If you're a lover of comic books, fantasy novels, or sci-fi, you should be in heaven right now. All of Hollywood caters to your tastes. Hell, if you're under 20 years old, you don't even remember what it's like not to have Hollywood throw $2 billion worth of blockbuster movies at you every summer (while the rest of us remember that as recently as 1994 they made a Fantastic Four movie so bad, it couldn't even be released).
That brings us to the bad news: The explosion of big-budget superhero movies is a bubble that seems poised to burst. How do we know? Because it's happened before.
It all starts when ...
(Star Wars isn't a bubble, it's eternal. Hence our new Adventures in Jedi School mini-series.)
5 A Surprise Box Office Success Makes Everyone Jump on the Bandwagon
20th Century Fox
First of all, we're not necessarily saying that there are too many superhero movies out there -- lots of us are excited about Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel and the seven or eight others that are coming out this summer.
But right now, Marvel alone has in production (deep breath) Iron Man 3, Wolverine 2, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fantastic Four (reboot), The Avengers 2, and Ant-Man. In the course of these films, Thor is going to fight elves, Captain America is going to fight a cyborg, and there's going to be a whole movie about the "Guardians of the Galaxy," which, you may not know, look like this:
"Are you two sure you don't want guns? 'Cause I have like 30 in the ship."
Are you seeing the raccoon?
We'll forgive everything if there's a scene where he uses garbage like Popeye uses spinach.
Oh, and by the way, the new X-Men movie -- called Days of Future Past -- revolves around Kitty Pryde sending her brain back in time. So we're saying that we might just possibly be reaching a tipping point here.
Let's back up a bit:
While no one bats an eye today when The Dark Knight Rises pulls in a bajillion dollars at the box office, that would've been unthinkable just 15 years ago. In the '90s, all of the major money-maker movies were Die Hard knockoffs (Con Air, Broken Arrow, Face/Off), sober explorations of tragedies (Dances With Wolves, Schindler's List, Titanic), Adam Sandler being a dumbass, and Tom Hanks doing things that usually didn't involve having superpowers.
This changed in 2000 and 2001 when X-Men, Spider-Man, and the first The Lord of the Rings came out. Remember that back then those geek-centric movies were all pretty risky investments for the studios. Not only was this the first time that either of those Marvel superheroes would be seen on screen, but the last superhero movie to come out at that time had been Batman & Robin, which, you know, we'd rather not talk about. As for The Lord of the Rings, the last attempt at an adaptation was a godawful cartoon that was made in the 1980s.
How long did it take you to realize that Gandalf isn't jacking off a fire-dick?
All of those movies opened at No. 1 at the box office -- Spider-Man actually set the box office record at the time, and The Lord of the Rings is still going on with its Hobbit prequels. Naturally, all the Hollywood money men had their goddamn minds blown, and today they'll throw a quarter billion dollars at any project that involves a hero in a mask. That's what we're referring to as a bubble.
And It Has Happened Before ...
A similar bubble happened more than 40 years ago. They called it the "New Hollywood" era, and it gave us Star Wars.
It started in 1967, with Bonnie and Clyde. It's considered a classic now, but at the time everyone thought it would bomb because it was heavily influenced by star/director Warren Beatty's interest in weird French movies, it confusingly mixed sex, violence, and comedy, and it ended with all the main characters dying. But like the movies above, it rocked everyone's fucking faces off.
"Sex + Violence = Money. Got it." -Hollywood, 1967
In both 1967 and 2000, a risky movie based on nerdy, obscure sensibilities was given a big release and paid off enormously. Next ...