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Discuss: Is 23 Super Hero Movies Over The Next 4 Years Too Much?

by Rodrigo Perez
June 13, 2014 1:40 PM
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A simple, but terrific (and possibly frightening) observation has been made by our friends over at Rope Of Silicon: over the next four years, if everything goes according to plan for every studio, we're going to see twenty-three (count ‘em) super hero films. Because, as you know, the comic book movie arms race is officially on. Oh sure, this is a Cold War that's been raging for several years now, but as studios take "monkey see, monkey do" with Marvel's success really to heart, things are really beginning to heat up. Because of course, just yesterday it was revealed that Warner Bros. is attempting to get aggressive and make seven super hero movies from their D.C. Universe properties over the next four years.

Likewise, the studio that paved the way, Marvel, has seven films due between now and 2018 (2018 being the year most studios have planned up until, though Marvel apparently sees the horizon up until 2028). Between the "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" properties they own, 20th Century Fox has five films planned. For its "Spider-man" series, Sony has four films planned until 2018.

And that’s just four studios, as Universal is rumored to be mounting a “Namor: The Submariner” movie for 2016. But that's 23 super hero movies between today and presumably summer 2018. Here's the full layout so far. Marvel is obviously ahead of the pack in terms of planning, but everyone’s catching up on pace.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" (8/1/14)
"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" (5/1/15)
"Ant-Man" (7/17/15)
"Captain America 3" (5/6/16)
Untitled 2016 Marvel Movie (7/8/16) [Given all the hiring updates, this feels like “Dr. Strange”]
Untitled 2017 Marvel Movie (5/5/17) [Speculation is “Thor 3”]
"The Avengers 3" (TBA 2018) 

"The Fantastic Four" (6/9/15)
"X-Men: Apocalypse" (5/27/16)
"The Wolverine 2" (3/3/17)
"The Fantastic Four 2" (7/14/17)
Untitled Fox/Marvel (7/13/18) [Lots of speculation, some can be read here]

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (5/6/16)
“Shazam” (Jul 2016)
“Sandman” (Dec 2016)
“Justice League” (May 2017)
“Wonder Woman” (Jul 2017)
“Flash and Green Lantern” team-up (Dec 2017)
“Man of Steel 2” (May 2018)

“The Amazing Spider-Man 3” (6/10/16)
“Venom” (TBA 2016)
“The Sinister Six” (TBA 2017)
“The Amazing Spider-Man 4” (5/4/18)

Of course this does not include all the other blockbusters being planned. Disney plans six “Star Wars “and related ‘SW’ spin-off films up through 2020 and Marvel/Disney will have four Marvel super hero TV shows going on Netflix by around 2018 (presumably being groomed for their own movies if the shows prove to be hits). Did we mention Disney/Pixar also has five films planned up until 2018?

And you're only going to see more and more of this multi-planned film attack until some studio takes a huge kick in the teeth financially and something they're banking on backfires. You're going to see the Disney plan, which they essentially riffed from Marvel, in effect: one main brand tentpole every other year with spin-offs in between. This also means every studio is going to try and create their own new franchise in the hopes that it could be spun into a mega franchise. Right now someone at Universal is thinking: "How do we get a Jason Bourne film every other year with Treadstone/Blackbriar spy spin-off films in the in-between years. Should we reboot the whole damn thing or is this Jeremy Renner kid gonna finally take off?"

Considering the shitty year WB is having—which you can read about here— their Tom Cruise tentpole “Edge Of Tomorrow” underperformed, the Adam Sandler vehicle “Blended” tanked and “Jupiter Ascendinggot kicked to 2015 to ensure their summer financial quarter didn’t go belly up, you know somewhere in a laboratory, someone is doing some kind of test research to glean how soon they can possibly reboot the “Harry Potter” films without an audience backlash ("and make sure to cross-reference that ‘Spider-Man: Too Soon’ report!”).

Unless something changes, 2018 is only the tipping point. WB's D.C. plans show they believe there is not one path to Marvel's super success. Have two characters maybe not strong enough for their own films? Lump them together (see “Green Lantern and The Flash”). Need your super hero team-up like yesterday and not five solo films from now? Easy, just fast-forward trough it all with "Superman vs Batman: Dawn Of Justice" (and hope and pray for the best; and someone get Zack Snyder off the notion that he is Christopher Nolan because far from it).

In short: a glut of the same ol', same ol' is coming, only more of it in yearly doses. It will be interesting to see if audiences eventually get sick of these films and for how long this kind of oversized dominance can continue. In the shadow of it all, it's not difficult to glean why filmmakers not really interested in this kind of cinema (Soderbergh, Gilroy) and actors not well tailored for these characters have moved towards TV. With that in mind, if it all goes topsy turvy, it's easy to foresee a future where TV is exclusively for adults and cinema is now the domain of teens, 20-somethings and the guys that run movie geek blogs. But something tells me a sea change will eventually cut across it all and change things up.

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  • Les Weiler | August 22, 2014 11:25 AMReply

    It's totally too much. Can't we go back to some variety? Maybe another 5 decades of movies where a guy and a girl fall in love, then something screws up, but they get back together at the end? Or maybe an action movie where the hero is almost beaten, but somehow finds strength at the end of the fight and saves the day? Or what if we start doing remakes? Not tired of that yet.
    Superheroes, though? Their time is totally up.

  • nacho | August 6, 2014 1:52 PMReply

    For me i will only go to marvel as they are the ones i already invested time and money into marvel films so i want go to watch other superfilms which are likely to fail

  • nacho | August 6, 2014 1:50 PMReply

    I am not being biased but as marvel has started this like five years before anyone else they will be the ones that come out unscathed while the rest collapse in their wake

  • No one special | July 9, 2014 4:31 PMReply

    I like comic books, sci-fi, Star Trek, the older the better, but I do agree as how Hollywood is feeding kids with stupid pointless explosions like The Man of Steel film which has no plot, but to destroy a city with no plot, for every good film, a bad film will be next door. Good films, The Right Stuff, Hotel Rwanda, et c. And then the good Super Hero films that tell the Story as if it could happen, with out all the booms like what the stupid teens like, but not be dull, Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, Iron Man 1, even X-Men First Class felt like it could of happen. Maybe with the edge the film companies will make the films go to those standards and we can put the exploding feasts the Man of Steel, the horrible acting of Catwoman, the pointless storyline in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or a story with no sense that was shown in Elektra, get rid of the stale plots like in The Avengers (the most overrated movie ever),one day behind us all. Let's hopefully watch out for more films like the original Superman that set the scale, with more like Watchmen and Batman Begins.

  • Joe 12-Pack | June 28, 2014 7:49 PMReply

    When does "AquaMan" come out? I hear James Cameron is attached.

  • Dave | June 27, 2014 11:28 PMReply

    I don't think dc owns such strong characters to havea succesful cinematic universe like marvel, I mean asides from batman and supe, cuz shazam is cool as a videogame character but for a movie the whole idea sounds like a flop...

  • josh | June 25, 2014 10:58 AMReply

    God what a depressing article. That "sea change" which will shake things up can't come soon enough.

  • Ted | June 24, 2014 4:31 PMReply

    If you don't like them, don't go - problem solved.

    If audiences get bored, then studios will lose money and they stop making them - problem solved.

  • Ella | June 29, 2014 12:29 AM

    @Ted: I think the complaint is more that they're making these movies when they could be making OTHER movies that everyone DOES want to watch. I find the glut of superhero movies (with a few exceptions) generic and unappealing.

  • Too old | June 20, 2014 12:25 PMReply

    You're obviously too old if you don't like all these superhero movies, at least at heart.
    How can you NOT like superhero movies...I'm just waiting for the day when Deadpool gets his own movie. That one will be THE best. Hell Marvel's superheroes in general are the best so there's that.

  • Dj west | June 19, 2014 1:31 PMReply

    It's 6 a year. That's 1-2 a season. No, that's not too much.

  • Sanker from india | June 19, 2014 3:09 AMReply

    The only thing really worrisome is the Netflix four tv superhero stuff. Prohibitive budgets ensure that tv cannot be an effects-obsessed-save-the-universe-explosion-fest. If that changes we can say goodbye to the great dramas of the golden age of tv. The nerds could take it over if they got what they wanted.

    All this also makes me think of how less a superhero film stays in a kid's mind before he's obsessed with the next stupid distraction. And I'm only 21! I haven't watched a film in 2 weeks cuz I'm still thinking about synecdoche New York!

  • Sanker from India | June 19, 2014 2:54 AMReply

    I don't really care. I'm not a huge fan of superhero movies other than the occasional avengers or dark knight. Honestly I'm a big film buff and watch 40-50 movies a year of recent stuff. To give you an idea of what my last 5 movies
    Blue jasmine
    Synecdoche New York
    Blue is the warmest colour
    Donnie darko
    Solaris (1972)
    What I'm saying is there are easily 50 movies a year to watch which are great. Cannes 2014 has me all excited! I don't care about how many superhero films there are because I can happily ignore it all. It's only a problem for a film critic forced to sit through it all. I have a lot of friends who heap hate in twilight, Justin bieber etc all the time. But my response is that you ignore it or watch the classics and that's a better way to let pointless "pop culture" phenomenon fade away

    I would really love it if you guys talked about like 5 movies which made you wanna be a film critic or something or 20 silent films you adore. The coverage during the sight and sound list was great cuz you guys were talking about the classics.

    What I'm trying to say is that for a film buff there are enough classics out there to keep one occupied for their entire lives! And that makes me happy. If Hollywood wants it's mindless blockbusters then so be it.

  • Bobbo Swarley | June 17, 2014 8:14 AMReply

    I think everyone is over thinking this at the moment. This is being made out to seem like there will be 23 Superhero films in a 1-2 year period. It's being spread out within 4 years...amongst the other cinema staples (ie buddy comedies, period dramas, horror films, romantic comedies etc...). The only way this goes south is if more than one of these super-flicks goes the Green Lantern route. Also, anyone bemoaning that the genre is rife with the same story over and over seems to be willfully denying that pretty much all of cinema with the exception of genre bending indies are more or less the same story retold (just different actors and locations).

    The other potential problem I see is that there may be too many super-flicks tossed out within spitting distance of each other in the late spring-summer season. They need to be spread out a little more. That may help alleviate the feeling of glut for this particular genre.

  • Dick Schitz | June 16, 2014 1:04 PMReply

    Sigh... Cinema Is Dead.

  • todd | June 14, 2014 7:16 PMReply

    What about Big Hero 6?

  • GedronLacy | June 14, 2014 11:08 AMReply

    I miss the days of good storytelling, The Shawshank Redemptions, The Cool Hand Lukes, No Country For Old Mens, good solid stories. Nowadays if you're not destroying s city then you have no business in Hollywood it seems. These movies have zero mystery behind them and is all digitally enhanced in post production, this is the end of true cinema and we are only left to oblige the teenage prom night moviegoers who want everything now now now, more explosions more special effects because why??? Because their attention span runs about as long as a bowel movement...But hey it's all about money right Hollywood??? Not about the audience and the characters, MONEY...Thank you to The Coen brothers, PTA, Tarantino, Darabont, Fincher, Ayer, Spielberg, Scorsese, and Terence Malick for not selling out.

  • Sanker from india | June 19, 2014 2:59 AM

    It was always about money. Shawshank was a flop when it came out. More importantly, all of film is filled with tons and tons of trash. And sometimes great films don't make money. That's the way it is. There was never really an era where absolute creative freedom was given to artists in the film industry. It's just that looking back we only see the classics.

  • shark | June 14, 2014 1:57 AMReply

    I can't imagine all of those are actually going to happen. DC and Sony both seem to be counting their chickens before they've hatched. They're following Marvel without understanding why Marvel's model worked. I would be mocking Fox, too, but DOFP was REALLY, REALLY good, and did exactly what it needed to do to make the X-Men franchise interesting again.
    Anyway, it's amazing they're using Man of Steel as a franchise starter. I...guess it made money, but the WOM was lousy, IIRC.

  • Glides | June 13, 2014 10:50 PMReply

    What studio is going to get that kick to the teeth?

    *cough* Sony. No way that it's not Sony.

  • Amsowers | June 13, 2014 7:42 PMReply

    I think the issue isn't with the part of the audience that cares enough to be looking at and commenting on this post, and the ones who keep up with this type of information. To us an Iron Man and a Batman film are different, Justice league and Avengers are different, to most moviegoers a super hero movie is a superhero movie and I think it will feel a lot like overhitting the market. I felt that a bit this year going to see 4 Super hero movies within a few months. Days of Future Past, Captain America 2 (saw it twice), and then Spiderman. Around the time I got to Days of Future Past it felt like a lot. I enjoyed all of them but, still. I think guardians of the galaxy is relatively safe from that problem because it looks more like something akin to Star Wars than something to a Super hero movie. Most people probably wouldn't have any idea it was a super hero film if it didn't have Marvel's name on all the posters.

    I think it's great for us, and that the increase in movies will lead to an increase in quality when having a super hero movie won't set you apart. They'll need to be good to compete and in that regard it's a win win but overall I think it may exhaust the genre prematurely.

  • Duke | June 13, 2014 3:12 PMReply

    And how many horror films? Comedies? Romance? I'd say six superhero films a year isn't anywhere near being a big deal when the rest of the box office is already polluted with other filth.

  • Alex | June 16, 2014 7:02 PM

    I completely agree with Duke. It's like when the director of Super defended his movie from being called a ripoff of Kick-Ass by pointing out how many bank robber movies can come out a year and not be called ripoffs.
    I would argue with Ugh by pointing out that the fact that all of these superhero movies are made and still becoming financial (and for the most part, critical) successes shows that there is plenty of merit for these movies to come out. To Ugh's second point of saying the stories all look the same I remind you that these stories, or at least the overall arcs, are predetermined. As someone who grew up waiting every month for a new comic issue to come out I actually hope that one day I can wait for a new movie every month. If you view the overall stories instead of each movie as a stand alone you should be able to appreciate the full complexities of the plots. This argument also applies to Royal Sp*nk's reply.

  • Ugh | June 14, 2014 4:12 PM

    Not every romantic comedy is marketed a year in advance & needs to make over $500 million worldwide just to break even.
    Studios don't rely on their comedies & romances to stay afloat. The issue here is all the studios seem to be putting all their faith in a series of films that all look identical & all pretty much will have the same kind of storyline. Dude inherits powers or discovers powers, dude comes across another bad dude who is probably related to him through some event in their history, two dudes fight in an urban metropolis. End film. Hint at sequel with another bigger named character hinted as bad guy.

  • Royal Sp*nk | June 13, 2014 4:05 PM

    Horrors, Comedies and Romantic Fliks have a more varied palette of stories to riff/steal/choose from - superhero movies are pretty much identikit in their plots and motivations.

    Good guy learns true power facing Bad evil. Big punch-up. Explosions. End.

    So it is kinda a big deal to some because the movies are becoming even more vanilla and plain and similar. I think that's why so many were so bummed when Wright left over creative differences with Marvel; the idea of an Edgar Wright-helmed superhero movie sounded fresh and exciting - now it's looking like it'll be another fairly derivative and innocuous affair.

    We reserve judgement, as anyone with half a brain must, but the track record shows how familiar all these films are and the oncoming flood of even more superhero-films bores me to tears. I look forward to the wheels falling off the wagon, we'll move back into a more independent Hollywood model again then.

  • RNL | June 13, 2014 2:23 PMReply

    Capitalist pigdogs.

  • Mike | June 13, 2014 2:23 PMReply

    WB is having a bad year? Which explains why they are the first studio to cross the billion dollar mark this year?

    What a fair and well researched article

  • Ella | June 29, 2014 12:34 AM

    Did you read the Hollywood Reporter analysis it linked to? You didn't, did you.

  • Chad | June 13, 2014 2:17 PMReply

    "(and hope and pray for the best; and someone get Zack Snyder off the notion that he is Christopher Nolan because far from it)"

    Zack Snyder is a far superior filmmaker to Christopher Nolan who is third-rate, if that. Nolan hasn't made anything approaching Legend of the Guardians.

  • Xian | June 18, 2014 4:50 PM

    Whatever you're smoking or ingesting that's making you comment about Synder and Nolan... well, make sure you share, because that's some good hallucinogenic stuff, man.

  • Zinjo | June 13, 2014 2:13 PMReply

    Has anyone heard of "The Law of Diminishing Returns"??

  • Casey Moore | June 13, 2014 2:00 PMReply

    Sandman isn't a superhero. Helps to know the source material you are talking about. It is more fantasy than anything.

    There is no confirmation on the WB slate, and there is a good chance Sony pulls back after the underperforming Amazing Spider-Man 2.

  • Ryan | June 13, 2014 2:30 PM

    Depends on how you're interpreting & adapting it. Sandman was inspired by the 1940s superhero Sandman, and later incorporated the 1970s Kirby Sandman. The first storyline features Batman, Martian Manhunter, and the big villain is Doctor Destiny.

    And while, yes, the series quickly moved away from the superhero settings, I have my doubts that Warner Brothers will put forward the meandering, meditative, literary story that Gaiman wrote. I'd guess they'll at least start with a Superhero-based story to establish it, just as DC did so long ago.

  • Mo | June 13, 2014 1:57 PMReply


  • swell | June 13, 2014 1:55 PMReply

    I'm not usually a grammar nazi but shit, fellas. That headline... subject-verb agreement. "Is" is for singular, "are" is for plural.

    You're starting to write like lolcat captions.

  • VIC | June 13, 2014 1:50 PMReply

    It is.

  • Casey Moore | June 13, 2014 1:49 PMReply

    How many indie films are too much? Relationship dramas? Family dramas? Crime films? Sci fi films? Just want for good films. Don't worry about the genre. Stupid question.

  • Tracy | June 16, 2014 11:55 AM

    The difference is the sheer cost of these films versus most of the other genres you list. At $150-$200 million a pop, you're talking about at least $3.5 billion studio dollars wrapped up in one genre.

    And how many other, varied films could be made with that money?

  • Amsowers | June 13, 2014 7:47 PM

    I think that too many films will be good in terms of individual quality but that overall it's going to hurt super hero movies.

  • Jonesey | June 13, 2014 2:54 PM

    "Just want for good films. Don't worry about the genre. Stupid question."

    23 sub-par movies regardless of genre isn't great for any cine-enthusiast. The point is there is yet to be any good superhero film which is comparable in its innate cinematic form to any great indie film. I.E: There are no great superhero films (yet, though I doubt there ever will be) that will, or should, be a part of someone's "top 10", "top 100" or "best of" lists.

    The cinema of spectacle is a great getaway, but too much of the same thing ruins the attraction entirely.

  • Zinjo | June 13, 2014 2:21 PM

    I don't believe Superhero movies have jumped out of the SciFi genre, just yet. In answer to your question? You CAN have too much of genre. Where are all the Westerns from the 50's and 60's? Where are all the Social Conscience movies of the 70's? You actually can put out enough of one type of genre to literally milk it dry of content and market interest. I'd rather see less Super H movies with greater quality than have dozens of "Green Lantern" level drivel floating around diminishing the source materials!!

  • John | June 13, 2014 2:05 PM

    Most of those do not take up vast amount of resources. And most of Sci Fi is franchise crap.

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