The Fall of The Golden Age of Comic Book Films [Op-Ed]

hollywood-movie-newsLife is not linear. Human history seems to go in a circle. It feels like it repeats itself time and time again throughout the centuries. Take for example, ancient Rome. This was a city that was at the height of its time, a modern civilization that ruled the Mediterranean with an iron fist.

Working sewers, hot spring baths, rich grains and meats, art, and a booming trade market. Rome was in its “golden age” and was the envy of all the land…until the fall of Roman Empire. After the fall, the city was nothing more than a skeleton of its former self. Practically a ghost town of ruins and disease.

I know what your thinking, what the hell does any of this have to do with comic movies? I believe that we are living in the “golden age” of comic television and cinema. Every year, movie goers and TV viewers spend their time and money watching summer blockbusters and spending their weeknights religiously tuning in to watch such shows as Arrow or Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. For a comic fan…life is good, but for how long? Will it come crashing down with no warning like a bursting volcano in Pompeii? Does the term, “what goes up, must come down” apply here?

To take a good guess at any of these questions, you almost have to take a step back and look at Hollywood’s phases over the past 70 or so years and a pattern will begin to emerge. In the 1930s–1940s, it was all science fiction. H.G. Wells’ War of The Worlds radio show captivated (and scared the hell out of) millions of people. The Day The Earth Stood Still followed in the 1950’s. Teenagers watched the original Star Trek series loyally week after week. Science fiction was the focus of the movie and TV business, and friends…business was a booming.

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Comics got some love too during this era with the 1950s TV series , The Adventures Of Superman. However in the 1960s, it was the Batman live-action series starring Adam West that really knocked down some walls in comic media. Comics were no longer just for kids. The road to comic films continued to march on with live-action TV series such as, The Incredible Hulk, and Wonder Woman.

In the next few years when Hollywood really began to focus its eyes on comic heroes and their money-making potential. However, it wasn’t exactly a straight jump. Again, Hollywood and its phases. In the mid-to-late ’60s and into 1970s, Hollywood’s focus was spaghetti westerns and independent films, such as A Fistful of Dollars, The Godfather, Scarface, and Clock Work Orange.

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Then Hollywood lost interest in the genre and turned its focus back to comics and science fiction films such as Superman, Star Wars, and Batman during the end of the 1970s and maintained that course for the decade of the 1980s.

Movies were no longer bloody gangster tales of reality. They were popcorn fun again. We saw wave after wave of Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Star Wars, Willow, Superman, and Aliens just to name a few favorites. This was the decade at the movies in a nut shell, with a steady dose of supernatural horror flicks sprinkled in.

Then in the ’90s it all came full circle again. Goodbye Dr. Jones and hello Vincent Vega! With the arrival of new, fresh blood directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez landing in Hollywood, we got gritty and stylish films such as True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, El Mariachi, Desperado, and Pulp Fiction. With Pulp Fiction getting nominated for countless Oscars in 1994, the writing was all over the wall. Science Fiction pop corn flicks were moved to the Hollywood back burner again in favor of the more gritty reality films just like it happened a decade before with The Godfather stepping aside for Star Wars. Starting to see the pattern yet?

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Cinema history is repeating itself. Out with the old and in with what was older and now fresh again. By 2001, movie goers were walking into theaters across the world with titles such as Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, and The Matrix on their ticket stubs. Movies were fun again. Sure we still have the occasional gritty gangster flick like Heat, but not like when the genre was in its golden age of the ’70s and later again in the ’90s.

Which brings us full circle too. How much time of the “golden age” of comic heroes in the movies do we have left?

Just like ancient Romans, we may not even be aware that the clock is ticking. Marvel is going very strong with its yearly releases from Spider-Man to Captain America. DC is catching up as well with its successful Batman and Man of Steel blockbusters and both have much more on the horizon. Even Sony has announced plans for a yearly Spider-Man film similar to Disney’s plans to have an annual Star Wars film.

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Not to mention there is an explosion of quality television based off comic icons. We already have Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulling in weekly top ratings and there is more to come. Casting and filming is happening as we speak for live action series The Flash and Gotham which are looking to have the potential to be just as big of hits.

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Never before in either film or TV, has the world seen such a steady dose of comic media. Not to mention, aside from live-action blockbusters and TV series, we are getting animated comic based films every year to boot. I am not complaining… AT ALL. However, I got to say this. I love steak and lobster too, but if I ate it everyday, I would get burnt out. Whose to say that isn’t what is happening now with Hollywood and its focus on comic book based cinema? How long before Hollywood enters its next phase?

Do you think we will actually be watching a “Avengers 5″ in the year 2023? One thing is for sure, I am certainly going to enjoy the comic ride for as long as I can before we see the repeat in Hollywood history.

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