Green Lantern may be stumbling – oh, alright, outright flopping – at the box office, but according to Mark Millar, we shouldn’t be too worried about the death of the superhero movie just yet:
I plan to focus solely on creator-owned for AT LEAST the next couple of years and so these trends are important. It’s essential that nobody comes along and messes up the very successful system we’ve had for the last decade or so. But we have to keep things in perspective. Any Chicken Littles screeching about Green Lantern being a flop and ruining everything must look at the big picture and remember it’s far rosier than any other genre. Our track record in comic book movies has been incredible since Goyer and Norrington changed the game with Blade, Singer carried it through with X-Men and Sam Raimi slam-dunked with Spidey. In the decade that followed we’ve had monster hits from almost unknown characters. Iron Man sells around 40,000 copies a month, but a combination of a fun script and very clever casting turned it into a $500 million grossing beast. Last year’s sequel hit $650 million and these numbers don’t even include DVD. The X-Men franchise has managed over 2 billion dollars in 5 movies and Spidey and Batman are the biggest of the lot. Check out www.boxofficemojo.com and it’s very heartening to note that superhero and comic book adaptations have an incredible consistency for turning vast profits. There’s the occasional dud like Catwoman and Jonah Hex, but these tend to be the exceptions rather than the norm and rare examples of unknown writers and directors being attached to characters traditionally coveted by the Hollywood A-list.
Of course, DC might want to be a little worried that, Batman aside, it’s their characters that are failing at the box office… but Millar has a theory about that, too:
Nobody sets out to make a bad movie, but the non-Batman DC characters just don’t seem to work in modern cinema and TV. I’ve loved these characters as far back as I remember, but whether it’s Wonder Woman or Superman or the Aquaman pilot or Catwoman or Jonah Hex or Birds of Prey or whatever… they just don’t seem to catch on in the modern world. I think it’s hard to compete with the new characters (or even the more recent Marvel characters, created a full generation later). Batman works because he’s more human for the big screen and more empathetic, but I fear The Flash and others would just meet the same fate as Green Lantern. They’re just too outrageous to provide tension in a live action format and I’d love to see them done, Pixar style, as brilliant, theatrical animated movies. Aquaman talking underwater would have us wincing in live action. In a cartoon we wouldn’t even blink. Some stuff just doesn’t suit the format.
It’s an interesting idea, and one that would hold a little more water if it wasn’t for the success of Thor who is, I think, as “unrelatable” as any DC character in terms of being removed from the average man, and has surroundings just as outrageous. That said, Millar’s right that Green Lantern is the only superhero movie to fail at the box office so far this year, and so perhaps concern about the genre is premature… We’ll have to wait and see how Captain America fares at the box office, I guess.