Throughout the years, superhero movies have evolved from unlikely successes to perennial blockbusters, that are an unstoppable runaway money train that not even Spider-Man could stop.
Can these movies of heroes in capes and costumes keep up this massive success? Or will the powers of Disney (Marvel), Warner Bros. (DC) and Fox (Marvel) oversaturate the market and send our favorite heroes crashing and burning like a falling plane without Superman there to catch it? I'm going to make a timeline of some superhero movies that transcended the genre to show how we got to where we are now, and then I'll look into my crystal ball and see if I can predict what is coming next.
1978 - Superman
The granddaddy of 'em all! Christopher Reeve brought the Man of Steel to life in a time when it was unclear if a live action superhero film would work. The movie delivered, grossing $134 million and become the second highest grossing film of 1978 while also spawning three sequels!
1989 - Batman
11 years after Superman, Tim Burton brought his vision of Gotham to the big screen with stars Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. This movie pushed the superhero genre into uncharted waters with its PG-13 rating, but the audience responded well as it went on to smash the box office that year, grossing $251 million. Batman spawned a sequel as well as several other Batman movies.
2002 - Spider-man
Spider-Man is one of the most iconic superhero movies to date. New special effects allowed for director Sam Raimi to get amazing shots of Spidey web-slinging around the city which left cinema goers in awe. It also gave birth to the "origin story" in the superhero genre, and made studio heads say "wait, superhero movies can make THAT MUCH money?" as Spider-Man swung his way to $821 million worldwide. Spider-Man pushed the genre to incredible new heights and there has never been less than 4 superhero movies in a year since its release in 2002. Spider-Man spawned two sequels and the Amazing Spider-Man reboot that included two more films.
2008 - Iron Man
Had the world decided to hold a grudge against Robert Downey Jr. for his past mistakes and Iron Man bombed at the box office, there would be no MCU and no Avengers. Luckily for everyone, the world made peace with the movie star in 2008 and Iron Man went on to make $585 million worldwide and spawned two sequels as well as becoming the first movie in Marvel's Phase One. Seeing how Marvel movies are a constant force, this movie deserves its props for being the first.
2008 - The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is not just considered a great superhero film, but it is also considered to be one of the best films of all time. Period. Not to mention it was the first superhero movie to break the billion dollar mark. The Dark Knight famously includes one of the most iconic performances of all time with the late Heath Ledger's Joker, which he won a posthumous Oscar for. Ledger's performance and the movie itself remain unmatched nearly 8 years later. The Dark Knight is the middle part of Christopher Nolan's trilogy.
2012 - The Avengers
Nothing changed the superhero genre harder or faster than The Avengers. The movie went on to smash the box office and become the highest grossing superhero movie of all time. Since its release, the audience has wanted more! More heroes and more action! And the studios have tried to respond. X-Men is set to introduce many new characters in the upcoming Apocalypse movie, Batman v Superman is set to include just about every member of the Justice League, and Civil War has a very Avengers-like cast.
2016 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
This movie is not out until March, but it is relatively safe to say that Batman and Superman together on the big screen will be enough to push this movie near Avengers, if not past it. But is DC making a mistake by putting so many characters into one film? Let me get my crystal ball out.
What is next?
It started in 1978 with Superman, was pushed into the fast lane in 2002 with Spider-Man, and reached the pinnacle in 2012 with The Avengers. So what is next for the superhero genre? Superhero movies for every studio have been planned out until 2020. These films will inevitably become more and more diluted with an overabundance of characters being forced into movies until they are over stuffed. This is in large part because we as fans have demanded it be this way. We've been like greedy children, demanding more, more, more! When we see an Iron Man or Thor movie we ask "where are the other Avengers?" Eventually superhero fatigue will set in with the fans and each studio will have to do something drastic to save their money making machines.
By 2022, DC will reboot their universe, Marvel will have a passing of the torch to a new young cast, and Fox will reboot X-Men. Fox will also reboot Fantastic Four yet again but I still don't it will fare well. They will finally feel obligated to make a deal with Marvel allowing for a crossover of X-Men, Fantastic 4, and the entire MCU. HOORAY!