Another new year brings with it another flurry of comic book movies into cinemas. What kind of year will 2017 be for comic book movies? Let’s find out.
The Lego Batman Movie
It’s no secret that The Lego Movie was an incredible success when it landed three years ago and there is a hope that The Lego Batman movie can keep the energy and excitement building for this potential connected universe. Whether it can keep up the steam of the first movie is anyone’s guess though. Lego Batman won’t boast the creative talents of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who have a strong track record of delivering enjoyable movies. This time around it’s Chris McKay on directorial duty, making his feature film debut. He has good comedic chops from his days directing episodes of Robot Chicken but whether or not he can recapture the magic of The Lego Movie will be hard to predict. The movie getting green-lit following the success of the first movie means it has been in development for under three years, which is considerably less than the four years most good animated movies have to develop. Does that point to it being slightly rushed? Possibly, but there’s enough magic in Will Arnett’s portrayal of the Lego caped crusader that I think this one will have enough to it to make the cinema trip worthwhile.
It’s time for Hugh Jackman to go for one final spin in his most iconic role. Or only iconic role for that matter. Will it be his best showing as Wolverine? Signs are good about this one but there will always be cause for concern for X-Men movies while Fox own the rights. One reason for optimism comes from one of the least spoken about facts of modern comic book movies: it’s easier to make a good movie based on a good comic book story. This is something that doesn’t get spoken of enough and Marvel have had great success with this formula. Winter Soldier, Avengers (based heavily on the Ultimates), and Guardians of the Galaxy (Abnett and Lanning’s run) are all examples of movies that worked out well because they were based on good comic stories. It seems to be that the comics that simply take inspiration from the source material are the ones that fall apart, such as last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse or Suicide Squad. Logan is clearly an attempt to put the popular Old Man Logan story on the big screen and if they manage to stick closely to the strong elements of the book, this could be the Wolverine story we’ve all being waiting for. With the R rating, it could reach another level altogether. Again, there is the presence of Fox to worry about here. James Mangold might have already gifted us with a quality western in the form of 3:10 to Yuma but he might be handcuffed by a system that makes it very hard to produce great movies. Logan will be a movie to approach with caution. A movie that people may end up wanting to love, more than actually being satisfied by what they see. Let’s hope this could be this year’s Deadpool.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
They’re back and this time they brought with them the cutest piece of bark you’re ever likely to see. The toys will practically sell themselves! Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is poised to be the stand out movie of the year but I’m worried it might be unfairly treated. There is a growing culture of fatigue around Marvel movies and their habit of prioritising fun over drama. People are crying out for a serious Marvel movie, but this won’t be it, nor should it. This should be two hours of pure fun with some father/son drama and a bit of romance mixed in for good measure. The other worry here is baby Groot. Sure, he looks like he might steal the show and is the star of the first trailer but he won’t please everyone and could very well ruin the movie for people that see him as nothing more than a way to sell toys. All of those should be a disservice to this movie, which highlights something truly remarkable… three years ago the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was considered to be a massive risk by Marvel, potentially breaking their winning streak and hurting their product moving forward. Now we live in a world where Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is, for all intents and purposes, the safest movie next year. This rag tag group of cosmic misfits are no longer the underdog. Let’s just hope that status doesn’t hurt people’s perceptions of their second outing.
This is an important movie. Quite frankly, this is the most important comic book movie of 2017, and for multiple reasons. The first being the precarious position the DC Extended Universe finds itself in. They have managed to hook and please a lot of their hardcore fans, who continue to defend Batman vs Superman every chance they get, but they have yet to hook the casual audience or even just non-hardcore fans. Wonder Woman needs to be a winner for them. It doesn’t need to make a billion dollars or even crack north of seven-hundred million but it needs to be well received. If the DC Extended Universe releases another movie to negative reviews, it will start to see diminishing returns. There’s only so many unsatisfactory movies they can release before the casual audience departs. The other reason this movie is important is a much more positive reason. This will be the first superhero movie headlined by a female superhero, and it just so happens to be the first from a female director, Patty Jenkins. Jenkins is an interesting choice for director and one that could go either way. Her last film, Monster, was a quality offering but there’s nothing in it to suggest that she has a great eye for action. Couple this with the fact that movie was also released over fourteen years ago and she was a late addition to this project, there are worrying signs surrounding her as director. Though we can’t lose sight of the importance of a female-driven superhero movie. I’m hoping Gal Gadot has the chops to carry a movie. She has been stellar in her supporting roles in Batman vs Superman and the Fast and the Furious series but plenty of good supporting actors have failed to carry a movie. Luckily, we only have to wait until June to find out if the DCEU is righting their ship, and if Wonder Women is just the beginning of a female-lead superhero revolution.
With thirteen movies released so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and three more to arrive in the next year, we have well and truly settled into formation with Marvel, for good and for bad. Marvel movies undoubtedly have a style and with that came great success. Unfortunately, that formula has started to alienate a few people in recent times, with the worry being the homogenisation of the universe. Spider-Man: Homecoming will not break this streak. More importantly, Spider-Man is something that Marvel haven’t had yet. He is the living embodiment of the Marvel model. He is everything Marvel want from their characters and his world is everything that the Marvel Universe should be. One benefit of Spider-man’s arrival in the MCU is something I talked about earlier: choice of adaptation. There have been many hints to the MCU version of Spider-man being heavily influenced by the Ultimate Spider-man run of comics, in much the same way that Avengers was influenced by the Ultimates. Peter will be in high school for at least the first, if not the next few Spider-man movies and Marvel have been very open about the fact that this will be heavily John Hughes-influenced. The wild card here is director Jon Watts, who only has one movie under his belt. Though this should be nothing to worry about, as Marvel have shown they are more than capable of turning the most unexpected filmmakers into box office gold, thanks to their model. Spider-man could be arriving at the perfect time for Marvel, representing the pinnacle of their style. Something tells me slightly darker times are ahead and it all starts with the next movie in the universe.
Thor: Ragnarok needs to be a dark movie. It’s as simple as that. Sure, it could work if it’s done in a similar style to the previous Thor movies but a lot of the humorous characters of the previous movies won’t be returning, so now is the perfect time for the Odinson to have the dark epic that he deserves. The fact that Ragnarok will be a loose adaptation of the Planet Hulk storyline hints that this movie might have a grit that makes it stand out. It has the potential to be an antidote to the fatigue the Marvel Universe is starting to feel. That’s what I am hoping happens anyway. Will that be the movie we get? We might need to wait for the first trailer to find out. Marvel have treated Thor in a similar way they did Doctor Strange last year. They see the character as a risky sell to audiences, so they try to make him and his movies as light as possible. This has resulted in his movies being a lot less serious than they could, and possibly should, be. The main reason I am conflicted about Ragnarok is the choice of director, Taika Waititi. Waititi has shown to be a great director but he also has a comedic edge to his movies. Ragnarok might need to minimise the humour to have the edge it needs, but Waititi behind the lens hints that Marvel might be looking to keep the humorous side from the Norse god’s previous adventures. Let’s hope they find the right balance, because a Thor movie that plays close to the Marvel model will get lost when released in the same year as Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-man, two movies that fit the Marvel model like a glove.
This is another big one for the DC Extended Universe. Wonder Woman is super important both in a cinematic and a cultural sense but Justice League is the next big tent pole for the DCEU. Not only is it the first chronological movie to arrive following last year’s two poorly received efforts but it will introduce three (or possibly four if Green Lantern manages to sneak in an appearance) major players into the DCEU. We will finally be seeing the full debuts of The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg and get a sense of what the DCEU will look like for years to come. This film could be a major turning point for the DCEU, as producers and creative forces have shifted during the time of its production. Zack Snyder is returning to direct but if whispers are anything to go by, he has been well and truly reined in for this outing. This fact alone could be the saving grace for the Justice League. It is not uncommon for directors to lose some of their magic once they become big and have creative autonomy over their projects. Early in his career, while he still reported to higher-ups, Snyder delivered some stellar movies in the form of Dawn of the Dead and 300. The more he got carte blanche on story and script choices, the further his films have seemed to dip in quality. Watchmen was a relatively heartless adaptation of the greatest comic book story ever told. Sucker Punch was a style-first, sense-later kind of movie. He seemed to have been reigned in slightly with Man of Steel and the presence of Christopher Nolan overseeing things, which is a reason Snyder’s relationship with the DCEU reminds me a lot of Michael Bay’s relationship with the Transformers franchise. The first Transformers movie is by far the strongest and it just so happened Bay had Steven Spielberg to answer to as producer for that movie. Spielberg wasn’t present for the sequels and Bay was given free rein to take the series where he wanted, resulting in less-than-stellar returns as the series progressed. Snyder is in a similar position now. He went a bit far out with Batman vs Superman, sacrificing stellar storytelling for glorious visuals and Christ-analogies. There was an attempt to shackle him in the editing room but by that point the damage was done and that just made it worse. Now it seems Snyder is well and truly answering to others with Justice League and it might be the greatest thing to happen to the movie. He could also very well be on his last warning at this point, which could be all the motivation he needs. The DCEU is at a tipping point. Let’s just hope Zack Snyder doesn’t push it over a cliff.
2017 is jammed with comic book movies, as seems to be the case moving forward for the next few years. It’s hard to tell right now just how solid a year it could be, as on paper there are too many risky movies, for both of the big two in fact. On one hand DC need at least one, if not two, big wins this year. On the other Marvel have two movies that are perfect for their universe and one that needs to show they have the potential for movies with a different voice. Somewhere in between we’ll see Hugh Jackman say goodbye to the role that made him a star and take one more trip to the Lego-verse. 2017 may not be guaranteed to be a hit but it sure will be fun while it lasts.
If you liked my preview of this year’s comic book movies, why not check out my opinion of The Good, The Bad and The Worst of comic book movies in 2016, or follow me on twitter. Thanks.