X-Men: Days of Future Past

As we all know, 2015 is going to be the biggest year for big years in the history of big years. It’s going to be so gigantic for tentpoles, superhero movies, sequels and reboots that we’re finally all asking whether or not it’s possible to experience geek overload, and while the thought of that forthcoming summer sends chills through tingle-prone parts, we have to survive this year first.

There’s a lot to look forward to, and now Kofi Outlaw over at ScreenRant has laid bare the simple questions facing geek property fans as we edge ever closer to the brink. He’s presented 5 big questions facing the calendar change, and I’ve decided to answer them all.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Jamie Foxx

Question 1: Will Third-Party Shared Universes Work?

Answer: No, but we may not know that until 2016

First of all, yes, all of these questions are more for “geek movie fans” than “movie geeks” (not a single Criterion mention!), but I’m rolling with it.

Second of all, I love the idea of studios like Sony and Fox are “third-parties” when it comes to Marvel characters. Over the last decade we’ve shifted from seeing studios as the only option for costly adventures to recognizing in Marvel another avenue — one that can handle its own storytelling no matter the medium. (Although being now owned by a third-party studio remains a question mark hanging over the future of comic book movies.) The view has evolved, but it’s always been rooted in the mindset that Sony and Fox don’t quite know what they’re doing with this characters. There have been successes, but there’s never been much faith beyond them. For good reason.

Secondly, this question refers specifically to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 being used as a launchpad for villain-centric stories like Venom and X-Men: Days of Future Past opening the door for interconnected movies.

Studios are eager to copy The Avengers‘ success, and while Warners fumbles around, Sony and Fox already have established worlds to build on. Unfortunately, Sony hasn’t proven that they can even handle Spider-Man’s story (yet) let alone an ever-widening gyre, and Fox has already failed miserably to expand their world via X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In a pocket universe somewhere, we’d have all sorts of characters following that colon, but on this version of Earth, the movie was a disaster that will haunt all future attempts at omnibus storytelling until they absolutely crush it.

But even if Days of Future Past and AS-M2 are giant successes (art and commerce-style), that doesn’t mean much for the next steps in the process. Even with intentions on the table, these are still traditional sequels. The studios may have the longview on them, but we very well may be laughing in a few months about ever thinking we’d see a larger movie universe from these properties.

We can laugh about one thing now, though. No matter who wins, Marvel wins. After all, we’re still talking about their characters.

guardiansofthegalaxy

Question 2: Could This Be Marvel Studios’ Best Year Yet?

Answer: Absolutely

The gamble that Marvel is taking with Guardians of the Galaxy is pretty obvious. In fact, it bucks the traditional thinking (as Marvel is wont to do) that you need 1) a big star and/or 2) a property with big name recognition to have a hit. As such, releasing a flick based off a little-known comic property (ask your non-comic book friends before lighting up the comments section) with a talking raccoon and sentient tree instead of an internationally recognized actor is a middle finger to “how things should work.”

On the other hand, it’s not that big a gamble because “Marvel” is the name they’re trading off of. More than any other studio right now, the Disney-owned property is its own star. Ask anyone at the mall if they plan on seeing the next Universal release, and they’ll furrow an eyebrow before asking who you are and why you’re drinking their Orange Julius. Ask that same person if they plan on seeing the next Marvel release, and they’ll nod their head even if they don’t know what the title is or why you’re drinking their Orange Julius.

Still, it’s unclear what “Marvel’s biggest year” means. Financially. . . who cares? Artistically, it’s strange to think of, but there’s not stiff competition at the annual level or anything. Was 2012 their best year because they put out The Avengers (and only The Avengers)? Or was it 2011 because they released the excellent Captain America with the mediocre Thor to weigh the year down? Same question for 2008 when Iron Man launched history while The Incredible Hulk didn’t live up to its adjective?

The point being that, if Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are both better than good, 2013 with sail easily to being “The Best.”

stid abrams 03

Question 3: How Much Do We REALLY Want to Know?

Answer: Far less than we think we do

Movie fandom has become largely about loving something surrounded by noise. Somewhere out there, at least a dozen people are still convinced that Warners plans on making Wonder Woman Kryptonian. What’s worse, they’re actively irritated with the studio over it, and will continue to have their view colored by a fabrication. Rumors are a poison we love drinking.

Spoilers and bullshit “scoops” alike have become a minefield for anyone simply trying to keep abreast of what’s in development or, gasp, attempting to converse about the state of cinema or the movies themselves. But there’s no reason to disparage an entire culture for collectively proving the great worth of being in the know. It’s not like a singular person decided all of these rumors and spoilers should be the law of the land, so fighting against them is like punching ocean waves.

Those of us who want to stay moderately in the dark before the theater lights go down can only do our best to sidestep the landmines, but if a geek site like Screenrant is questioning a knowledge overload, it’s a sign that moderation may be attempting a comeback.

Regardless, I can’t wait until Mace Windu fights Superman in the Mother Teresa biopic.

Transcendence

Question 4: Will Sci-Fi Outclass Superheroes?

Answer: No, but it’ll be fun to see it try

Science fiction is clearly en vogue right now. Which is awesome. The new surge has also produced some seriously bad movies (ahem, Oblivion), and while it seems strange to wonder whether a century-old film genre will “come into its own” soon, there’s some truth to the assertion that sci-fi still struggles to connect.

Outlaw frames this particular question purely in terms of box office, and on that front, it’s doubtful that sci-fi will dent the spandex-laden ones in any meaningful way. Meaning that even when Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar makes a silly amount of money, it’ll most likely be a repeat of Inception‘s success — proving more that Nolan is golden, not that bigthink sci-fi is.

I might be profoundly wrong there, though. With Transcendence, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending and others, it’s clear that studios are willing to gamble on science fiction in a way that they may have been uncomfortable with a few years go (i.e. pre-Inception). However, the question of whether these movies will do better financially than the superhero fare of 2014 is dull save for one element: the promise that success could lead to more sci-fi attempts both big and small. Even if studios see dollar signs (or even when they don’t), it’ll be excellent to see more work like Upstream Color in the atmosphere, too, and Tom Cruise doesn’t have to create a mech-suited blockbuster for that to happen.

Plus, aren’t the Marvel superhero movies technically sci-fi since they aren’t “magic-based”?

trailer_super

Question 5: Will Indie Directors Have Blockbuster Success?

Answer: Some will, some won’t

James Gunn is going from a superhero satire to helming Marvel’s next generation, The Russo Brothers are shifting from Community to Captain America, Gareth Edwards is graduating from Monsters to Godzilla.

Success seems imminent for them, although it’ll be interesting to see whether Gunn and The Russos move on to bigger work after their stint with Marvel (because they won’t necessarily get full credit for those movies’ wins).

On the other side of the fence, Jose Padhila is bringing Elite Squad action to a RoboCop reboot, Noam Murro is changing genres completely from Smart People to 300: Rise of an Empire, and longtime stunt coordinator and Act of Valor director Scott Waugh has got Need For Speed. That’s not to say they won’t hit the mark, but they’re not exactly slam dunks.

I suppose the slam dunks aren’t either.

Other Questions (and Answers):

  • Is this a good year for reboots? (Is any year?)
  • Will Transformers 4 really be a fresh start for the series? (Nope.)
  • Will Katniss Everdeen continue her box office domination? (Yup.)
  • Will any animated film top How to Train Your Dragon 2? (Big Hero 6 has an honest shot, and The Wind Rises is technically a 2014 release…but I see the point. HtTYD was awesome.)

How would you answer?


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