From 2008 to Now: A Look at the Modern Age of Comic Book Films
By Daniel F.
“Iron Man” started the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that still goes on today. The next film in the franchise, “The Incredible Hulk,” came out the same year. A sequel to “Iron Man” and 2011’s “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” led to the culmination of the phase: 2012’s “Marvel’s The Avengers.” This movie ended the Phase One of the series.
Phase Two began with 2013’s “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World.” 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” continued the franchise. 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man” ended Phase Two
Phase Three began with 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” and “Doctor Strange.” 2017 featured a new Spider-Man movie, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” And, of course, this year’s “Black Panther” and the new “Avengers: Infinity War,” along with the upcoming “Ant-Man and the Wasp” continue the franchise. Next year has “Captain Marvel” and the sequel to “Infinity War” to end this current phase.
Now why are these movies special?
Well besides the obvious critical and financial success, these movies have done what others haven’t. Connect one long myth arc (that of the Infinity Stones and the villain Thanos’ attempts to get them) and uniting various superheroes across multiple films. While you can watch the films out of order, they all have scenes or lines that connect them all. And with even more movies scheduled, you can expect this series will be around for a long, long time.
DC hasn’t fared as well as Marvel. While the Nolan films, which ended with 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” were big successes, they are not part of the current continuity. 2013’s “Man of Steel” started the DC Cinematic Universe. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad,” and last year’s “Justice League” were met with negative reception. The only film met with positive reception is last year’s “Wonder Woman.”
Other comic book films are still being made. The “X-Men” franchise is still going on. With critical successes such as “X-Men: First Class,” “The Wolverine,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” the series has had some strong films. It is also known for two films that challenged the superhero genre.
2016’s “Deadpool” is a raunchy comedic superhero movie with a hard R rating. It is a very violent film, with curses being said throughout, and even graphic nudity present. And it’s a comic book film.
Last year’s “Logan” is also R rated with graphic violence and swearing. “Logan” is also different for two reasons: it features a deep, dark, depressing story, and it’s a cross genre film. Following in the footsteps of “V for Vendetta” (a dystopian comic book film), “Logan” is a neo-western film that follows Wolverine losing his power of regeneration and trying to protect Charles Xavier, who is going senile. The film focuses on dark subject matter for a comic book film. The upcoming “The New Mutants” looks to further this trend. It is said to be inspired by writer Stephen King (“It”) and filmmaker John Hughes (“The Breakfast Club”).
Other films that also featured a hard R rating include 2009’s “Watchmen” (another Alan Moore adaptation, seeing a pattern here) and 2005’s “Sin City” and it’s sequel, 2014’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” “Watchmen” features extreme, bloody violence and is a deconstruction of superhero tropes. Instead of the campiness of the genre, it focuses on superheroes being cynical people. “Sin City” looks like a comic book with it’s black and white visuals (except for a few instances) and brutal violence. It doesn’t include superheroes.
Comic book films have been around for a while. From the campiness of the 60s and 70s to the dark and gritty tone of today (besides Marvel), they continue to be a critical and financial success. So get used to it. Hollywood relies on them (as Alejandro Iñárritu’s amazing “Birdman” satirizes) and they’ll be around for a long, long time.