Winners and Losers of 2015's Comic Book Movie Summer

Marvel reigns supreme.

Take a stroll across the vast internet onto the posts, forums, and comments sections of movie blogs and it might seem as if multiplexes are stuffed with comic book movies. And yes, while audiences flocked to the theaters this summer in record-breaking numbers, most of those patrons shelled out for petrolhead sequels, dinosaur reboots and Tom Cruise’s latest extended stunts reel. Out of all the films released during Hollywood’s peak season, only three were comic book movies. Read on for our ranking of their successes.

It was good!

For a studio who relies on recognizable names - both actors and characters - to top-line its blockbusters, it was a surprise to all when Ant-Man become one of the best summer movies in recent years. The tale of Hank Pym, Scott Lang, and suits that scale down the wearer to Dennis Quaid-circa-Inner Space-size wound up being an unexpected hit. And why not?

Like last year’s Guardians Of The Galaxy it wasn’t supposed to be a tentpole pic, more of a mid-Phase gamble that might soak up some late summer dollars. Its financial success confirms that assumption - it took $361 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. Might seem like a decent haul, but that’s peanuts to Marvel; $200 mil barely covers Robert Downey Jr’s salary. Regardless, it set the stage for Ant-Man to appear in future Marvel movies, and no doubt pop up again in a sequel. Should that come to pass, it’ll be one of the few times fans don’t shake their fists of fury at a quick cash grab.

It was fine

Marvel opened the season with a follow-up to its 2012 mega-smash superhero spectacle. Avengers: Age Of Ultron kicked off proceedings in early May, shooting straight to the top of the box office with a hefty $191 million take home on its first weekend. That amount - while staggering - came under fire when compared to the opening three day takings of its predecessor. It didn’t quite top The Avengers’ $207 million. Then again, that first outing didn’t have to compete with the Pacquiao-Mayweather (cat)fight.

Contrary to what Trump has needled onto his blankie, money isn’t everything. Fans of Tony Stark’s beloved bunch of heroes rely on more than cold hard cash: critical reactions matter. It scooped up the usual above-average praise, with the occasional dig at its escalating action sequences — that even its characters admit made no sense — and over- complicating a rather simple plot. Joss Whedon’s exhaustion after crafting his second juggernaut for Marvel is thought to be a contributing factor to its tangled final act, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun watching the Avengers tussle on a levitating rock.

The Worst

It only gets second runner-up because there are only three movies. Turkey is a better assignation. Fantastic Four is undoubted proof that not all superhero ensembles guarantee success. What’s astounding about Fox’s mismanagement of a property ripe with potential is that this is the second time its happened. The noughties brought two cheeseball riffs on Marvel’s First Family that are, in retrospect, far more enjoyable movies.

A hideous production, a patchy marketing campaign and an edit job seemingly bestowed upon an untrained intern all contributed to what’s now been dubbed the “worst superhero movie of all time” by… well, most people who’ve seen it. There are a few glints here and there at what could have been greatness. Early concept art depicting Doom’s lair on Planet Zero. An insane action sequence featuring Thing. Kate Mara without a wig. There’s simply very little of this patchwork mess that’s salvageable. Critics and audiences were in agreement. It holds a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 8%. Better luck next year, Fox.

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