The State of the Superhero Movie: Golden Age of Comic Book Films?

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The Wolverine won the box office battle this past weekend and extended the streak of superhero movies that have opened at number one. But believe it or not, it wasn't always that way.

Batman vs. Superman Logo

When Richard Donner set out to make Superman with Christopher Reeve in the title role, teeth had to be pulled to get the film green lit.  Movies based on comic books were thought to be a fools' game where the big loser would be the studios' bottom line. 

If you look at the current top 20 grossing movies of all time, comic book films fill out four of the spots. Think about that, a fifth of the movies that have made more money than any other in history... are based on comic books. 

Selling millions of tickets does not necessarily equate to high quality of the movie itself, but if you were to rate how the superhero movie is doing in terms of how good these movies are, things are pretty solid out there at the moment.

Even forgetting how close we were to not seeing Reeve as the Man of Steel, superhero movies have had their fair share of projects that were not only subpar, but were downright disasters.

Green Lantern: Ryan Reynolds

Having an established property is not enough to cull the maximum power of the movies. Movies such as The Shadow, Daredevil, Catwoman, The Hulk(s), Green Hornet and Green Lantern show that as the center of a movie enterprise, a solid and compelling story must be present.

That was a lesson that was never so fully realized as in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. When Batman Begins hit, people were blown away by what they were witnessing. It wasn't just the talent of Christian Bale and the power of Nolan's direction, but it was John Goyer's script that took the film to the upper echelons of movie magic. The second film in the series even won an Oscar for Heath Ledger and came within a hair of earning an Oscar nod for Best Picture.

Since Nolan's series debuted, the superhero movie has been on a roll of epic proportions. Where Iron Man and his Marvel studio cohorts Captain America and Thor set a high standard, their collective effort The Avengers sent the bar for superheroes through the roof.

And now with the success of Man of Steel ($644 million globally and counting) and the announcement that Batman will be in the Man of Steel sequel, it appears that DC Comics is catching up to where Marvel is -- although with Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World all on the horizon, DC still has much ground to cover.

The Avengers in Action

But the news could not be better for superhero fans who adore seeing their larger-than-life favorites on the big screen. The state of the superhero movie has honestly never been better. I could even argue that we are indeed in a golden age of comic book movies.

And frankly, I see no end in sight. 

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