There are eight comic book superhero movies currently scheduled to hit theaters in 2016. We haven’t seen a spread like that since 2008, and that year’s crop was a different breed. We all remember the anticipated sequel that became a generation-redefining phenomenon (The Dark Knight) and the incipient franchise that became an industry-redefining megafranchise (Iron Man).
But there was also a gonzo auteurist romp (Hellboy 2) and a DOA auteurist burp (The Spirit) and a grungy-chic cultbait flop (Punisher: War Zone) and a couple of off-brand “Movies About People With Superpowers” that nobody ever remembers as “superhero movies” (Jumper and Wanted.) The genre was already popular enough to earn a horrible parody film (Superhero Movie) and last-great-Hollywood-star Will Smith deigned to put his own spin on the superhero story with the very weird Hollywood allegory Hancock.
The superhero cinema of 2016 looks very different. The films will almost unanimously represent massive Cinematic Universe franchises, produced by three studios with a lot riding on the idea that moviegoers can’t get enough superheroes. Disney subsidiary Marvel Studios will deliver Captain America: Civil War — essentially a Thor-free Avengers movie — and Doctor Strange, their latest attempt to expand their roster of solo franchises. And in 2016, Warner Bros. will finally get to debut its long-promised DC counter-attack to Marvel Studios. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will introduce characters who already have solo spinoffs in the works, while Suicide Squad will offer moviegoers a purportedly darker, villain-focused riff on the genre. And don’t forget Fox, which is releasing three films set in their pocket Marvel Universe: A new X-Men movie alongside spinoffs Deadpool and Gambit.
(There’s also a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which I will stop talking about after this parenthetical. Just remember: If Turtles 2 is a success, then one year from now there will be a Paramount executive — a smart man, a family man, went to Harvard Business school maybe, reads books for fun sometimes, has big dreams of putting an Oscar up on the mantel next to his daughter’s debate trophy, got into this business back in the day because he wanted to create something good and true and real, could quote you half the lines from Godfather if you asked — will have to use the words “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cinematic Universe” in an officially recorded public conversation.)…
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