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Box Office Mojo


#1482

Going into BP a year or so ago, I thought that this might be the MCU film that underperformed. Black Panther, to me, was always sort of a D-list character – I read Marvel comics in the 80s to early 90s, and was aware of the character, but don’t recall him appearing in any I read. Combine that with the non-white main cast, and it seemed like it would come off to the general audiences as a movie aimed at a minority audience. But, gods yes, this feels like a sea change in the conventional Hollywood wisdom that audiences only want to see white male protagonists; and this is also a film with women in vital roles as well. It will be interesting to see what the entertainment does next.

Looking back, it also seems like a wise move to have set part of Infinity War in Wakanda.


#1483

I think the last decade of superhero movies has definitively shown that these ideas are pretty meaningless when it comes to the movie adaptations.

Beyond the longtime recognition factor that applies to only a handful of household-name superheroes - Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and a few others - it really makes no difference to mainstream movie audiences whether a character has been an A-list or Z-list character in the comics. They only care about what they’re seeing in the movie.

There was a time when Iron Man, Cap and Thor were seen as lesser comics characters, and a sense that Marvel Studios was stuck with them as their best shots, after trading away rights to Spidey, X-Men, the FF and so on. Now we consider Iron Man to be the lynchpin of the MCU, and that’s entirely down to how he was brought to the screen, and the success they made of the movie version of the character.

Yes, the movies build on the work of comics creators, and don’t invent these characters whole-cloth. But by now we’ve seen many examples of what were once considered D-list comics heroes be hugely successful in the movies - often even out-performing the ‘A-list’ - that I don’t think a character’s status in the comics should have much bearing on how successful we expect their movies to be.

That’s why I don’t agree with the suggestion that Marvel is running out of characters to adapt for their movies. They have hundreds of characters in their publishing history to exploit, and if filmmakers can come up with a strong take on even the most low-profile comics character, they have the potential to make it into a successful movie.


#1484

Yeah… I was really baffled that Marvel was going out of their way to make an Ant-Man movie, another character I’d consider D-list. Though that’s my personal bias again, Ant-Man was another character I didn’t see much of duting my time reading Marvel comics. But I do realize that both Ant-Man and Black Panther have had recent critically acclaimed comic book series, though I had stopped reading Marvel by that time.

It is sort weird, seeing obscure titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad becoming hit films. If, twenty years ago you had told me Suicide Squad would be made into a big budget movie, I would’ve laughed it off. But all of these examples – GotG, SS, BP, AM – do go to show that superhero comics are viable IP farms.

[quote]Beyond the longtime recognition factor that applies to only a handful of household-name superheroes - Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and a few others - it really makes no difference to mainstream movie audiences whether a character has been an A-list or Z-list character in the comics. They only care about what they’re seeing in the movie.

There was a time when Iron Man, Cap and Thor were seen as lesser comics characters, and a sense that Marvel Studios was stuck with them as their best shots, after trading away rights to Spidey, X-Men, the FF and so on. Now we consider Iron Man to be the lynchpin of the MCU, and that’s entirely down to how he was brought to the screen, and the success they made of the movie version of the character.
[/quote]

The conventional wisdom has generally been that name recognition will put asses in seats, hence why Superman and Batman got franchises first. Maybe Blade was a game changer in that respect.

It’s an interesting dynamic. In the 80s, the X-Men was the best selling comic book series, but had zero pop culture cachet. Nobody who didn’t read comics had any idea who they were, not even Wolverine. Then the cartoon came along in the early 90s and probably primed a generation to see the movies that came out about ten years later. So, in a pop culture sense, they went from D-list to A-list, to where even your grandmother knowws about Wolverine and Hugh Jackman.

Iron Man is also an interesting one. It really came from nowhere… there wasn’t any hit cartoon like X-Men or tv series like The Incredible Hulk to put the character into the pop culture collective consciousness, and, from what I recall, its success took everyone who monitors these things by surprise.


#1485

It’s a bit counter-intuitive I guess, because you might assume that the same qualities that would make a character more successful than others in comics would translate to the screen to some degree.

I think an obvious part of the difference is that the big-name superheroes we think of as A-list in the comics established themselves in a very different era. And some of the factors governing popularity change from one era to the next.

That’s why you have the (somewhat valid) complaints that the MCU lead characters - and superhero leads in general - are overwhelmingly white and male. Because they come from an era where that was the common template for a popular hero.

Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad are good examples of how deviating from that template can tap into an underserved need from audiences to see more variation in the kinds of heroes they pay to see on the big screen. I’m sure we’ll see some interesting shifts in strategy in the coming years as a result.

Most of all though, as a viewer I hope it leads to good movies. I haven’t seen Suicide Squad but I think Black Panther and Wonder Woman were both well-made, satisfying movies, and that shouldn’t be discounted in the rush to attribute their success to diversity alone.


#1486

I’ve never been sure where this “wisdom” came from. You would assume that when millions are dollars are involved they’ve done the market research first, but who exactly is this audience that responded to their surveys with “We only want to see white males?” I don’t think I’ve ever met any of them. Personal experience and common sense tells me that those who seriously do care enough about racial issues to boycot a cool looking movie must be a very, very tiny minority.

I’m a white, middle-aged, middle-class, conservatievely-minded male from a majority white country, and I don’t give a damn what colour my heroes are.


#1488

An alternative take too is one that maybe our generation has missed.

These characters now have loads of cartoon shows, both from Marvel and DC and have for well over a decade, while we just had one or two (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and X-Men and they were nearly a decade apart).

They love to use as many comics ideas as they can, my son even knows Spider-Ham as he’s been in a few episodes. Currently all the kids love Teen Titans Go as the hottest show on TV so in a decade or so when that audience are teens the likes of Raven and Beast Boy will be more familiar to them than ones we may consider A-List.

(I don’t think this is the only reason at all by the way, I agree with the general thrust but it’s an added element that could be missed).


#1489

I think that’s definitely part of it. Marvel are good at building up awareness of their upcoming movies by including characters in their cartoon shows well ahead of the movie release, from what I’ve seen. And yes, my kids saw posters for Justice League and were most interested in Cyborg as he’s the one they know from Teen Titans Go.

Yet another factor (that’s possibly even more influential than cartoons now) is video games, where they similarly promote a broad range of characters. I have nephews that astound me with their deep knowledge of Marvel characters, and most of that comes from games like the Lego series (or going back a bit further, Ultimate Alliance), where there’s scope for a huge character roster bigger than pretty much any cartoon.


#1490

They weren’t. Edgar Wright was the original director, insisted on the character and had been working on it about a decade before it got made.


#1491

Yeah Ant-Man is different to the rest of the Marvel films really as it was instigated by Wright who went and pitched it right at the start of Marvel Studios. I don’t think that’s happened with any of the others, even though directors like Gunn and Coogler seem super engaged with their properties as far as I can recall they are hired hands after Marvel announced they’d be making them.


#1492

I’m glad the property has done well for them but I still don’t think Ant Man would have gotten made without Wright.


#1493

And I still don’t think that the finished product was right.


#1494

I never saw it. It might have been a great film but once Wright was off, I lost interest. I did get Baby Driver instead though. So all’s well. :wink:


#1495

In terms of the “D-List” I think we have to go back to Blade. That was a character that probably registered even lower, in terms of name recognition, even among comic fans at the time. That it could spawn a series of generally successful films AND a TV series laid a lot of the groundwork for dismantling the D-List assumption.


#1496

Especially since he hasn’t had much success in comics since then.


#1497

It’s a shame Wesley Snipes went off the rails. The first Blade film was pretty incredible and the second wasn’t bad either. Those films should have a real legacy. I wonder if they’re ripe for another round or inclusion in a Midnight Sons type film or group of films.


#1498

I think it’s a bit more specific than ‘anyone can be a success’. Comic book adaptations are littered with franchises that didn’t go anywhere (like BPRD, Cowboys & Aliens, Green Lantern & all the ones we know). Equally Dr Strange and Ant Man did well, but are still at the bottom end for Marvel, as was Cap 1 and Thor 1&2.

I think the logic is that anything can become a smash hit, but more than all this though I think there’s different common threads to the unexpected hits - Logan, Kingsman, Deadpool, SS, Black Panther, Guardians, Wonder Woman, Winter Soldier, Dark Knight and Ragranok - a mix of quality, uniqueness, a great cast, and most importantly timing - they delivered the kind of movies at just the right time, when audiences were looking for that kind of thing.


#1499

Yes, that’s all part of getting the right take on the right property.

I don’t think that any or all Marvel characters would be easy to turn into huge successes, but they have a huge library to explore in term of potential ideas that could be developed to work for modern audiences.


#1500

As I pointed out in the other thread though, they have 15ish franchises already and only 4 slots a year. So even if they kept those fresh and active you’d get one movie every 4 years. They don’t really have much more room now that they purchased Fox.

I bet some exec at Warners is trying to push through a Cyborg movie asap right now.


#1501

If WB wants to try to replicate the success of Black Panther, I’d think that a GL Corps movie with John Stewart would be a better route than Cyborg. Simply because GL lends itself to be more of a visual feast as a space opera. Plus you get an African American lead as well as the crazy diversity of a bunch of aliens. Plus, JL was such a disappointment with no one really talking about how cool Cyborg was…I’d go with the crazy universe and mythology building you get with the GL Crops. Surely the Ryan Reynolds movie was long enough ago that people have forgotten about it.


#1502

Hey, I was!