2014 is winding down, and with it ends another year of big announcements, topical debates and endless amounts of speculation and rumor related to the film industry – especially the part of the industry that concerns the geek community.
At the start of every year we step back and look at the larger issues on the minds of those who love in “Geek Movies” (i.e., sci-fi, superheroes with a dash of some horror). In 2014 that meant everything from worrying about how Marvel was going to do with Phase 2 tentpoles like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its Guardians of the Galaxy gamble; how a post-Batman Chris Nolan would fare in the sci-fi genre; and if DC/Warner Bros. would have anything to show fans.
Needless to say, our questions were pretty spot-on when it came to some of the biggest discussion points this year. So here are our 5 Big Answers to our 5 Big Geek Movie Questions 2014.
5. Will Indie Directors Have Blockbuster Success?
Answer: OH YEAH.
Director Gareth Edwards went from directing a small indie like Monsters to leading the King of Monsters – Godzilla – to mainstream box office success, landing himself even bigger jobs directing Godzilla 2 AND a Star Wars Spinoff. Meanwhile, director Gareth Evans is getting props for making The Raid 2 one of the best action movies ever.
On the comic book side, The Russo Brothers left behind TV comedies like Community to remake the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, landing themselves huge Marvel gigs like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War 1 & 2. Meanwhile, James Gunn went from being an oddball indie cult-favorite to taking an obscure Marvel comic book (Guardians of the Galaxy) to the top of the domestic box office.
So if you’re still wondering whether the minds who made standout films or TV shows on next-to-nothing budgets can bring that creativity and energy to big blockbusters? The answer is “yes,” and – in another year of Michael Bay mayhem – we love them for it.
4. Will Sci-Fi Outclass Superheroes?
Answer: Nope. Superheroes Are King.
In a year where Chris Nolan was making a new sci-fi epic (Interstellar); his longtime cinematographer was teaming with Johnny Depp for a sci-fi thriller (Transcendence); and Tom Cruise was coming back to his most successful genre for an intriguing high-concept actioner (Edge of Tomorrow). In short: there was opportunity for sci-fi to top risky gambles like Guardians, or lower-earning superhero franchises like X-Men or Captain America.
However, when the dust and dollars settled, there could only be one clear winner and it was superheroes.
In the sci-fi camp, only Nolan’s Interstellar crossed the $500 million mark. Meanwhile, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and even the divisive Amazing Spider-Man 2 all cracked $700 million worldwide – meaning that even on an off day in their solo adventures (ASM2), superheroes are reaching ever closer to making a billion-dollar box office the standard.
With a future that includes more team-ups and crossovers between these franchises, we won’t even have to ask again whether original sci-fi properties (or even established ones) are a contender for the comic book movie genre. The answer is in the pile of money Marvel Studios is sitting on.
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3. How Much Do We REALLY Want to Know?.
Answer: We’re Still Not Sure.
This has probably been the most interesting question on our list to watch develop over the course of a year. When 2014 kicked off, there was still so much uncertainy about films like Batman vs. Superman, or Avengers: Age of Ultron or Star Wars Episode VII that we couldn’t be sure when or how info would be released – and then, how much of it we wanted released.
Marvel Studios and DC/Warner Bros. both made HUGE media impacts in 2014 (and possibly changed the model of the movie business) by making major events out of the announcements of their respective film universes, which are planned out all the way up to 2020. In making those announcements, both companies put an end to months (or years) of speculation and rumor, letting fans know there is a clear road map ahead, with some exciting stops along the way.
Other than that, photos and videos from major DC/Marvel movie sets have been rather tame; apparently, studios have adapted to a paparazzi culture.
Conversely, Star Wars kept fans in the dark for the better part of a entire year – with even the casting of the film kept tightly under wraps until director J.J. Abrams and Disney wanted to reveal it. As 2014 draws to a close, we’ve finally gotten a title (The Force Awakens) and a teaser trailer; but the biggest insights have admittedly come from merchandising leaks and rumors that look increasingly accurate. Beyond that, we know the director of Episode VIII (Looper’s Rian Johnson) and that’s about it; no confirmed titles for the spinoffs and later episodes – and no confirmed plans for the small screen. No real forecast to speak of.
At this point, it’s debatable which approach fans are happiest with (big forecast announcements versus trickle down secrecy) – but we certainly know which approach is generating the most discussion. A little bit of reveal goes a long way with fans of these properties.
2. Could This Be Marvel Studios’ Best Year Yet?
Answer: Best. Year. Yet.
For Marvel Studios, 2014 was indeed a milestone year.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy were probably the riskiest combination of films Marvel released back-to-back. Captain America: The First Avenger was the second-lowest earner of the Marvel Phase One superhero solo films; Guardians was based on a Marvel property few had read or knew about, featuring a leading man (Chris Pratt) who had never been tested in a mainstream blockbuster.
Well, The Winter Soldier went on to re-define the action and maturity of Marvel movies; made coveted talent out of directors The Russo Brothers (who will helm both Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War); earned more than double Cap’s first film (worldwide); and it even managed to save Marvel’s floundering Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series along the way. Not too shabby.
Meanwhile, Guardians of the Galaxy accomplished the small goal of being the highest-grossing release at the domestic box office in 2014. The film made itself into a bonafide brand, with a cartoon show on the way, sequels, more cosmic-themed films (Captain Marvel) and even a top-selling soundtrack.
Those who were worried about Marvel’s prospects in 2014 now have a new worry: can anything stop the Marvel Juggernaut? (Don’t expect Avengers: Age of Ultron to slow things down.)
1. Will Third-Party Shared Universes Work?
Answer: Meh. Not Really.
Marvel and DC are the two big shared universe players; however, in 2014, there were other studios making a run at it.
Fox and Sony tried to get their own corners of the Marvel Universe built, via X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, respectively. However, while X-Men and Spider-Man both cracked the $700 million mark at the worldwide box office, ASM2 left a lot of fans cold, with little momentum behind the franchise for future spinoffs like Sinister Six or even sequels like The Amazing Spider-Man 3. In fact, the biggest conversation since ASM2 has been getting Spidey into the Marvel Studios Avengers universe.
Fox, meanwhile, revitalized X-Men enough to build solid momentum leading into X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016. The studio also finally greenlit the Deadpool movie and seems to have characters like Cable on the way. That’s good stuff. Not so good? Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot showed us absolutely nothing in 2014, choosing to remain stranded in a quagmire of fan negativity.
In the end, the X-Men movie franchise got a new lease on life, but in terms of growing official shared universe sandboxes, none of the third-party studios managed to achieve much of anything to rival Marvel or DC. Better reconsider those Marvel Studios crossovers….
Other Questions… Answered
Those were our 5 Big Geek Movie Questions for 2014. As always there were some honorable mention questions – which still need answering!
Here are a few we had:
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