Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: What's left for superhero films?

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Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel. Photo/supplied
Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel. Photo/supplied

In Wednesday's blog about what Peter Jackson should do next, I said that "the superhero genre now feels like it has very few surprises left".

That statement should've come with the caveat that I am very excited to Zack Snyder's 2013 Superman film Man of Steel, for which a fantastic full-length trailer has just been released.

I find pretty much everything in that trailer encouraging. Even the shaky-cam stuff. The mythic aspects of the character really come through, and I'm intrigued by how much it appears to be a departure from Snyder's typically glossy and slow-motion-centric style.

While it remains an interesting failure, Bryan Singer's Superman Returns from 2006 fails to qualify as any sort of definitive modern interpretation in the way The Dark Knight trilogy does for Batman, so it feels like the contemporary Superman niche has yet to be properly tapped.

Apart from Man of Steel though, I'm struggling to muster much genuine excitement for any impending superhero movies. I'll see them, sure, and they might even be awesome, but it feels like everything significant in superhero cinema has been ably achieved in the past ten years.

I fantasized about a Spider-Man movie from a very young age, and I couldn't have been happier with Sam Raimi's 2002 film. The superlative success of that film led to superhero fever really taking hold at the studios, and fans were subsequently gifted such stellar offerings as X-Men 2; Iron Man; Watchmen; The Dark Knight; Thor; Captain America and of course this year's The Avengers.

There's been plenty of stinkers along the way (both Fantastic Four movies come to mind), but on the whole fanboys have had all their wishes granted by the studios. It's difficult to imagine the build-up to and execution of The Avengers having gone much better, with The Dark Knight Rises providing an appropriately sombre counterpoint.

All these films made serious money however, so the superhero boom is showing no signs of slowing. It's naive to think Hollywood might ever quit while it was ahead in this sort of situation, but really, what is there left to achieve with superhero movies?

Marvel barely put a foot wrong with Phase One of its superhero movie plan (the Norton Hulk film is not without merit), which culminated in this year's Avengers. Now that Phase Two is underway, we'll soon see new films featuring Iron Man; Thor and Captain America. All of which I will happily see.

But in ramping up production on little-known titles like Guardians of the Galaxy, I can't help but feel like Marvel is over-managing its intellectual property and getting a bit stingy with their cooler characters. I'm a massive Marvel Comics guy from way back, and I can barely remember the second-tier (at best) Guardians of the Galaxy. It feels like Marvel is afraid to roll out to many of their more interesting characters.

Or maybe I should be celebrating the fact that Phase Two of the Marvel plan is pushing the intersteller side of things. Neither perspective explains why we haven't seen a Dr. Strange movie yet - now there's an opportunity to do something different with a Marvel film.

One upcoming superhero film that demonstrates a willingness to go in a less-than-obvious direction is X-Men: Days of Future Past, the follow-up to X-Men: First Class which is being helmed by X-Men and X-Men 2 director Singer, who also made Superman Returns. The famous 1981 storyline from the X-Men comics is an opportunity to really mess with established film continuity, something no superhero film has ever done.

With the obvious exception of The Dark Knight trilogy, Marvel's main comic book rival DC Comics (as overseen by owner Warner Bros.) has done a much less impressive job of managing their family of properties, most recently evidenced by the supremely uncaptivating 2011 Green Lantern film.

Additionally, planned individual films focused on Wonder Woman and The Flash both stalled in development in recent years. There are currently plans for a Justice League film would would team up Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman among other DC staples, but it gives the impression that DC are playing catch-up. Maybe Man of Steel can turn DC's fortunes around, although it remains to be seen if there will be a relationship between that film's world and the planned Justice League movie.

Marvel (as overseen since 2009 by Disney) have defined their modern film canon with an ambitious interconnectedness that has played out for the most part with admirable confidence.

Despite the benefits of such an approach being evident for years now, Warner Bros. has failed to apply the lessons to their DC properties. Although this half-way interesting rumour seems like a step in the right direction.

However, with my every filmic superhero whim having been more than satiated over the past decade, the films that currently inspire the most pure giddy excitment in me are original sci-fi properties like Neil Blomkamp's Elysium; Shane Carruths' Upstream Colour; the upcoming Tom Cruise film Oblivion; Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. This sounds pretty choice too.

I've enjoyed the superhero movie boom, but it's time for something else to come to the fore.

Are you still excited about superhero movies? Which ones are you most excited to see? What other types of movies tickle your giddy bone? Comment below!

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