Peter Bart: From Bats To Bugs, Superheroes Find A Way To Stretch Spandex Franchises

Deadline | 7/12/2018 | Peter Bart
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The new Ant-Man epic is a big hit, again raising the question what is the box office magic embedded in Marvel’s superhero (or super-insect) movies? How long will it sustain?

The “magic” is a relatively new phenomenon: Thirty years ago this summer, in fact, Peter Guber ran into a brick wall trying to persuade Warner Bros to finance a superhero movie. The creative types at the studio didn’t buy either the genre or the title – Batman. Not ones to be rebuffed, Guber and his then-partner Jon Peters went to work on the studio’s merchandising and foreign sales teams to rally support.

Movie - Tim - Burton - Superhero - Movies

Not only did the movie ultimately get made (Tim Burton directed), but superhero movies have held the keys to the kingdom ever since — Ant-Man and the Wasp is Marvel’s 20th. Seven of last year’s 11 top-grossing movies were proud (?) representatives of this genre. “Hollywood’s Comic Book Age represents a global obsession,” reports Mark Bowden in the New York Times.

While Ant-Man and the Wasp registered a formidable $161 million worldwide gross on its opening weekend, it seemed to be playing by a different set of rules. Critics who normally shrivel at superhero movies marshaled words like “summer romp” (New York Times) and ”enormous charm” (Los Angeles Times). When I saw the movie last week with a packed audience, the (mostly) young ticket buyers were laughing, more than cringing.

Dark - Knight - Rises

“The Dark Knight Rises”

And Marvel planned it that way. In shaping the movie, Marvel cast Paul Rudd, cool and amiable (“I Love You, Man”) as the lead, the polar opposite of brooding Christian Bale (American Psycho and Dark Knight). The company signed Peyton Reed to direct — he comes from comedy, a genre alien to Chris Nolan (Dark Knight). The basic plot, such as it is, doesn’t hinge on saving the world,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Deadline
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