Superhero films are big money and a whole lot of fun. All the relevant film studios have been cleaning house, more or less, over the past fifteen years. Here’s a little recap of the recent past and a look into the future where the Justice League and the Avengers face off (well, in terms of popularity, reviews, and box office revenue).
First Wave of Super Flicks
To give credit where credit’s due, Twentieth Century Fox began the wave of modern superhero flicks with X-Men in 2000. Film industry CG reached a point where it could give comic book fans a proper on-screen realization of their favorite superpowers, and Fox hit the jackpot snagging Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Unfortunately, its two followups weren’t quite as awesome. Fox somewhat redeemed itself with the X-Men films involving Michael Fassbender. After X-Men, Sony released the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire Spider-man movies. The first two were well received, but the third was marred by Peter Parker’s symbiote-emo hair. The reboot with Andrew Garfield, while not half-bad, are not quite as good as the first Tobey Maguire movies.
In the background at the time was a not-so-successful Hulk (2003) starring Eric Bana, and the somewhat regrettable Daredevil (2003) and Elektra (2005).
DC as a Contender
Through Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s trilogy of Batman films, DC was able to take a good bite out of the superhero film market. Sadly, Superman Returns (2006) starring Brandon Routh didn’t quite hit the spot for critics (though the scene where he stops plane over the baseball field is one of my favorites). The Halle Berry Catwoman (2004) and Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern (2011) didn’t do too well, either.
The Rise of Marvel Studios
After Fox and Sony created a strong market of superhero-movie nerds, Marvel Studios exploded onto the scene with success after success through its Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Avengers films. There were a few missteps (e.g., a few chunks of Iron Man 2, and the latter half of Captain America: The First Avenger), but overall the quality of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been pretty darn good. In the background, The Incredible Hulk (2008) starring Edward Norton was waving its hands violently for attention.
This last weekend, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was released, obliterating the competition in the box offices and garnering the adoration of critics (it’s currently 92% fresh on rottentomatoes.com), featuring a very fit Chris Pratt (now he can join the other two Marvel Chrises—Evans and Hemsworth—in running away from women, assuming he wasn’t already doing so).
Avengers (Cannot Fully) Unite!
One of the saddest things with Marvel’s films is the fact that Spider-man and Wolverine won’t be able to join the Avengers as they would in an ideal world. Marvel Studios (Disney) owns the film rights to the characters they use in The Avengers (2012) while Fox is holding onto X-men (and The Fantastic Four) and Sony won’t let go of Spider-man. Since different studios hold the rights to different characters and likely won’t collaborate, we probably won’t be able to see Hugh Jackman and Andrew Garfield palling around with Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Not as their respective Marvel characters, anyway.
Justice League VS Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is due to come out in 2015 (I’m disappointed Paul Rudd won’t be joining the cast just yet; he’ll supposedly be in a solo film as Ant-Man in the same year). Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t set to release until 2016. So, they’re not really going head-to-head. However, I’m sure the folks at Marvel and DC and their fans have been feeling the competition since forever.
The question remains as to whether DC’s live action film version of the Justice League will be able to seriously compete in popularity and success with the MCU’s tried and tested crew.
On the Justice League, we have Henry Cavill with Man of Steel (2013) under his belt which, to be honest, had a number of flaws (not enough jokes!). Then there’s Ben Affleck as Batman, which many have been reluctant about since the casting choice was announced (though I, and some other people, think he has the potential to do well as a grizzled Bruce Wayne). Last, but not least, is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Apparently, the newly released still of Gadot as Princess Diana of Themyscira has helped in getting Dawn of Justice more buzz than Age of Ultron at Comic-Con despite the fact that Dawn of Justice is still two years away from release. There are also rumors of other superheroes that may show up in Dawn of Justice.
Quicksilver VS Quicksilver VS The Flash
Amidst the confusion of film rights, both Fox and Marvel are simultaneously using the character of Quicksilver. I’m looking forward to see how Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver in Age of Ultron compares to Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Then, there’s also the upcoming television series about The Flash (who comic book geeks generally consider to be faster than Quicksilver despite the fact that the two characters exist in separate comic book universes). Though I haven’t read any rumors about it, I’m sort of wondering whether it’s possible for DC’s cinematic universe to combine with its television universe so that the actors playing the Green Arrow and the Flash in the TV series (Stephen Amill and Grant Gustin, respectively) can join Affleck, Cavill, and Gadot (and others) on the big screen as the Justice League. That could give the Avengers a run for Tony Stark’s money.