Does your life seem like it’s been one long string of mutants, super-powered humans, and chemical reactions gone awry? Superman saw success with the Christopher Reeves-led films in the 70’s, but the track record for the superhero genre as a whole has been hit or miss thereafter. However, Since 2000’s X-Men, the number of superhero movies has seemed to exponentially increase year after year. Comic book adaptations had been attempted in film and on TV in the past, but Bryan Singer’s first film for Fox’s mutant mega-franchise proved that paying fan service to beloved characters in the parameters of a traditional Hollywood action flick could, effectively, print money.
Getting some perspective on the rise of everything heroic, Chris Kirk from Slate posted this awesome interactive calculator to tally up the number of superhero films you can expect in your lifetime based on the frequency with which they have been churned out over the last 10 years.
There are only two points of data required for you to take part in the quiz yourself: your age, and optionally your gender. It’s not arbitrary: women live longer than men on average, so their life expectancy means that they’ll get to experience (or endure) more films than man. For instance, I, as a 30-year-old man can expect to see 299 more Supermans, Spider-Mans, Hit-Girls, and Wonder Womans before I
am taken by the great light of aliens go gently into that good night.
But seriously, 299 movies. So much for retiring to a Scottish castle. My money will be tied up in superfilms.
The calculator further factors in the frequency with which each property has appeared since its cinematic debut, and tallies the number of actors that have played the titular character in each. As I was born in 1985, the first Batman I knew was Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s classic Batman from 1989. Prior to Keaton, the only big screen outing for Bruce Wayne’s alter ego was an Adam West iteration that spawned out of the campy, fan-favorite 60’s television series. After the Nolan trilogy reinvigorated the franchise following a lackluster Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, there have now been 5 actors to play Bruce Wayne and the sixth, Ben Affleck, will be presenting his version in next year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice AND Suicide Squad.
Sony’s Spider-Man is a whole other beast unto itself. The first celluloid version of Peter Parker only just graced movie theaters in 2002. The franchise is relatively an infant when you pit it against DC’s Superman or Batman. Tobey McGuire was the it-guy of the late 90’s/early 00’s thanks largely to his critically acclaimed turns in Pleasantville, Cider House Rules, and Wonderboys. He was still a relatively young actor when he signed on to play Spidey, but he brought a gravitas to the role that would ensure the emotionally heavy scenes (like losing Uncle Ben) wouldn’t come off as cheesy or trite. Alas, Spider-Man 3 threw an old adage out the window and proved that one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. That three-quel was enough to convince studio heads at Sony decide to restart the whole thing.
The rebooted The Amazing Spider-Man was released just five years after the final installment of the first trilogy, and Sony would again find themselves in a very precarious situation not five years after that. The explosion of popularity in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe left fans and Sony wishing that Spider-Man could be–to paraphrase Ariel the Mermaid–“part of their world.” A Marvel/Sony deal was struck with both studios making a very rare pact to collaborate on future outings for the character. So, by 2017, three different actors will have played Peter Parker within a ten-year period.
Over at 20th Century Fox, the X-Men franchise seems to be going strong, even if they’re in a constant state of rewriting character timelines. As I mentioned earlier, 2000’s X-Men was a critical catalyst for the superhero genre. Unlike Spider-Man, this series suffers its bad apples gladly, and then manages to rebound into even better territory. X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were duds by all accounts, but their follow-ups, X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine were more than adequate apology letters from the studio. X-Men: Days of Future Past blew past all prior box office records for the series and its followup, X-Men: Apocalypse has been exciting old and new fans alike with set photos showing Jubilee in her classic yellow trench-coat getup and MOHAWK STORM! THIS IS NOT A DRILL PEOPLE. While the success of the series means we’ll be seeing plenty more X-Men films in the future, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get an Avengers crossover as Marvel and Fox probably won’t strike up a deal similar to the Spider-Man/Sony agreement.
Given the ever-changing nature of superhero spinoff films, it’s anyone’s guess as to how closely your own calculated number will come to the actual number. After all, we’ve been waiting on a Black Widow spinoff film in the MCU for YEARS, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen either. Suicide Squad might prove to be an interesting venture for DC and Warner Bros., because I can definitely envision a world where Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn or Will Smith’s Deadshot get their own feature. At the very least, I can see Robbie headlining future Suicide Squad films as the lead player.
Marvel will be venturing into other uncharted territories in the next 10 years when they launch film version of properties like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, The Inhumans, and others. All it takes is one scene-stealing supporting character to gain enough traction to get his or her own film. With DC and Marvel throwing their full weight into big-screen comic book adaptations, and smaller publishers licensing their properties for both film and television, our movie going experiences are most definitely going to be very full of utility belts, cosmic rays, and magic powers for the rest of our lives. BRING ON THE FUTURE.
How many superhero films are you going to see before Valhalla? Let me know in the comments below.