Comic book movies have now become the norm. We can no longer say it’s a passing fad or they’ll die off like the Westerns once did. There will always be a place for superheroes and comic book adaptations on the silver screen.
It was another massive year at the box office for comic adaptations in 2016 with most of that money coming from films made by a little company called Walt Disney Pictures, which owns another little mom-and-pop shop called Marvel Studios. Combined, Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange made $1.8 billion worldwide this year, and along with that came great reviews. That’s what they call a win/win. The same can’t be said for that “other studio.” (Cough! Warner Brothers.)
Like Marvel, Warner Brothers’ DC Entertainment (DCU) also raked in the dough with a couple of superhero movies. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad made the studio $1.6 billion worldwide! But to say those films were met with critical acclaim would be a billion-dollar lie. If anything, the big bucks were accompanied by even bigger complaints from practically everyone who once cherished the Superman and Justice League stories. But the WB is not slowing down anytime soon as they have more adaptations slated for 2017. God help us all.
Then there is 20th Century Fox, which holds hostage some rights to films involving Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four, to name a couple. (There was a time when Marvel needed the cash and so they made some licensing deals with a few studios that have now come and bitten them in the arse.)
Comic adaptations haven’t always been rosy for Fox. Their films have been hit and miss. In my opinion, the X-Men franchise has jumped the mutant shark. Honestly, after this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, the once-promising franchise needs to take a rest. We won’t even discuss last year’s debacle that was The Fantastic Four reboot.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Fox. They did get one thing right this year when they took a chance on Ryan Reynold’s vision for Deadpool (another Marvel property that Fox holds tightly). That film became the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time when it took in $780 million worldwide. With a sequel in the works, Fox will continue to cash in on this year’s most pleasant surprise.
I continue my year-end best-of lists by looking at which comic book adaptations worked best this year. Having to rank my top six is going to be tough considering there were only seven live adaptations and three animated features to choose from, and only a few were quality.
Predicting the future of comic book flicks in 2017 is going to be equally difficult, but I’ve undertaken that task as well. Some might say I’m the real hero around here.
(Not a comic fan? Check out my Best of Horror.)
Top 6 Comic Book Adaptations of 2016
6. X-Men Apocalypse
Not a great X-Men movie, but it sure was a lot better than have to watch Ben Affleck’s Batman or Jared Leto’s Joker, so it begrudgingly makes the list.
20th Century Fox owns the rights to everything “mutant” and they are going to squeeze every last drop from the franchise until we are tired of seeing the likes of Professor X and Wolverine on screen. Director Bryan Singer completely mails in the third film of the reboot trilogy, but it’s average fare for a Saturday afternoon viewing. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender return to their roles as younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, and they gather a crew of mutants to battle Apocalypse, played by the great Oscar Isaac. Not a bad film, not a great one either. It’s meh but sits at no. six.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Guilty pleasure alert. This is the sequel to 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Look, outside of the fact that Megan Fox plays April O’Neil, these TMNT movies aren’t that bad, especially if you have kids or you’re still a kid at heart. Out of the Shadows gave us the return of Bebop and Rocksteady and turned the nostalgia-meter to 11 with the introduction of the evil Crane. I wasn’t a fan of Stephen Amell’s take on Casey Jones but, all-in-all, it wasn’t a terrible movie, so that’s something right? Now I’m hungry for pizza.
4. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Warner Brothers have done a great job with their DC animated films. I was hoping to include this year’s R-rated The Killing Joke with Mark Hamill returning to voice The Joker. But the joke was on us as, for whatever reason, director Sam Liu went off-book and botched the whole endeavor. However, WB’s newest cartoon feature – Return of the Caped Crusaders – takes us back to the 1960s as Adam West and Burt Ward lend their voices to the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder in this enjoyable cartoon. Both iconic actors return to lend their voices to this enjoyable cartoon.
It’s meant to be cheesy and fun. The animation is fabulous and the nostalgia runs deep as Batman and Robin protect Gotham City from Penguin, The Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman. This flick surprised me and makes the list.
3. Doctor Strange
Now we’re getting to the meat and potatoes of my top six comic book adaptations of 2016. This highly anticipated film brings Doctor Stephen Strange from the page to the big screen with “The Cumberbatch” (Benedict Cumberbatch) playing our titular hero.
This is one of those origin stories that doesn’t bog you down with boring details. It’s pretty straight forward with a simplistic premise that reminded me of Iron Man’s Tony Stark. What I loved about this film were the visuals. This new Marvel flick will take you on a stoner’s journey to the magical side of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and it all connects nicely to the other Avengers, the Infinity Stones, and other Marvel films coming out in the next few years. This is meant to be seen on a very large screen.
2. Captain America: Civil War
What a treat this was! Nerds like me have been waiting to see this popular Avengers story come to life for a long time, and it did not disappoint. Although I have it as my no. 2 adaptation, you can call it 1B as this was an absolute joy to watch.
Captain America/Steve Rogers is at odds with Iron Man/Tony Stark over the Government’s plans to regulate all superhuman activity due to casualties in their previous missions. Captain America believes in the principles of freedom and has a healthy distrust of the government, while Iron Man believes heroes need to be under control. A line is drawn in the sand and superheroes in the Marvel Universe pick a side. This film is a blast.
You can’t say that we didn’t see this film coming because the marketing alone revolutionized how a film is advertised. When we finally got to see the finished product, The Merc with a Mouth brought joy to adults everywhere. As I mentioned above, Deadpool smashed the record for the highest grossing R-rated film of all time. It actually was the no. 1 film worldwide until a little fluffy bunny from Zootopia knocked Wade Wilson off his perch. (That bunny got its comeuppance when Civil War came out.)
This is the origin story of a former Special Forces soldier turned mercenary (Wade Wilson), played by Ryan Reynolds. After being diagnosed with cancer and subjected to a rogue experiment that he thought would cure him, Wilson is given accelerated healing powers and adopts the alter ego of Deadpool. This is not for kids. I repeat this is rated R for a reason.
The Top Grossing Comic Films of 2016 (Worldwide)
For the people who still think that comic book adaptations are a fad, this year’s superhero films made super-dollars, raking in almost $5 billion worldwide. Captain America: Civil War did the most bank, making $179 million domestically on its opening weekend and finishing with $745 million worldwide and $408 million domestically.
Despite bad reviews, Batman v. Superman still made a ton of money. The reviews and word of mouth hurt the film after a pretty big opening week of $135 million, but a strong international box office of $542.9 million made its final numbers pretty gaudy. That said, Warner Brothers considers the film a failure as it didn’t break the $1 billion mark as they forecasted.
- Captain America: Civil War: $1,153.3
- Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: $873.3
- Deadpool: $782.6
- Suicide Squad: $745.6
- Doctor Strange: $648.3
- X-Men: Apocalypse: $543.9
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows: $245.6
- Batman: The Killing Joke: $3.8
Comic Book Box-Office Predictions for 2017 (Worldwide)
There are nine confirmed comic book adaptations coming to theaters in 2017, and each one looks to pull in some dough. I expect Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to not only do better than its 2014 predecessor ($780 million) but to also break $1 billion and stay on top of the box office charts for most of the year. Its biggest foe may be that web-slinging teen Spider-Man. I modestly predict Spidey will do around $800 million, but hinges upon great reviews. If there is a positive reception, it could surprise and maybe break that billion dollar threshold during the summer.
Based on international numbers alone, DC will make money on Justice League just like they did with the poorly received Batman v. Superman. Will the negative reception of its predecessor hold it back from reaching $1 billion? We shall see. Good or bad reviews, I have learned to never underestimate the money that the likes of Superman and crew can make at the box office.
Ghost in the Shell is based on the Seinen manga series and should do extremely well overseas. The Kingsman films are based on graphic novels by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. The first film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, was a surprise hit back in 2015, which could translate into a good box office showing for the sequel.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (April 28, 2017) – $ 1.1 billion
- Justice League (November 17) – $ 1 billion
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7, 2017) – $800 million
- Wonder Woman (June 2, 2017) – $710 million
- Thor: Ragnarok (October 27, 2017) – $700 million
- Ghost in the Shell (March 31, 2017) – $625 million
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 29, 2017) – $575 million
- The LEGO Batman Movie (February 10, 2017) – $550 million
- Logan (March 3, 2017) – $425 million
Odds to Make My Top Six In 2017
This year’s adaptations further proved that boatloads of cash don’t automatically equate to quality. Next year has a lot more comic book films to get excited about than 2016 and so predicting what will make my end-of-year top six is a little more time consuming. The major question I have at this point is whether Wonder Woman will revive the Warners’ DCU? The trailers look positive and it would be great to see a woman superhero stop the hemorrhaging, but my hope is guarded.
Here are the odds of what comic book movies will make my best-of list next year.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (April 28, 2017): 1/9
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7, 2017): 3/2
- The LEGO Batman Movie (February 10, 2017): 3/2
- Ghost in the Shell (March 31, 2017): 2/1
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 29, 2017): 2/1
- Thor: Ragnarok (October 27, 2017): 3/1
- Logan (March 3, 2017): 4/1
- Wonder Woman (June 2, 2017): 10/1
- Batman: Caped Crusaders 2 (TBA 2017) – DC Animated Feature: 10/1
- Justice League (November 17): 25/1
- Justice League Dark (January 24, 2017 – DC Animated Feature: 25/1
- Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (TBA 2017) – DC Animated Feature: 50/1
- Batman and Harley Quinn (TBA 2017) – DC Animated Feature: 50/1
Feature Photo Credit: Marvel Studios