HEROWOOD 2: Rise of the Supermovies


Hollywood’s superhero affairs are exploding nowadays. This year alone, the studios Sony, Marvel Studios and Fox have given us the films “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  News and rumors about upcoming supermovies are about as common as misplaced commas in a high school English class as of late, and with dozens of comic book-based movies and TV shows coming out in the next few years, it’s safe to say that the superhero film industry is the healthiest it has ever been.

This plethora of superhero flicks is mainly divided into four “universes,” or groups of media that share the same worlds, elements and canonical storyline. These universes are Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe, comprised of such franchises as The Avengers, Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy; Fox’s X-Men universe; Sony’s Spider-Man universe and DC’s shared superhero universe.

The most expansive of these universes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is currently divided into two “phases.” Phase One consisted of the movies “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and “Marvel’s The Avengers.” Phase 2 is made up of “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the upcoming Avengers sequel “Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

The Marvel universe, story-wise, is in an interesting place right now. S.H.I.E.L.D. has broken up. The Avengers have come together and gone their separate ways, and they have been thwarting evil plots by themselves and together since the first Avengers movie. In the expansive realm of space, the Guardians of the Galaxy are out protecting the universe from the evil Thanos, who was responsible for the alien attack on Earth in the The Avengers and is the main villain for the entire Marvel universe. And the six Infinity Stones, ultra-powerful ancient artifacts, are all the rage as everyone wants to get their hands on them—some to protect them, and some (such as Thanos) to use them for their own nefarious purposes.

“Age of Ultron,” the final film of Phase 2, is due in theaters in May 2015, and will feature the Avengers, including new heroes Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and The Vision (and possibly War Machine), facing off against the evil robot Ultron. After “Age of Ultron,” Phase 3 of the MCU kicks off with “Ant-Man,” and “Captain America 3,” “Doctor Strange” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” are all either confirmed or strongly expected.

Fox’s X-Men universe, after being somewhat rebooted by this year’s fantastic and very timey-wimey Days of Future Past movie, is on the verge of an expansion into another franchise—the Fantastic Four. While there are plans for future X-movies, including “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which includes the mutant baddie known as Apocalypse, and another Wolverine solo movie, perhaps the biggest news is that Fox is rebooting the Fantastic Four movies within the X-Men universe. With “Fantastic Four” due in theaters in June of next year and a sequel also on the way, this opens up a lot of possibilities for the universe. Will we see a Fantastic Four/X-Men crossover? I certainly hope so.

Sony’s new Spider-Man universe, currently consisting of “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its sequel, is interesting because it is the only universe based mainly around a single superhero. Sure, there are several spinoffs in the works, including a Venom movie and a Sinister 6 movie, but so far, all we’ve gotten are two Spidey movies. Even so, I look forward to the spin-offs and hope that the universe is successful.

The DC movie universe, which currently only has one movie, 2013’s “Man of Steel,” has some very big plans in store for moviegoers. After “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which is scheduled to come out in 2016, DC is planning on releasing a Justice League movie and several stand-alone superhero flicks. However, some superhero fans (myself included) are worried that DC is trying to stuff too much into “Batman vs Superman,” the Man of Steel sequel, just so they can compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie, which was originally billed as a showdown between the rich dude in a flying rodent suit and the completely overpowered alien from Krypton, will now have appearances from Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Cyborg, as well as who-knows-what else. Perhaps all of these inclusions, as well as the controversial casting of the movie, is why the original 2015 release date got moved back a year.

With the four main superhero universes all on the rise, and even more supermovies than those listed above coming our way soon, it could be said that this is the healthiest that the superhero film industry has ever been, and from the looks of things, it will continue to be strong for some time to come.