Holy Rebooted Franchises Batman!


Posted by in June's Magazine

With X-Men: First Class released this month, The Amazing Spider Man and Man of Steel set to conquer next year’s Summer and Christmas box offices respectively, and Warner Bros recently inferring Batman will be getting a re-boot after 2012s The Dark Knight Rises, it seems like an ideal time to ponder the motives behind the superhero renaissance. Is the regeneration of certain Marvel and DC comic franchises a noble attempt by production studios to right the wrongs of previously flawed adventures, or just a final attempt to make as many billions of dollars as possible before the cinema going audience grows weary of spandex clad vigilantes? Well that’s an easy question to answer; it’s both.

A production studio’s main goal, like any corporation in any field of industry, is to make as much profit as possible. The great thing about the film industry, at least for those trying to make the money, is that a movie does not have to be particularly good to make a lot of it; just look at Spider-Man 3 or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Why, when these films are ultimately crap, did they gross so much?

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Spiderman 3: worst ever
What certainly aided their success are easily recognizable characters, which is something that the superhero universe has in abundance. They may not know them intimately, but most people could tell you who Superman and Batman are. And even though it was a group of mutants, perhaps not as well renowned as these two titans, who started the superhero revolution eleven years ago, they were infamous enough to start it off with a cinematic smash.

Although Batman had made silly money in 1989, X-Men was the first time in a decade that a superhero movie had garnered major financial success. Grossing $335million at the worldwide box office, the relatively modest production’s triumph paved the way for Spider Man to swing in to the box-office big leagues two years later and gross an awesome $822million. From that point on comic book rights, not just those portraying superheroes, were being bought up faster than a pair of Wonder Woman’s knickers at the San Diego Comic-Con. The more spectacular titles that ventured on to the big screen, the more the audience wanted. Sequels were inevitable; the adventures got bigger, CGI was utilized on a grander scale, the villains became more elaborate and dangerous.

Ultimately the spectacle got too big and the quality of certain franchises began to suffer. Yet in the darkness…a ray of light. After the incredible success of Nolan’s Batman Begins, the studio executives realised that with a simple push of the erase button, they could wipe out all previous adventures and any abominations that they had created along the way. They could re-introduce their masked avengers to a new generation of cinema audiences, whilst enticing back the faithful fan boys. And this dear readers, is what I believe makes the studios the biggest and most dastardly super-villain of them all.

This theory might seem as far fetched as the execution of Osama Bin Laden – and if you spot a flaw please feel free to keep it to yourself – but from an economic point of view it may actually be worth a production studios time and money to intentionally make a superhero’s third cinematic outing mediocre, if not totally dire. Despite what critics may say of the finished product, the draw of the characters and the back catalogue of cinematic adventures still allow these titles to make millions. The prime example would be Spider Man 3; one of the worst films ever made. Like the Edinburgh tram system I have not met one person who did not think it was a turd of a venture. Even so, it grossed $890million and it gave the studios an escape plan from Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst’s dire acting. Where a fourth film might push the boundaries of the audience’s patience and interest, the announcement of a darker re-boot might just make them thirst for more.

Spandex clad misfits
But despite my (ever cynical) view of the industry and everything that resides within it, I would have to say re-boots within the superhero genre are ultimately worthwhile for another reason. I like comic books. I like that every month I can make a sneaky geeky trip to Forbidden Planet and hunt down the latest titles. I like that I have to wait in anticipation to conclude an adventure, but knowing once it is done that there is a new quest the month after; perhaps by a different author or artist. If month after month Batman, Spider Man, Superman and the rest of those spandex clad misfits can entertain us at the turn of every page, then why can it not be done every few years with the spin of a reel? Artistic redemption or financial escalation, whatever the reason, there are worse things that could be produced than a new Batman series every decade; like a re-boot of Back to the Future with Justin Bieber for example.

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