2008 will long be remembered as a summer of superhero movies (or, as I prefer, comic-book film adaptations). Five such films included the hugely entertaining Marvel-produced Iron Man, the Will Smith vehicle Hancock, the Dark Horse-based Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the well-done Incredible Hulk (also a Marvel character), and the runaway blockbuster The Dark Knight. According to Box Office Mojo online, three of these films earned over $200 million, consisting of Iron Man's domestic gross of $318 million and TDK's domestic gross of $533 million (not to mention its $1 billion plus gross worldwide). Even more, these films (particularly IM and TDK) have garnered phenomenal audience and critical praise. But more importantly, they represented (and currently remain) the coming of age of the superhero film genre.
According to PluggedIn senior editor Bob Smithouser,
With the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises, Hollywood rediscovered the public’s hunger for comic book superheroes. But subsequent flops proved that audiences don’t care about empty computer-generated effects or mind-numbing action sequences. They want smart, character-driven stories with a moral core. Batman Begins understands this, and should appeal to the same crowd that propelled a certain web-slinger to big-screen success. (http://www.pluggedin.com/videos/2005/q2/batmanbegins.aspx)
Indeed, since directors Bryan Singer and Sam Raimi brought their visions to the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises, the essence and quality of storytelling in the comic-book film genre took a new direction and led to some of the best films ever released to this day. In other words, they weren't just or merely movies with razzle-dazzle special effects or villains emphasized, but just good stories overall. In my opinion, the two best superhero/comic-book film adaptations by far are Spider-Man 2 (2004) and The Dark Knight - althought there are different reasons for what makes them worthwhile. In these films, we have not merely characters who are identified or questioned as heroes, but we are presented dramatic stories of these characters' conflicts and the effects of their choices on those around them. In contrast, S2 deals with Peter Parker's personal relationships, whereas TDK emphasizes the effects of Batman's persona on Gotham City.
In a sense, the comic book/superhero movie has come of age. And the anticipation for more such films continues this summer and especially next year. This summer marks the release of Thor (May 6), X-Men: First Class (June 3), The Green Lantern (June 17), and Captain America (July 22), while 2012 will probably be the most anticipated summer with the releases of The Avengers (May 4), The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3), and The Dark Knight Rises (July 20). Here's to two anticpated summers ahead.
More info coming soon,