Daze of franchises past
Comic book movies have owned summer 2014, with more to come
Published: Friday, July 4, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 11:12 a.m.
This has been true for many summers now, in particular since the turn of the millennium, but there's no doubt that when it comes to the biggest movies on the block, comic book adaptations are the top dogs. So with movie blockbuster season about halfway over, let's take a look at how the comics movies released thus far have fared, as well as what's headed to the box office in the coming months.
Here are the comic book movies that have hit theaters so far this summer:
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (May 2): This second entry in Sony's reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise hasn't seemed to have fared as well as its predecessor (or, for that matter, 2004's “Spider-Man 2”). While it has made some money and won its opening weekend, it dropped more than 60 percent in its second weekend and lost out to the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron comedy “Neighbors.” More worryingly for Sony, the critical reception to the movie was mixed at best and often harsh, while moviegoers seemed to give it a collective shrug. The only consistent praise ASM2 earned was for the performances of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, while its muddled story and even more muddled direction were roundly panned. While a sequel is planned, as well as a spin-off movie based on the character of Venom, things aren't looking so good for everyone's favorite web-slinger.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” (May 23): This seventh film in the X-Men franchise, a hybrid prequel-sequel-reboot, saw the return of Bryan Singer to the director's chair after four movies away, and the move seems to have paid off. It's the second-highest grossing movie of the franchise, and both audiences and critics had good things to say. The ensemble cast earned rave reviews, the action beats were praised for being fun and inventive, and longtime fans praised the film's story for undoing (through time travel) some of the worst plot points of prior movies. A sequel focusing on the newer characters introduced in “X-Men: First Class” has already been announced, though whether Singer will return is questionable given his involvement in a sexual assault lawsuit.
“Edge of Tomorrow” (June 6): While it's not based on a superhero comic, “Edge of Tomorrow” has its origins in a Japanese graphic novel called “All You Need Is Kill,” so it fits our criteria. The premise: Tom Cruise plays a military PR man thrown into a futile battle who accidentally ends up reliving the same events over and over, dying every time. It's a clever hook, and the story played fairly within a clearly defined set of rules while also wringing out some interesting twists. “Edge of Tomorrow” should've been a big hit, especially with Cruise as its star. Instead, the movie lost its opening weekend to the teen melodrama “The Fault in Our Stars.” Regardless of quality (“Edge of Tomorrow” was well reviewed for the most part, while the critical reaction to “Fault in Our Stars” was mixed), seeing a macho blockbuster lose to an adaptation of a young adult novel is a fairly rare occurrence. It's a testament to the power of the young adult audience and perhaps an oversaturation of action movies at the box office.
Here's what's still to come:
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (Aug. 1): The latest movie in Marvel's “Avengers”-related movie universe is based on a comic that, while it has been around for decades, nobody but the most diehard fans has read. This makes it a bit of a gamble for Marvel, even more than building an interconnected movie universe containing multiple independent franchises. But “Guardians” is coming, and it looks to be a timely change of pace for Marvel. For starters, it looks like very little action takes place on Earth; instead, our heroes will be tearing around various locales in the depth of space. At minimum this should be a welcome visual change from the usual superhero setup, and hopefully we'll get to see some cool alien characters and settings. Second, the tone of this movie looks to be very different from Marvel's earlier efforts, with an emphasis on comedy and lighthearted adventure. After three Iron Man movies, two Thor flicks and two outings from Captain America, a new movie with a new style and setting may be just what audiences want and Marvel needs.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Aug. 8): While the heroes in a half-shell are likely best known from their cartoon series in the 1980s and '90s, they actually started out as characters in a black-and-white comic in 1984. Thus this reboot of the TMNT movie franchise still counts as a comics adaptation. Anyhow, this new live-action Turtles adventure is directed by Jonathan Liebesman, best known for “Battle Los Angeles” and “Wrath of the Titans,” with Michael Bay in the producer's chair. Bay may be printing money with his “Transformers” franchise, but he's a controversial figure among longtime fans, and they're the sort of people who'll need to turn out in droves to make another “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie viable. Combined with a generic-looking story, a lackluster cast and the Turtles themselves looking rather cheap at best, the odds aren't looking so good for this movie.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (Aug. 22): It's hard to believe it's taken nine years for a follow-up to “Sin City” to get made, but such is the fickle nature of the movie business. The first “Sin City” is a justly beloved masterpiece of hyper-noir style; it was all hard-boiled men and lusty femmes fatale on missions of vengeance and righteous, violent justice. It was also a huge hit, making the prolonged development of its sequel all the more puzzling. But no matter; another trip to Sin City is a welcome thing. This installment will see the return of old favorites like Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson as well as some intriguing new faces, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Josh Brolin and Ray Liotta. As far as the story goes, we'll get some more adaptations of Frank Miller's work in his graphic novels as well as a new story centering on Alba's character of Nancy Callahan. With Robert Rodriguez back in the director's chair, “A Dame to Kill For” will be a fun, stylish ride at the very least, and let's hope he can recapture the sleazy brilliance of “Sin City.”
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