You may have noticed that every time you venture out to the cinema, that these days, there is one particular genre of film that is always represented on the billboard. No not the animated movies, they don't count.
I am talking of course about Superhero movies! Specifically, the superheroes normally found within the pages of comic books. The Harry Potter Franchise finished up a few years ago; thank Christ, leaving massive space in the summer box office for something else to take the world by storm.
Enter the superheroes. Don't get me wrong there have obviously always been comic-book superhero movies out there. The original Superman and Batman films were a tremendous hit and success but wore themselves out quickly and in general the less said about them the better in the case of the later ones of these series. I'm looking at you Tim Burton. And George Clooney, I haven't forgotten you either! What kind of superhero has nipples on his suit, seriously!
The films continued to be produced in the new millennium despite this. Tobey Maguire's Spiderman had great success before disappearing rather quickly after the 2nd sequel all got a bit farfetched. Superman briefly returned in 'Superman Returns' in 2006, I enjoyed it greatly, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, inspired casting! Sadly the film failed to make a profit somehow and we've never heard of Brandon Routh (he played Superman by the way) again.
However, out of darkness appeared a relatively unknown director with a vision to make superheroes appear more realistic and believable, Christopher Nolan. He transformed Batman from the campy, cheap days of Tim Burton and the dark dark days of George Clooney (the bad kind of dark where you cringe through the whole movie), into the Dark Knight (the brilliant kind of dark, the kind that builds suspense, that has an edge). His trilogy brought a whole new light and idea to how a superhero can look and be made. Each film was critically acclaimed and unlike the series of the past, this time each film got better than the last.
Stars were made on the back of the trilogy as-well. Christian Bale is now one of Hollywood's top leading men; the late Heath Ledger won an Academy Award for his portrayal of The Joker. Nolan himself is now already a legend in his field.
So successful was the Dark Knight Trilogy, that there wasn't a chance that Warner Brother's were going to reboot Superman without some advice from Nolan. We saw the end result this year in 'Man of Steel' which Nolan produced. Already trumping its predecessors, a profit was made without breaking a sweat, and the film itself wasn't bad either. Much like Bale before him, Henry Cavill's future appears very bright indeed.
A sequel is already in production, announced by director Zack Snyder at Comic-Con, which will unbelievably feature both Superman and Batman in the same film. I personally think this is a mistake; Superman needs to be further developed before you bring in another huge character in Batman. The news has inevitably sent the Internet crazy with rumours (Bale has supposedly been offered $50 million to reprise his Batman role, which he had previously said he didn't want to return to) and no doubt the film will be huge when it is released but somehow it just feels too soon and slightly rushed by DC and Warner Brother's in order to match the power and success of their great rival, Marvel.
Batman and Superman have done an admirable job representing the DC stable in the movie world (Ryan Reynolds briefly joined the effort in the form of the Green Lantern, he probably shouldn't have bothered). But even the two mightiest heroes in DC's ranks cannot compete with the entire Marvel army, better known as the Avengers.
Let me throw some stats at you. DC's best film in terms of box office performance is 2012's 'The Dark Knight Rises' (the final part in the Dark Knight trilogy). It earned a staggering $1,084,439,099 worldwide, placing it ninth on the all-time list.
Marvel? Well last year's 'Avenger's Assemble' trounced 'The Dark Knight Rises' earning itself $1,511,757,910 and this year's 'Iron Man 3' earned $1,212,480,990 itself globally, cementing Marvel's dominance. This year's 'Man of Steel' failed to challenge any of these, currently lying 67th on the all time earnings list, compared to the two Marvel productions which lie 3rd and 5th respectively.
In a similar vain as to which the DC superhero films have helped make turn their relatively unknown stars into the hottest property in Hollywood, the Marvel films have helped establish actors such as Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Evans as rising stars and major players in Hollywood. Not to mention they have revived the careers of Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson.
Robert Downey Jr. is a hit machine. He's starred in six movies that have each grossed over $500 million at the box office worldwide. Two of those films, 'The Avengers' and 'Iron Man 3', each earned over $1 billion. Downey tops our list of Hollywood's Highest-Paid Actors with an estimated $75 million in earnings between June 2012 and June 2013.
It's hard to remember that just a few years ago, Downey was box office poison, and regarded by the studios as damaged goods. The promising young actor burst onto the scene in the late '80s with movies like The Pick-Up Artist and Less Than Zero. But drugs quickly dragged him down until he became all but un-insurable. Directors like Oliver Stone gave him work but for the most part, his career seemed to be a lost cause. Downey turned that around with 'Iron Man'. The first film in the franchise earned $585 million at the global box office. Overall the franchise has brought in $2.4 billion.
Outside of the Avengers and its closely related stand-alone films, there has been further success for superheroes with Marvel origins. The talented Andrew Garfield appears to have dedicated his young career to playing Spiderman. Filming on the sequel to the Amazing Spiderman is nearing completion. There are already 2 further films in the pipeline. The X-men series has also produced 6 films to date, predominantly surrounding Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. A seventh is due for release next year, and looks set to contain many more of the series' stars.
Even the spoof superhero movie 'Kick-Ass' was hugely successful and popular whilst it was unbacked by either Marvel or DC. It itself has even spawned a sequel. The public want superhero movies no matter where they come from.
Luckily for them, there appears to be no let up in the near future over the frequency at which superhero movies are to be released. In addition to those already mentioned. Sequels to Marvel's 'Thor' and 'Captain America' films are due, as is a sequel to the Avengers. There shall be a film surrounding Ant-Man, with strong rumours Simon Pegg will star. There will also be a third reboot of the Hulk franchise.
In terms of what DC is to offer, in addition to the Superman / Batman crossover, the characters of Wonder Woman and The Flash are expected to be introduced to audiences along with a sequel to the Green Lantern. This is all expected to lead to a Justice League movie on a similar level to Marvel's Avengers which could lead DC back to the top of the box office where it was prior to Marvel's purple patch. It certainly has the firepower to do so.
The only thing that would appear to be able to stop the production of these movies would be when the actors no longer wish to star or grow tired of their respective role. With so much money to be made this is unlikely however. For instance, Downey Jr. has already signed a deal to return as Tony Stark aka Iron Man in The Avengers 2 and The Avengers 3. However, at present there are no confirmed plans for another standalone Iron Man movie.
If there should be problem with an actor's availability however, there would be no shortage of would-be replacements. Mark Wahlberg has already stated that he would relish the opportunity to play Iron Man should Downey Jr. quit.
It therefore appears that the superhero genre of movies will continue their dominance of billboards and box offices around the globe for sometime yet. Whether they will be able to top what has already come before them remains to be seen, as shown in the past, some franchises have struggled to maintain momentum.
We all have a favourite superhero film and I suppose I should share mine to finish this blog. At the start I said animated movies didn't count. I was lying, for my money, no superhero movie, no matter how much money is thrown at it, will ever be better 'The Incredibles'!