couple of panels.
During the ‘It’s the Big “Batman” 1989 Movie 30th Anniversary!’ panel, Michael Uslan – the originator and executive producer of the Batman movie franchise – pointed out that the success of the Tim Burton film was partly due to how different it was.
Prior to this dark representation of Gotham, Batman on-screen had only ever been a light, cheesy take on the comic. And although it took ten years to get his vision made into a film, Uslan stressed that it “was a game-changer” once it came out.
“We changed the world’s perception of comic books,” he said.
Uslan then went on to highlight that sometimes, the money-making machine that is the movie industry influences certain productions, hinting that this can take away from the authenticity of the film (though he didn’t point out specific examples).
“We can’t afford to just make cookie-cutter comic book movies,” he said.
“We need to have filmmakers with that passion and with the vision who are bold and daring and willing to push an envelope. Look what Marvel did with Deadpool. Look what they did with Guardians of the Galaxy. You’ve gotta take some chances and believe that the fans will be there to appreciate it if you’re coming from the heart, and if you really believe in all of this.”
This sentiment was echoed during the Rotten Tomatoes panel, ‘Rotten Movies We Love’. Critic Monica Castillo highlighted that a lot of superhero films receive bad reviews on the website because, well… they’re unoriginal.
“I think when critics approach these kinds of movies they might be looking for something that’s a little bit more out of the box and sometimes these movies because they are, there’s such big-budget stuff now that studios tend to keep them like, kind of formula. They’re safe. They don’t usually colour outside the lines, or really include something that would break the norm. Like, I would love to see a Marvel movie that featured a queer character that was on screen for longer than two seconds.
“…it is very risk-averse. So then we as critics, we see you know 20, 30 of these and then we’re like, ‘Okay, so this is another origin story. We’ve seen this movie already”. So that’s why it’s really fun to see something like Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is exciting, this is something we haven’t seen before’.”
So, long story, short: The Comic film universe is responsible for some pretty incredible movies. They just need to be a little more careful about pushing out the same safe story and prioritize fresh takes (preferably involving Taika Waititi) instead.