01st May2018

Culture Dump #32: The Superhero Movies That Failed

by Simon Bland

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Infinity War has finally arrived, marking the culmination of ten years of planning (and 18 cinematic releases) from Marvel Studios. It’s an undeniably impressive feat and one that’s not been achieved by any other studio to date, no matter how many Dark Knights or Kryptonians they have helping them. While the superhero genre currently reigns supreme, it’s not entirely been smooth sailing with some titles slipping through the cracks, doomed to an eternity in a HMV bargain bin. They may not have set the Box Office alight – and they’re certainly not without their flaws – but each has its own strengths that perhaps proved too divisive for mainstream audiences.

Take Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, a movie that by today’s standards seems miles away from the light-hearted-yet-epic tone perfected by Marvel Studios. Instead, Lee made a movie that was pensive, dark and took its own time to tell its story. Undoubtedly it was the type of Bruce Banner tale Lee wanted to tell, even if audiences disagreed – and yet choosing Directors with differing and distinct styles seems to be the Studio’s winning recipe. Louis Leterrier’s 2008 reboot The Incredible Hulk upped the ante as Marvel’s second feature; ultimately a monster movie with considerably more action than Lee’s take but one that failed to match the financial return set by Iron Man. Throw in a fumbled relationship with its lead star and the future of this Hulk iteration was smashed in no time.

Rival DC Studios has had worse luck. Their attempts to fast-track their own super group with 2011’s The Green Lantern fell flat thanks to an inconsistent script and some dodgy CGI but their ambition was clearly there. However, the silver lining of their attempt at lighting the Lantern was some impressive dedication to world building and the injection of some much needed humour to a comic universe that has a tendency to be bleaker than Batman’s Pinterest boards. Sadly it wasn’t enough – proof that even though these franchises have unrivalled audiences on paper, they’re no guaranteed hit when it comes to bringing them to the screen.

Then there’s the curse of forward planning. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man double-hitter showed what a loved-up Peter Parker might look like while still at high school – a lighter touch that was counterbalanced with some nifty bad guys with vicious streaks. Unfortunately Andrew Garfield’s take on Spidey was cut short due to circumstance but the strain of an over-packed story lacking a clear direction was already starting to show at Sony. The race the compete with Marvel’s slow-and-steady trail of success has spelt doom for many who have attempted to go up against them. While these titles all fell through the cracks, it’s interesting to see what worked, what didn’t and to remember what stand-alone superhero movies looked like before interconnected universes were the go-to. Love them or hate them, it’s unlikely we’ll see their type again.

Do you miss stand-alone superhero movies? Let me know in the comments section below!

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