I have never been a huge fan of comic books, but movies based on them have always been interesting to me, starting with the fact that if you asked any guy who grew up in the ’90s who their favorite superhero is, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone of them who wouldn’t automatically say Batman.
It comes from the string of movies made throughout that decade, starting in 1989 with Tim Burton’s “Batman.”
Batman is a superhero who is haunted by his past, and Burton’s picture was an amazing portrayal of the essence of the character. He’s a tortured hero fighting crime in the depraved city he grew up in who eventually has to take on an incredibly powerful psychopath to save both the city and himself in the process.
When Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” came out, not only did Batman develop an even deeper and more complex persona, it also created a fire under rival comic book Marvel’s proverbial behind.
Now, as a person who never read any comic books save for that time in the nineties when Superman was creatively killed off, I’ll preface this by telling you that I have the biggest lack of knowledge about comic books imaginable, so bear with me.
Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and the Justice League come from DC Comics.
In 2005, Marvel’s power in the superhero movie market was pretty lackluster. The X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and Captain America, who make up Marvel’s Avengers, had only been relatively successful in box office terms, with the X-Men taking most of the glory and Spider-Man making a profitable but weak critical showing.
So when Nolan gave us an even darker yet more quintessential Batman, Marvel had to step up. It took them three years to make Robert Downey Jr. into Tony Stark and Iron Man, a quipping, smart-aleck inventor of untold scientific brilliance.
I was hugely skeptical and didn’t watch the film until a few years after its release until it finally came on cable. I loved it, not as much as Batman, but I loved it nonetheless.
Marvel loved it even more because it generated more than $550 million at the box office and gave them a trilogy of Iron Man films that finally certified its rightful place in the comic book film market after losing to Batman in numerous consecutive showings.
After having made bombs with two different Hulk movies and other modern adaptations of their classic superheroes, Marvel was able to parlay “Iron Man” into eventually making 2012’s “The Avengers,” which became the fastest movie in history to make a billion dollars at the box office.
Now, I know that the comic book world has a very tight knit group of fans with endless personal preferences about particular artists, story lines and villains, but I also know that if DC Comics hadn’t been so successful with “The Dark Knight” films, Marvel would never had been able to have Downey’s Iron Man join The Avengers and take a large, jumbled mass of poorly made films and turn it into a billion dollar cash cow, while turning Downey into the hottest star in Hollywood.
Take into account that in both the plots of both Batman and Iron Man, each hero is a billionaire genius. “Batman Begins” features Wayne Tower, which anchors Gotham’s mass transit and its energy grid, and “The Avengers” features Stark Tower, which also anchors the Los Angeles grid.
I’m not above understanding that comic books inherently contain similar symbolism and story lines, but Nolan’s films for DC seem to have influenced everything Marvel has been able to profit off of lately, save for the fact that DC produces movies that viewers actually have to think about while watching, rather than when Marvel simply makes a film that includes everyone they could possibly throw in to legitimize the weaker members of the superhero pack.
With the recent news that Ben Affleck has been chosen to play Batman in the upcoming “Man of Steel” sequel, it seems as if DC is having to play Marvel’s game, so as it undoubtedly always does, the plot thickens.