At the Drunk Monkeys Film Department, we love to talk about film, and we’re lucky to have a varied (and opinionated) staff. Naturally, it’s a lot more interesting for everyone when we don’t agree on one topic or another. So, every few months, we like to get together for these Fact or Fiction columns. We bring up an opinion, and then we decide if it’s absolutely true or completely absurd.
FACT or FICTION: By the end of the Infinity War films, Marvel will have officially oversaturated the superhero film market.
Gabriel Ricard, Film Editor: I don’t want this to be a FACT, but the response to Age of Ultron has me wondering if people will settle for movies that are just enjoyable. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was groundbreaking on a number of levels, particularly in terms of the extraordinary universe they have created. The only problem is that people tend to burn out on franchises to a certain degree. The franchises respond to that by trying to get bigger and bigger. It almost always ends badly for the movies and the viewers. I think Marvel is doing a pretty good job of maintaining quality, and trying to avoid the obsessive desire to try and top the blockbuster stature of the previous release. But in the end, we’re already seeing people respond to Ant-Man and Age of Ultron with feelings of being slightly underwhelmed. I think those are really good movies, and I think if they had been released even five years ago, they would be regarded as classics of the genre. Time will tell, but I see things getting to the point where audiences tune out, because the rush of seeing impressive achievements like the first Iron Man or first Avengers is no longer there.
Juese Cutler, Staff Writer: FICTION. First, Marvel isn't the only company making comic book movies to be clear, although there's an easy case for Kevin Feige's successes from Iron Man on opening the flood gates, as well as Marvel leading the way currently. I look at superhero movies as the modern Western (in saturation, appeal to kids, how it might represent a period in film history, etc), and I don't think it'll ever really go away. But it will evolve. Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther... these are superhero movies, and they might still have the “Marvel formula”, but Marvel is smart enough to shake things up, and they're looking for more hybrid genres. Doctor Strange, from the director and co-writer of Sinister, is going to be making a horror movie. And the spaghetti superhero movies (Kick-ass, Super) do nothing but strengthen their hold. My stance is that after Infinity Wars Marvel is (or at least should) step back with their early hits before they get oversaturated, and by oversaturated I more mean same-y. Maybe this makes me an optimist, but as long as they're making good movies I don't think anyone will think there's too many, certainly not enough to stop them from making bank.
Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief: FACT. Right now, Marvel’s running at a decent clip, with two movies a year. When those movies are as great as The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy last year, that’s fantastic. But both of this year’s offerings, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, were overstuffed and, frankly, boring. And to make it to the second half of Infinity War by 2019, they’re going to be jamming three movies a year into their calendar for both 2017 and 2018. Then, on top of that, DC is going to be shoving in two movies a year of their own, which they’re rushing because they desperately have to play catch-up with Marvel.
I love comic books. I love comic book movies. I am not going to watch 14 comic book movies over the next four years. Four years! And it’s not like Infinity War will be the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By the time we get to 2017, we’ll have some kind of announcement about what’s coming in Phase Four, and by the time we get to Guardians of the Galaxy 4: This One Has an All-Country Soundtrack and the inevitable Howard the Duck reboot, we’ll be begging for a film executive whose superpower is self-restraint.
Scott Waldyn, Editor at Literary Orphans: FACT: At this point, it’s a three-way tie between Marvel, Warner Bros. (DC), and FOX. FOX kick-started the superhero film craze with X-Men back in 2000. Marvel, once they were able to fully produce their own films, upped the game by building a tightly interwoven franchise. And today, it’s all the rage with all three of these studios scrambling to shovel as many superhero films as they can squeeze in front of our eyes.
Will this market become oversaturated? Yes. Between these three studios, we’re getting seven superhero blockbusters a summer for the next few years. That’s seven of the same big-budget punch-fests per year, crammed inside of four months, in a genre that has been printing cash for the last 15 years. Think about it. And the race right now isn’t to build a meaningful film that connects with us on a human level, the race is to build an ensemble franchise so bloated with heroes, it warrants an “epic” split into two parts. By late 2017 to mid-2018, Marvel and Warner Bros. will just be vomiting heroes on screen, and our film-going experiences will consist of various characters we may have recognized from officially licensed toys modeling a variety of outfits for us for three hours. After the show, we’ll be encouraged to collect all the movie-related Funko Pops in the lobby.
It reminds me of an interesting subplot in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man several years ago. Kingpin wanted to humiliate Spider-Man, to penalize the hero. To accomplish this, Kingpin bought up the licensing rights for Spider-Man paraphernalia and rubbed it in old web-head’s face. Every time the hero saved someone, every time Spidey inadvertently moved product by inspiring children with his good deeds, it only served to strengthen Kingpin’s criminal empire, helping the villain enclose an iron grip around New York City. And when Kingpin flooded the market with Spider-Man products? When he snuffed out the demand with too much supply, it still served his interests. Kingpin would win either way.
The studios, in similar fashion, are exploiting our inspirational heroes. They’re punishing us for our love of costumed super humans, and they’ll flood us with product, drown us in it, until we beg them to stop, until we hate those who have inspired us to do great things. Marvel, Warner Bros., and FOX? They’re the ultimate villains.
Taras D. Butrej, Staff Writer: FICTION. People may become sick of the current iteration of Marvel heroes, but there will still be a very, very large niche to fill. There are just too many fans of too many comics that will happily wait years just to see their favorite hero or villain cast in a film/TV show. If anything, a few more failures may help the genre mature.
Right now the only huge flops are the ones that try too hard to be serious without the writing to back it up (the new Fantastic Four) or the ones that just outright stink (Elektra). When the current run of Marvel films is over I think we may see a lot of growth in the medium.
Or at least, more of a willingness to throw things at the wall and see what sticks.
FACT or FICTION: The inclusion of Spider-Man into the MCU is ultimately going to be a good thing.
Gabriel Ricard: I think we can call this a FACT, but I’m honestly a little cautious about that, too. The MCU has a good track record, so I’m not worried about the quality of the inevitable solo films, or how the character will be portrayed. Again, it comes back to that concern that people are just going to be burnt out on even the best of what the MCU has to offer. I think even the best solo Spider-Man adventure will be taken for granted, in the end. Worse yet, we may be getting Spider-Man at the point in which Marvel begins to get a little complacent. How complacent they become will depend largely on how much legitimate competition they get from DC. We’ll see. They’ve avoided complacency so far. Just in terms of seeing Spider-Man share the screen with Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest, I’m pretty excited.
Juese Cutler: FACT, or rather hell yeah. We can argue that he should've been Miles Morales (fact) or my god why another origin (fact) but Spider-Man is one of Marvel's greatest, and as a master quipster is prime to play with the witty one-liner-ers Marvel has a plethora of. Let's play devil's advocate and say the reboot isn't good. Before that comes Civil War, with a ton of positive buzz already and riding the momentum of Winter Soldier. The likelihood of both being a disaster is pretty small. As for Tom Holland as Peter Parker, we all have to wait, but Marvel was very picky (as they are). They went young, which alone brings an interesting dynamic, putting this 19 year old in with guys in their 40s and 50s. Personally I'm most excited about him showing up on the Netflix Defenders.
Matthew Guerruckey: Having Marvel movies for this long without Spider-Man is like DC movies without Superman. No character symbolizes Marvel comics more than Spider-Man, and it’s ridiculous that it took this long to fold him into the MCU, where he belongs. Personally, I’m still a bit disappointed that Marvel didn’t go with Miles Morales, but I’m excited to see their take on Spidey, and curious how he’s going to fit into next year’s Captain America: Civil War.
But, more than anything else, I’m happy that this deal means no more shitty SONY Spider-Man movies. Look, the Raimi movies came to an ignoble end with Spider-Man 3, but even that overstuffed piece of garbage was leagues beyond anything that was happening in either of the Andrew Garfield Spideys (and, by the way, it’s a shame that Garfield and Emma Stone, both fine choices, were wasted).
So, these new Spider-Man movies would have to be terrible for this to be anything but a FACT.
Scott Waldyn: FICTION: Good? Bad? I don’t really think it matters, one way or the other. Marvel has proven that they can power along quite well without Spider-Man. What’s he going to bring to the table? The answer to that is: nothing Marvel doesn’t already have available in its library.
Why? Because Marvel has shown that it can make people care about properties that had little to no name recognition just over a decade ago (I’m looking at you Guardians of the Galaxy). Adding a big name has been rendered obsolete.
Taras D. Butrej: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is FACT. I don’t even feel like I need to defend myself here. I mean, it’s freaking Spider-Man.
FACT or FICTION: Given the losing streak, it is impossible to make a worthwhile Fantastic Four film.
Gabriel Ricard: FICTION. I am fucking baffled that we have never gotten a good FF movie at this point. Granted, I haven’t seen the new one, but given the reviews, I’m not optimistic. The gross failure of each past entry can be blamed on different things. The one from the 90s suffers from the fact that no one really wanted to make it in the first place, and there wasn’t much of a budget to work with. The films we got in the 2000s had some decent elements, but were ultimately made by people who still didn’t appreciate the audience that would inevitably decide if those movies lived or died. The new one sounds like it was the victim of too many people trying to put their two cents in. Can a movie on the level of the best X-Men or MCU films be made? I think so. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right people to make it happen, and then leaving those people alone for the most part. There is nothing about the basic story of this team that can’t be translated to the big screen. I will say that at this point, I don’t want another goddamned reboot.
Juese Cutler: FICTION. I'm not a Fantastic 4 fan, but I can think of many ways to approach it. A throwback 50's yarn, a total reinvention like the current model – you just need to get that family relationship right. Honestly I haven't seen one of these goddamn Fantastic 4 movies because none of them seem to have any heart. There's a reason the go-to is to be reminded that The Incredibles is the best FF movie. Oh, and figure out Doctor Doom please. An entire Latveria movie, that's my pitch. It will take some time to get the public to forget this current iteration after all the press, but the potential is there. The stigma has to go away eventually, yeah?
Matthew Guerruckey: FICTION. The Fantastic Four is the comic that launched Marvel comics as we know it today. It made Stan Lee and Jack Kirby legends, and gave us some of the most entertaining and innovative comics of the 1960’s and 70’s. So that, Hollywood, is where you place the story. Make it a throwback story set in the Space Race, and embrace the cheesiness of the characters and their powers.
The Fantastic Four movies of the mid-2000’s failed in its director and cast. Tim Story was out of his league, and Jessica Alba was not right for Sue Storm (though Evans and Chiklis did the best they could). This year’s Fantastic 4 failed by hiring an untested director who knew nothing of the source material and sucked all of the fun out of the story. It’s going to take at least another decade to distance the characters from the stink of those movies, but it can be done.
Scott Waldyn: “Nothing’s impossible, Mario,” Luigi (played by John Leguizamo) said to his older brother (Bob Hoskins) in the 1993 cinematic classic Super Mario Bros., and he was right. It’s been over twenty years, and since that time, we’ve been swimming in Mario Bros. films.
Taras D. Butrej: FICTION. Unfortunately, my opinion will probably never be proven correct. The problem is, the Fantastic Four are inherently goofy. They’re probably the most unintentionally goofy superheroes in the comic book world. The first two films tried to go for that but got stuck in melodrama and really shitty subplots. The newest movie got rid of fun altogether and became a painful slog.
A really good Fantastic 4 movie would require a lot of playfulness and a lot of heart. That’s the only way to get around the fact that these guys are incredibly two-dimensional when compared to so many other heroes with better backstories or deeper characterization.
FACT or FICTION: DC will ultimately fail to match Marvel’s success at creating a cinematic universe for their characters.
Gabriel Ricard: FACT. I realize that’s a very bold prediction, and I do want very much to be proven wrong about this for a couple of reasons. I want Marvel to have meaningful competition, and there are in fact a couple of DC characters that I want to see in good films. That said, I’m not optimistic that DC will be able to come up with something that will be anything more than a distant second to what Marvel is currently doing with the bulk of their most popular characters. Suicide Squad looks like an absolute fucking mess at this point, and I’m still not sure you can get people into Superman on the level that people are into Iron Man or Captain America. Batman v. Superman is going to be the make-or-break for whether or not people take the DCU seriously. It doesn’t look bad, but it may wind up being too little too late. I also think DC’s mad scramble to emulate Marvel is going to lead to sloppy, poor creative decisions. Then again, we’re supposedly getting George Miller for the next Superman, so that’s worth getting excited about.
Juese Cutler: FACT. Aside from DC rushing to make Batman vs Superman a Justice League movie to start with (so far we know it includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, maybe The Flash, Buellerman...), which doesn't feel earned, the first Avengers was too perfect to happen again. There was genuine excitement, like frothing nerd rabies-faced hysteria, over seeing Iron Man AND Captain America AND Thor in the same movie. And let's not forget how much of a miracle that movie was. Joss Whedon is a master at balancing a large cast, and not many writers or directors are. I only wish that DC would have changed tactics when they realized how good a product they had with their television properties. Taking your time fleshing out characters in your great TV shows (well Flash is great, Arrow is good) and building to a big huge movie where they all interact? How cool would that be?! Flash, Green Arrow and Constantine (boom he's saved, that show was awesome) are a hell of a start. I'm cautiously optimistic about the Lord and Miller Flash movie because Lord and Miller, but it's nothing near the excitement I'd feel if Grant Gustin's Barry Allen (the fastest man alive) were to make the leap and play with the big boys.
Look, I went off a little there, but this question boils down to not just cohesion but watching different ingredients become one dish. DC is locking down their universe, but it's doing so under the Snyder/Nolan vision. Superman and Batman are going to feel similar thanks to having the same director. Justice League, same director. Half of us don't like the dark tone to begin with, and even people that do run the risk of getting bored. The joy of The Avengers was seeing Jon Favreau's Iron Man and Joe Johnston's Captain America and Kenneth Branagh's Thor in Joss Whedon's Avengers. Vary the gene pool.
Matthew Guerruckey: Yeah, probably. The problem with the DC movies is that we know what they’re trying to do from the jump, and that makes their run at a franchise seem cynical and calculated. Marvel launched slowly, and took a few risks along the way. They’re still, even at the height of their success, willing to take a few risks and move things around to accommodate new ideas. DC’s schedule feels set in stone, with no room for surprise, and that will hurt them.
There’s also the stunning fact that DC was so desperate the launch a Justice League series to compete with Marvel’s Avengers series that they’re launching new movies that will basically wipe their astronomically successful Dark Knight franchise out of existence. And they announced their intention to do this before that series was even finished.
But another looming problem is the Zack Snyder aesthetic that DC has signed off on. One of the reasons that the early Marvel movies have been so successful is that they’ve all felt like different movies that were interconnected, rather than the same movie. But all of these DC movies look exactly the same. The same loud, overdramatic nonsense that Snyder has built his career on.
So, look, these movies are going to make money. They’re going to make a lot of money, even. But will they ever be as beloved as the Marvel movies? Absolutely not. This will take time to really judge, but this will be FACT.
Scott Waldyn: FACT: This is a hard one, but my opinion hinges on my feeling that the superhero genre is oversaturated (see my answer to the first topic). DC is just too late to the summer blockbuster party, and I don’t think they’re going to be able to enjoy the level of success that Marvel is currently feasting upon at the box office.
What’s weird about this, though, is that DC is mopping the floor with Marvel when it comes to television shows and direct-to-video animated features. Were I running operations at DC, I’d probably double-down on those ventures instead, especially since we’re living in a golden age of television. People are really digging the longer form narrative style. They’re binge-watching entire seasons on Netflix. Why not take the pre-existing DC universe on TV and expand tenfold?
Taras D. Butrej: Unassailable FACT. Word on the street is that the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film is actually pretty good, and I’m glad for that. A world where DC and Marvel are competing in every medium is better for the fans. Yet I don’t think they’ll ever realize that you can inject humor into a film and have good results. I don’t see DC ever doing something like Guardians of the Galaxy, and for that exact reason they will never overtake Marvel in the movie medium.
The animated world, however, is a completely different story.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!