Comics2Film has, on and off for twelve years, provided expert commentary to various news outlets all over the world. Year-after-year someone will put the question to us: "Isn't this trend over? Haven't all the popular comics been done?"
As we close out 2009 we have to admit that our favorite niche subject has seen more ebb than flow.
Usually at the end of the year the successful studios are talking up their blockbuster year and usually they're pointing to some comic book superhero as helping them make their bank. But this year Warner Bros and Fox, the two studios with the biggest comic-based tentpoles are jockeying for top year-end position. And guess what? Neither are crediting their disappointing C2Fs as being part of the winning seasons.
Let's take a look back at what has gone wrong for comic book movies in 2009
Based on Greg Rucka and Steve Leiber's fine comic of the same name, this movie was actually filmed in in the first half of 2007. Then Warner Bros put it on ice until this past September. Rotten Tomatoes scores the movie at a dismal 6%. It took in a mere $10.3 million at the box office. There's no other way to call this than "failure."
C2F actually had high hopes for this adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's classic Manga. Produced by Imagi (who made the highly enjoyable ''TMNT') and directed by David Bowers (of the well-received 'Flushed Away'), 'Astro Boy', on paper, seemed like it could be a potential winner. The resulting film was a visually inventive, mildly diverting but a mostly emotionally-bankrupt experience that pales in comparison to better animated fare from Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky. It scored 48% on Rotten Tomatoes but took in less than $20 million at the box office, which is bad news for the already-cash-strapped Imagi.
Based on the intriguing graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, this one fared better than 'Whiteout'. It drew a 40% score on Rotten Tomatoes and rang up over $38 million in receipts. It's still considered a dud especially factoring in Bruce Willis' past cachet.
Perhaps the most eagerly-awaited (and simultaneously dreaded) comic adaptation of all time, Zack Snyder's 'Watchmen' phenomenon is difficult to sum up. The movie is amazing in parts and tedious in others. C2F didn't love it so much as we sat there wanting to love it. But, as Alan Moore predicted, the elements that made the graphic novel a watershed event couldn't be translated to screen. The reason? The comics are important because of the way they pushed and expanded the then-narrow boundaries of the comics medium. Still the film is the best-reviewed comics adaptation of the year, scoring a positive 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. The box office didn't quite measure up with a $108 million take against a significant budget. Artistically, it's the best C2F of the year, but we're also naming it our biggest disappointment.
20th Century Fox hoped to spark a new franchise with a live-action adaptation of the mega-popular manga and anime series. Still, the movie seemed doomed from the start with it's middling cast, watered-down characters and seemingly modest budget. At the end of the day it was shunned by fans of the franchise and failed to appeal to anyone else as well. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 13% and a wilting box office of less than $10 million, 'Dragonball Evolution' is the C2F's loser of the year.
Fans were fairly open to the return of Hugh Jackman in this continuation of 20th Century Fox's bankable 'X-Men' franchise. An added bonus: a host of new Marvel Universe characters including Gambit and Deadpool. The potential for a big winner was there after the disappointing 'X-Men: The Last Stand'. Sadly, the resulting movie was a mediocre affair, falling somewhere between the third and the first film in terms of quality. It scored a mere 36% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter. Adding injury was the curse of the pirates. The movie hit the web two weeks early and damaged the box office tale. Nevertheless the movie is the best-performing comic adaptation, raking in nearly $180 million and prompting talk of more sequels ('Wolverine' goes to Japan) and spin-offs ('Deadpool' starring Ryan Reynolds). While we can't really declare a winner for the 2009 season, we'll wholeheartedly say that 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' is the least losery C2F of the year.
2009 is definitely a stumbling year for the comic book movies. If we extend the window back another month 'Punisher: War Zone' and 'The Spirit' become part of dismal picture.
So is it all over for the comic book movie?
Not hardly. 2010 will bring a huge slate of movies, not the least of which is 'Iron Man 2'. Add to that potential winners like 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World', 'Jonah Hex', 'Kick-Ass', 'The Losers' and 'Dead of Night' and there's plenty of stuff to look forward to. And on the further horizon we have 'Thor', 'Green Lantern', 'Captain America', 'Batman 3' and 'the Avengers' in the pipeline to restore the C2F trend to its former glory.
Long live the comic book movie!