Make no mistake: though I am not a comic book reader or collector, I have always admired the genre and I am generally thrilled that Hollywood has adapted so many comic books into films. I have to wonder about how long this should continue, though. How much of a good thing is too much?
Let us consider the past and near future of live-action films based on comic books. In the last 30 years, Hollywood has given us five films each for Superman and Batman; three for X-Men; two for Spider-Man; and one each for Supergirl, Hulk, Daredevil, Elektra, Fantastic Four, Punisher, Judge Dredd, and Ghost Rider.
Additionally, Hollywood is planning films for Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, as well as upcoming sequels to Fantastic Four, Spider-Man with Hulk and Batman sequels up in the next two to three years. This list also only includes major Hollywood films about well-known comic books with significant longevity. There are a raft of movies about lesser-known comic books, graphic novels, and limited series (e.g. Sin City).
Hollywood is going to mess up a comic book one of these days, and do it badly. I’m not talking about a horribly poor execution of a decent idea or potential franchise, like Batman & Robin, Supergirl or Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. I’m thinking more along the lines of a poor idea that should never even be made into a script. I can see it now: a hotshot movie producer and a studio executive will be sitting around over drinks.
“We need to make another movie based on a comic book,” one will say. “Aquaman is doing big box office.”
“Yes,” the other will reply, “but we need a property that no one else already owns.”
“How about the Wonder Twins?” says the first.
“The Wonder Twins?”
“Yeah, we can get Jolene Blalock to be the girl twin,” the first continues.
“Hmmm… I like it,” replies the second. “We need someone like Ashton Kutcher, Sean William Scott, or Johnny Knoxville to play the boy twin. That boy twin was about as dense as a block of oak. They’ll need secret identities, though.”
“Oh that’s simple,” says the first, assuredly. “They can be a brother-sister catering team. We’ll play it for laughs. It’ll be fun.”
“I definitely see potential. Find someone to send me a 10-page treatment.”
After spending upward of $80 million dollars, the Wonder Twins concept will come to a movie screen near you. It will have great CGI effects, no plot, and cost $12 a ticket. It will also be two and a half hours long, and few movies seats are that comfortable.
So I must ask: how many superhero movies do we need this summer? Or any summer? The law of averages is going to catch up with Hollywood one of these days. It won’t be pretty when it does.