Culture Crash 19-04: A New Future for Comic Book Movies

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

The comic book movie landscape appears to be transforming. It’s no secret that comic book movies absolutely dominate at the box office; Last year, the top-grossing movie in the US was Black Panther, while number two was Avengers: Infinity War. And, at the global box office, those two were also the frontrunners, their places were just flipped. 2018 additionally saw smash successes in Aquaman, Venom, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

And it’s that last one that may show us the comic book movie’s way forward. Spider-Verse was released in December and has made over $300 million worldwide. The movie is groundbreaking and fun and truly something unique in a field that can often feel too cookie-cutter. But here’s something a little odd about the movie: it was released right between 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home… but it has nothing to do with either of them. Spider-Man now has two full-fledged film franchises running simultaneously, one of which is populated itself with many different Spider-heroes.

And Spidey isn’t alone! This year will see WB and DC release Joker, which will star Joaquin Phoenix as Batman’s nemesis, the Joker… but is not related to Heath Leger’s iconic turn in The Dark Knight or Jared Leto’s less beloved take on the character in Suicide Squad. And, oh yeah, the character has also appeared in The Lego Batman Movie franchise and the DCEU’s own line of animated films which don’t intersect.

Now, maybe we should have seen this coming. After all, comic books themselves often have overlapping timelines and unrelated storylines running concurrently. But following the success of the MCU’s Avengers films, it seemed that comic movies had settled into this TV-like expansive universe storytelling. But now, the demand for comic book movies has exceeded the bounds of just one continuity at a time. More of these movies are coming, so many more coming. And of course, that might mean a glut of more middling blockbusters. But if these new franchises are all given the consideration and care that Spider-Verse got, well then that’s not a bad thing at all. So, here’s to hoping.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 18-25: A new Spider-Man movie worth getting excited for

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Summer is the time of year when blockbusters are released and when the trailers for the fall slate of movies begin coming in earnest. Some recent highlights include the trailers for Steve McQueen’s Widows and Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star Is Born. One preview  that stood out to me and many others is the trailer for the forthcoming animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

I know what you’re thinking- another Spider-Man story? The answer is yes, but you should be very excited. This ain’t your father’s Spider-Man, and that’s a good thing. Into the Spider-Verse will focus not on Peter Parker’s Spiderman, but Miles Morales’s.

If you’re not familiar, Morales is half-black, half-Latino and also, of course, becomes part spider. His 2011 debut was met with the predictable cries that all diversity is a publicity stunyt, but forget about the whiny internet trolls, because diverse storytelling is good storytelling and on merit, Morales is an incredible character.

In addition to sharing most of Parker’s abilities, Morales can also totally camouflage himself and has a special tool called his venom strike, allowing him to temporarily paralyze his foes. Additionally, yeah, he’s a minority Spider-Man, and that’s awesome. Young black children and Latino children deserve representation, and Morales gives them a fresh, young character to cherish… and he offers all of us a nice breath of fresh air from the overly familiar, oft-retread story of Peter Parker.

Into The Spider-Verse looks visually stunning as well, employing a signature comic-book look in its animation style that isn’t trying to look as real as possible. It’s animated… and that’s what can make it great. Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe hit its full stride with The Avengers in 2012, superhero movies have grown to look more and more bland. Into the Spider-Verse looks like it will show us what’s possible when studios stop worrying about earning tax breaks by filming in Atlanta or saving money by shooting on sound stages, and instead create with their imaginations totally unleashed.

Miles Morales will swing into theaters in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse this December, but the movie’s trailer is online now, and it’s worth seeking out.

I’m Evan Rook.