This week has seen the release of the 13th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War, which looks set to be another huge hit for the comic book behemoth. Due to the fact that its movies crack a billion quite regularly now (The Avengers, Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3), Marvel certainly leads the pack. Neither DC nor Fox have managed to break the $1 billion ceiling yet. Along with the third installment of the Captain America franchise, 2016 has already seen the release of Fox’s R-rated hit Deadpool and DC’s two big-hitters face off in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The comic-book movie war is well underway. Let’s take a look at who’s winning thus far, and what else is in store in 2016.
Marvel has had a five year head start on DC and has utilised it to near-perfection. Since Iron Man in 2008, the company has barely put a foot wrong. A few movies here and there may not have hit the mark, but overall, Marvel has set the precedent. As with the other two companies, Marvel are releasing two movies this year. The first was Captain America: Civil War, which was by far the best of the comic-book movies released thus far this year. It may have lulled at certain moments in the middle, but each and every fight scene was spectacular, and the juggling of characters was done incredibly well. Every well-known character got their time to shine, new heroes were introduced in amazing ways, and yet still the focus remained on the primary relationship of Cap, Iron Man and Bucky. It was a mammoth task to pull off, and yet the Russo brothers (at the helm for the second time after the Winter Soldier) hit a homerun.
In November Marvel shifts gears and releases the unique Doctor Strange. The first trailer offered a glimpse of what is to come, and although there are hints of the Marvel formula about it, Strange seems like the biggest gamble thus far. An arrogant surgeon who, in the comics, has a brutal car accident due to drink-driving, and then becomes an all-powerful sorcerer seems well, strange, even for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have been illusions to magic, with Scarlet Witch being the most obvious example, but this movie will have that and so much more – multiple planes of existence and of course Tilda Swinton’s sexless ancient being. If there is one team that can pull it off though, it is Marvel. When it’s seemed like a step too far for them thus far, they’ve knocked it out of the park (see: Guardians of the Galaxy). Expect Doctor Strange to be no different.
Performance in 2016 thus far: 9/10.
Excitement for what’s to come in 2016: 8/10.
DC have been playing catch-up to their biggest rivals, which has led them to attempt a reverse-Avengers. Whilst Marvel slowly built up to their super team up in 2012’s blockbuster the Avengers by virtue of five stand-alone movies, DC have jumped head-first into a first on-screen meeting of their three biggest properties: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. This movie, Batman v Superman, was built on the back of the divisive Man of Steel (2013), and will be followed by Suicide Squad, a standalone Wonder Woman film, and then Justice League Part 1, before Aquaman and the Flash finally get their own standalone movies. Whilst Marvel has declared “Here are the ingredients, and we’ve made this cake,” DC has said “Here’s the cake, and now let’s find these ingredients.” All this is not to say DC is going to fail in its plan. It makes sense to distinguish itself from its biggest competitor, and try and forge its own path. The issue thus far has been that the movies have not been particularly good. Man of Steel was a fine film, but it was never intended to be the first building block in a new universe. As for Batman v Superman, there were multiple problems, too many to go into right now in fact. Perhaps the main issue though was its preoccupation with the future of the franchise instead of the present. Too often the film cut away to moments that will no doubt pay off a number of films down the line, which left the general audience completely confused. Whilst Marvel hints subtly at other characters to come in the future (Stephen Strange being mentioned briefly in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Anyone?), DC blasts down the door, and screams “Here are all our characters, coming 2017!” In the rush, DC forgot to make the actual film all that interesting, and while Ben Affleck and arguably Gal Gadot steal the show, the rest are left to wallow in a darkly depressing, convoluted plot that ultimately goes nowhere.
The rest of 2016 seems slightly brighter for the ‘grittier’ comic-book movie world, as Suicide Squad is released on August 5th. There has been a lot of buzz thus far, thanks mainly to a couple of superb trailers which seem to hint at a darker, more badass version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. So far so good. It’s got a solid cast, and a talented director in David Ayer. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see another director other than Zack Snyder adapt the DC mythos. Affleck’s Batman will also get his second outing, which will no doubt sell those extra few tickets. It won’t hit Marvel numbers (there have only been a handful of movies which have grossed +$400 million having been released in August, GOTG amongst them) but it could finally be the boost DC need to get their universe rolling. Here’s hoping.
Performance in 2016 thus far: 5/10.
Excitement for what’s to come in 2016: 9/10.
Fox always seem like the odd-one-out. They’re the forgotten company. Marvel have Kevin Feige running the show, who knows who DC have (Snyder it seems?), and Fox have… Simon Kinberg. Who? And yet Fox are in many ways superior to their rivals. They were churning out comic-book hits way before the letters MCU ever meant anything to Kevin Feige and co., and have some of the most popular and well-known characters in all of pop culture (Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is arguably on the same level as Superman and Iron Man). Still, despite barely a bum note (The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine), Fox are disregarded without a second thought. Perhaps 2016 is the year that will all change. They’ve certainly started with a bang. After being stuck in development hell for a decade, Fox finally pulled the trigger on an R-rated Deadpool movie, featuring super-fan Ryan Reynolds in the title role. To say it was an unexpected hit would be an understatement. It became the largest grossing R-rated movie ever taking over $760 million at the worldwide box-office. In all honesty, bar some great gags, the movie was only pretty good. The action sequences were fun, and Reynolds gave it his all, but similar to the comics, Deadpool is a character better enjoyed in small slices. That however, will not impact on Fox’s plans, and sensibly they have already greenlit a sequel. A solid start to the year for Fox no doubt about it, as they have a new fan-favourite franchise on their hands, and it’s certainly something different to what Marvel and DC are currently offering.
Next month, Fox releases their second and final film of the year: X-Men: Apocalypse. It is the final movie in what has been quite frankly the best comic-book movie trilogy thus far. After the collapse of the X-Men empire with the dismal performances of the Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine, Matthew Vaughn stepped in and reinvigorated the franchise with the wonderful prequel film X-Men: First Class, which was swiftly followed up by the returning Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Led by a stellar cast, both movies have been top-of-the-line, and it looks like Apocalypse will follow that trend. Apocalypse is the biggest threat the team have faced thus far, and it looks to be a truly cataclysmic clash. It’s strange that these movies tend to fly under the radar. McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence and co. are perhaps the most talented of all the ensembles, and the juggling of characters is second to none. The movies also cost a pretty penny, with X-Men: DOFP being one of the most expensive films ever made at the time, and they look truly spectacular. Apocalypse looks set to thrill (and hopefully burst the bank) as well as send Fox into a new exciting era.
Performance in 2016 thus far: 6/10.
Excitement for what’s to come in 2016: 9/10.