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M50 Cinema

Analysis: Exploring the rise and rise of popular genre films
 
You can expect Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 to be top tog – or top alien – at the cinema in Summer

WITH 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel struck upon a winning formula for cinematic super hero adaptations; a scientific formula for printing money, one might say, and one they’ve adhered to as if it were religious doctrine ever since.
After all, if it ain’t broke (and continues smashing box office records), don’t fix it.
In all those years, the comic book giant has hardly put a foot wrong (we’ll forgive 2008’s big, green, angry, gamma-radiated misstep), all thanks to that winning formula.
And what exactly is that formula’s unassailable composition? Epic opening battles, magical McGuffins, affable characters with relatable motivations despite their fantastical situations, great big dollops of humour and, apart from the odd “PG-13” moment, some good, wholesome family entertainment – this is now a Disney cinematic-universe, after all.
Ignoring the occasional dissenting voice, it’s rare that the studio is hit with anything other than critical and commercial success.
Looking back on 1986’s Howard The Duck, the publisher’s first proper foray into theatrical filmmaking (and commonly considered as one of the worst films ever made), this is a near-unbelievable success story.
While Marvel Studios may have given new life to a dying genre, there are those growing weary of their immutable approach.
These naysayers herald its proliferation as the death knell of modern movie-making, decrying cooker-cutter plot after cookie-cutter plot.
The creative minds at DC Comics and Warner Bros chose a different path, going for darker than dark grit with their own “expanded universe” churning out flop after critical flop with Man of Steel, Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and last year’s great, big star-studded abomination, Suicide Squad.
It seems DC will never manage to ape Marvel’s success, let alone recapture the magic of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
However, On the other side of the Marvel cinematic divide, 20th Century Fox have taken the brave step of appealing to those dissenting voices, achieving the seemingly-unachievable with last year’s Deadpool adaptation – the most successful R-rated movie ever made, grossing $746 million at the box office.
Giving the people what the people want, Fox applied a similarly gore-soaked, swear-heavy coat of paint to this month’s Logan, directed by James Mangold.
While not the superhero masterpiece some critics claim it to be, Logan demonstrates how a darker, more mature approach can still capture the superhero essence of the comic book, showing DC how it’s done.
2017 is already shaping up to be a very different year for comic book movies, then. Marvel’s most recent endeavor, Doctor Strange, hinted at what’s to come.
While at its core it may have worn a similar path to previous offerings, Strange’s blend of action and aesthetic was the greatest leap forward Marvel have taken in years.
This year’s Thor: Ragnarok, due for release in October, will be directed by Taika Waititi, who says the studio have allowed him to inject the film with all the offbeat character of his previous two films, What We Do in The Shadows (2014), and Hunt For the Wilderpeople (2016).
The film takes elements from the bizarre, space-opera “Planet Hulk” comic book story.
Thor: Ragnarok won’t be Marvel’s only planet-hopping adventure this year. The studio first learned it could afford to get a little out-there with the surprise success of 2014’s Guardians of The Galaxy, as long as they stuck to their tried-and-tested recipe.
April’s sequel to the film, Vol 2, again directed by James Gun, will see the Guardians return for more space-based madness.
Spider-man: Homecoming, released in July, will rather unbelievably make the bold move of depicting the web-slinger as an actual teenager, making the notion of yet another reboot for the series a bit more intriguing.
On the DC side, June’s Wonder Woman will be the first female-led superhero movie since 2005’s Elektra, and the powers that be at Warner have already stated that November’s Justice League will be a tonally lighter film that Zack Snyder’s other endeavours for the studio.
With all these shake-ups on the horizon, one can’t argue that the industry isn’t taking criticism on board. If anything, 2017 will be a game-changer for comic books movies – an exciting prospect, to say the least.

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