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Superhero comic book adaptations are not just more ubiquitous than ever (on both the small screen and big screen), they’re also consistently among the top performing titles box office-wise any given year. A commerically-successful film isn’t automatically an equal creative accomplishment, of course, but the drum’s been beating increasingly loudly for the various awards shows (such as the Oscars) to show comic book movies some love – something Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo touched on in a recent interview.
Comic books films still span the spectrum of general critical responses, naturally, but there’s a good reason that such respected actors as Jessica Chastain and Al Pacino has openly voiced a desire to appear in a superhero movie. Such recent high marks as Marvel Studios’ Cap sequel and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Wolverine, have further demonstrated that comic book adaptations can blend genre influences and/or pay homage to cinema history just as well as any other sort of film (while having thematic substance and entertainment value to boot).
However, as Joe Russo pointed out in an interview with Deadline, the genre’s installments still tend to be viewed in terms of box office turnout, first and foremost, and not their artistic merits:
“It’s strange that the comic-book film genre is so often thought of only in terms of its economic merits. Yes, it’s shockingly popular and continues to grow, and yes, the box office success of these films can often embarrassingly outweigh their merits, but as Christopher Nolan perhaps first proved, real and valuable filmmaking can be achieved with the genre. It’s sad that some people, seemingly soured by having to endure the massive cultural presence and expectations that even mediocre or poor examples of the genre can generate, react by trying to reject the genre as a whole.
Even before Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the likes of Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men films and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 started making the case that superhero movies can be as socially/politically relevant and thematically-rich as movies that belong to any other genre. Going further back to the 1990s, for that matter, there were such films as Blade demonstrating how superhero movies can encompass multiple genre elements (while something like Tim Burton’s Batman Returns proved that a comic book movie can have a distinct auteur’s touch).
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