There’s no doubt that this is the summer of the superheroes.
Here’s a list of recent summer superhero movies:
2011: Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: First Class
2010: Iron Man 2
2009: X-Men: Wolverine
2008: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk
2007: Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four: Rise of Silver Surfer
2006: X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns
2005: Batman Begins, Fantastic Four
2004 Spider-Man 2
2003: X2: X-Men United, Hulk
It seems every time you turn around, there is another comic book adaptation hitting theaters… and some moviegoers may be getting tired of it. The superhero aesthetic has even invaded Broadway with the much-panned musical “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark.”
This weekend brings “Green Lantern,” the third superhero movie to hit screens in the past 7 weeks. The first two, “Thor” and “X-Men: First Class,” have each done well at the boxoffice and gotten good reviews, but neither have been the kind of runaway hits we’ve seen in recent years from the likes of “Iron Man,” “Batman,” and “Spiderman.” (“Thor” has been a big hit internationally.)
It does not look like “Green Lantern” will break that streak. The reviews have been fairly weak and the film has been battling negative buzz for a while thanks to an early trailer that to some fanboys looked a bit too campy. Still, most box office analysts expect “Green Lantern” to sell more than $50 million worth of tickets this weekend. “Comic fans can be counted on to show up on opening weekend, even if the film is mediocre,” says Gitesh Pandya of BoxofficeGuru.com. “But it’s sales from non-comic fans that can send a film into the stratosphere.”
“Green Lantern’s” midnight screenings reportedly pulled in less than “X-Men,” but more than “Thor” (the final numbers may shift). The film may need to come at least close to the stratosphere to really make money. “Green Lantern” is full of eye-popping pricey special effects, and Warner Bros. has reportedly spent heavily on a marketing blitz for the film. “It looks like an uphill battle financially,” says Nick Nunziata of movie development website CHUD.com, “They spent a lot of money promoting it, but, let’s face it… a dude whose power is based on his jewelry accessorizing isn’t a surefire goldmine.”
BoxofficeGuru’s Pandya says “Green Lantern’s” weak reviews may actually work in its favor. “It’s less cerebral than ‘Thor’ and ‘X-Men’ and can play better as a mindless summer popcorn movie right when teens are leaving school and looking to turn their brains off.”
Nunziata, who’s website caters to the “fanboy” audience that gets excited about comic book movies, says he’s pleased Hollywood is taking a chance on some of the lesser-known superheroes. “Thor was a tremendously difficult sell and it worked. That’s huge for the future as the more weird and interesting characters get a shot. It’s easy to sell Spider-Man and Batman to the mass audience.”
A fourth comic book character hits screens in July with the debut of “Captain America” on the big screen. “Hollywood is rushing to get any superhero they can find into theaters, and I think that is hurting the genre a bit,” says Phil Contrino of Boxoffice.com. “It’s not that there isn’t demand for these films, but there needs to be a little bit more room between them. Four superhero origin stories in a summer is just way too much.”
Part of the rush is studios desperate to build franchises. For Warner Bros., this summer marks the end of the “Harry Potter” goldmine, and the studio is clearly hoping to turn “Green Lantern” into a lasting franchise. The movie ends with a cliffhanger, of sorts, designed to set up a sequel.
Next summer may be dominated by the superheroes even more. “The Avengers” will bring Marvel characters Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and others together for what figures to be a huge hit. Plus, Sony is rebooting Spider-man with a new film and there is another Batman sequel, “The Dark Knight Rises.” After a summer of lesser-known superheroes, next summer is aiming to bring the blockbusters back.
But Contrino warns that Hollywood needs to focus on quality in these films, “Moviegoers are much smarter than they are given credit for. They can smell a dud a mile away. You have to remember that a packed auditorium is one of the toughest juries in the world.”