Superhero, fantasy and science-fiction flicks dominate eight out of ten of the top grossing films of all time, according to Box Office Mojo (Titanic and Skyfall hold the other two spots). Avatar is the only film on the list that isn’t a franchise. Sci-fi/hero films are box office gold, and recurring characters literally run the show. Consequently, filmmakers must seek out plots and storylines that go beyond the origin story of a hero. In the case of a franchise such as Harry Potter, the solution to this problem is simple: make a film out of the next book. With comics, especially ones that have been in existence for decades, the next step is a little trickier. Where do film makers go from here, and what does the future of the superhero film look like?
Looking at the Past to Help Steer The Future
The franchise and the hero must evolve. The story cannot simply be “good guy disrupts bad guy’s villainous plot”. This formula may work for the small screen, but maturing audiences expect more on the silver screen. The animated Batman and Superman series from the 1990s show a simplistic version of the formula (check them out on Hub, a satellite and digital television network (available through http://www.rasertech.com, or your local cable provider)) that paved the way for success. A big screen franchise requires character development, as well as imaginative story-telling. This leaves filmmakers with two options: create an entirely new storyline for the character or borrow from either a graphic novel or a comic mini-series. The former runs the risk of being panned by critics and fans because it is a poorly written story. The latter runs the risk of being a bad adaptation of a story that fans already love. The latter option seems like the safer bet.
Hollywood and the Graphic Novel
Graphic novels, in a nutshell, are comic books for grown-ups. Hollywood and graphic novels are a match made in heaven. The shots have already been framed, and many graphic novels can be retold in the time of a traditional movie. The film adaptations of 300 and, to a lesser extent, Watchmen, stayed true to the graphic novels, and both were successful. Watchmen grossed more than $100 million, while 300 pulled in more than $210 million, reports Box Office Mojo.
The public has yet to see a graphic novel that features a well-known superhero turned into a film. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy borrows heavily from some of the Batman graphic novels written throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but Nolan did not draw his inspiration exclusively from one source, notes Pop Watch.
This year, James Mangold’s The Wolverine, based on the four-part Wolverine mini-series from 1982, will break the mold, reports IGN. The X-Men franchise will also base its 2014 sequel to X-Men: First Class on one of the most highly-acclaimed story arcs from the comic book series. The arc, Days of Future Past, is widely considered to be one of the best comic book storylines ever written, claims The Huffington Post.
However, there are only so many reboots the public will endure. With so much money being made with sequels and prequels, there is no reason to return back to the same origin story that even casual fans know by rote. Then again, rebooting Spider-man seemed like a bad idea, but that ended up making more than $262 million last year, writes Box Office Mojo. Perhaps the well hasn’t run dry quite yet.
image below by LadyDragonFly CC
Guest post by: Brandon Thompson:Brandon is a big Game of Thrones fan and has attended Comicon every year for the past 5 years.