Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash: It’s raining superheroes
There’s panic over Ebola, ISIS is trading in terror, a do-nothing Congress has left America appalled, climate change disasters loom, charges of racism haunt the streets of Missouri ...
Actually, superheroes, wizards and small plastic toys that talk.
This week, Warner Bros. announced it will be producing 10 new superhero movies based on DC comics over the next five years. Except, technically, that number should be 13, because the studio also announced it has three new Lego movies in the works — and Batman will be the main character in one of those animated ventures. There are also unscheduled Superman and Batman solo movies.
Then, just to make sure America’s craving for fantasy worlds is fully satisfied, the studio also announced it plans a trilogy of Harry Potter spinoff movies, based on J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a Hogwarts textbook she wrote in 2001. And if you think the current trilogy of films based on one book, “The Hobbit,” has been a stretch, get this: “Fantastic Beasts” is all of 42 pages long.
Obviously, as this world gets ever darker, Hollywood is determined to offer audiences ever-more-fanciful alternative worlds. And to an extent, that’s its job. Cinema can offer insight, emotional truth, new perspectives and opportunity for reflection. But it can also offer just plain entertainment and happy distraction. Nothing wrong with that.
Still, the oncoming glut of superheroes promises to be somewhat overwhelming. For the record, the newly announced WB films are “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” with Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill (2016), “Suicide Squad” (2016), “Wonder Woman” (2017) with Gal Godot, “Justice League Part One” (2017), “The Flash” (2018) with Ezra Miller, “Aquaman” (2018) with Jason Momoa, “Shazam” (2019), “Justice League Part Two” (2019), “Cyborg” (2020)” and (oh, no, not again) “Green Lantern” (2020).
Characters will crisscross into one another’s films (Wonder Woman and Aquaman are already set for “Batman vs. Superman”), and the intent is obviously to mimic the hugely successful film universe Marvel has already built.
Still, with the many Marvel films also in the works — everything from “Avengers: Age of Ultron” to “Ant-Man” to “Captain America 3,” which will also feature Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man — the number of superhero films scheduled for release by 2020 is somewhere around 30. That’s a lot of distracting.
Potential complications abound. What’s the logic in having “The Flash” played by Grant Gustin on the new CW TV show, but played by Miller on the big screen? What happens if the kickoff movie, “Batman vs. Superman” underwhelms? And there’s the whole problem of aging — Ben Affleck will be 48 in 2020, which could make for one creaky Batman. Downey is 49 right now — how much longer will he be Iron Man-appropriate?
No worries — what matters is the costume, the character, the fantasy. We’ve already gone through a handful of Superman actors and a bushel of Batmen. As long as this world is troubled — in other words, forever — audiences will want to turn to others. Hollywood knows this. And it hopes to make billions off that knowledge.