By George Rose
March 27, 2009
In recent years, it's been clear that the box office has taken a bit of a tumble. Annual attendance is usually down, while revenue only up slightly due to increased ticket prices. People appear to be losing interest in films. This is because Hollywood is out of decent original ideas, made obvious by their frequent attempts to adapt other works of art into feature films. More often than not, the project fails, at least critically. Lack of similarity to the source material, missing plot points, and the loss of the original work's initial spark of genius are all valid reasons why most forms of art are best left in their original medium. As the box office seemed destined for chaos, one genre that spreads across all the many mediums made way to the head of the pack to claim its rightful place as Hollywood's guardian angel...
I'm talking about super heroes, or rather, any feature character(s) with super-human abilities. Behind them is their legion of fanboy followers, geeks armed with the computer wizardry and lack of social life required to raise interest and online insanity over upcoming releases of their favorite comic icons. Naturally, behind every great geek idea lies a jock ready to take credit. What was to follow the comic-boom in box office was a type of devotion not seen since before the Church started granting divorces. Any sort of film that was adapted from previous source material and had any uncanny influence (mutants, wizards, vampires, etc.) became the talk of the town, and saw either box office fortune or direct-to-DVD fodder. The positive extreme end of the spectrum is Spider-Man, which changed movie-going forever when it announced to the world that fanboy-stamped films could be among the most profitable and record breaking if you stopped pushing the losers aside and started listening to them.
Comic books seemed the biggest of the behemoths, with the Spider-Man franchise claiming biggest opening weekend twice, The Dark Knight as our newest opening weekend champ and second largest film total, and countless other success stories. However, other source-material-first favorites have become equal competitors for breaking box office records. For every dork-driven Spider-Man and Watchmen there is a Transformers or Twilight. It's probably because many of the people in one group are also part of the other. I am a diehard fan of the comic book, which aside from film is my favorite medium. Then again, I saw all three Lord of the Rings midnight screenings. It's hard to draw the line between which medium has better control over the box office.
Rather than decide, it seems clear that interest in Marvel and DC properties now parallels other fanboy supported works, like children's novel series or even certain film maker's careers, such as J.J. Abrams. What's to be said of their superior box office receipts is that the average film-goer loves the super human, and if there's some sort of source material, then, well, let the contest for biggest fan begin. But Hollywood isn't blind. They're fully aware of this new fetish; the Twilight movies are all being fast-tracked, graphic novels are being over-adapted, and Hasboro now has a film division. You give them an inch and they'll ravage every mile (see: Punisher or Eragon).