This week we go over 9 movies from 2003 to 2005, 6 of which are based on Marvel properties, just to give you an idea how much they’ve grown since Blade in 1998. Among the 9 we get a bunch of sequels, a reboot, two utterly terrible spin-offs, one big red hero, one bigger green hero and an original animated flick from Pixar.
After hitting the jackpot with X-Men in 2000, sequel was the name of the game for Fox. Just three years later X2: X-Men United came out to even greater success, opening with $85.5 million (X-Men had $54.4M) and grossing $214.9 million in North America and $407.2 million worldwide. After making a good deal more money then the first one (something very very rare back then with superhero sequels) and receiving even better fan and critical reception, a 3rd entry was right around the corner. What could possibly go wrong, right?
In June that same year Universal took another stab at the superhero genre with Hulk. Directed by Ang Lee, it turned out to be a disappointment for fans and based on the $62.1 million opening, a missed opportunity money wise. With just $132.1 million in North America and $245.3 million worldwide on a $137 million budget (second most expensive superhero movie at the time), Universal were not happy and everyone blamed director Ang Lee. You see, he tried to make a very talky movie out of a very smashy property, that was his big mistake. Personally I blame Universal since they hired him and they should have kept an eye on the project.
There are very popular superheroes like Hulk, Batman, X-Men and so on and then there’s Hellboy, a Dark Horse comic hero unknown to many, at least until the movie came out in 2004. Released by Sony under the direction of Blade 2 director, Guillermo Del Toro, while not a huge hit ($99.3 million worldwide on a $66 million budget), Hellboy took on a cult following. Great DVD sales and rentals turned sequel talk from fantasy to reality.
Now we get to the reboot I was mentioning in the intro. I’m going to burst a few bubbles here, this ain’t the very long anticipated return of Batman, nope, you’ll have to wait a bit more for that cause in 2004 we had The Punisher. But why call it a reboot? Well you see, back in 1989 there was another The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren that never made it into theaters in the US (hence why it wasn’t mentioned by me before). This new Punisher, while it got released on the big screen, wasn’t much to write home about. Having made only $54.7 million worldwide on a $33 million budget, Lionsgate decided to give the character a break until they could figure out where they’ll take him from there (sequel or another reboot).
On June 30th 2004, Spider-Man 2, the highly anticipated sequel of the arguably most popular superhero movie at the time, was released to glowing reviews eclipsing the first one. This became the new benchmark of the genre, loved by fans and even today considered among the best superhero movies ever to be brought to the big screen. Grossing $373.5 million in North America and $783.7 million worldwide, it became second only to Spider-Man ($403.7 and $821.7M) as the highest superhero money earner.
At this point DC Comics characters were out of the loop with Marvel dominating the field thanks to the likes of X-Men or Spidey. With the new Batman reboot in production, Warner decided to prepare audiences with a spin-off centered around catwomen. The name of the movie was, well, Catwomen and it bombed big time. On a budget of $100 million, it only made $40 million in North America and $82 million worldwide.
So far we’ve seen how popular established characters can become if done right, but how about an original animated superhero movie done by the masters of animation themselves. Yep, I’m talking about The Incredibles, a fantastic movie on itself that so happened to be animated and feature superheroes. It became the 3rd highest grossing in the genre with a stunning $261.4 million in North America and $631.4 million worldwide. So Disney and Pixar, how much longer do we have to wait for that Incredibles sequel, aye?
With the exception of the better forgotten Catwomen, 2004 featured a stellar lineup thanks to Hellboy, Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles, unfortunately not everything that starts great has to end the same way. We just had to finish the year on a bad note thanks to New Line and their Blade: Trinity, a rushed sequel panned by critics and hatted by fans, not to mention it made the least amount of money out of the trilogy ($128.9 million worldwide), helped in no small part by a bad release window (December). This was more then enough to put the series on an indefinite hiatus. Recently there have been rumors of a 4th Blade movie, but we’ll see how likely that is over the upcoming months.
And last but not… hell, this is definitely also least, I’m talking about Elektra after all, the horrible horrible Daredevil spin-off. So bad that it makes Daredevil seem like a masterpiece. $24.4 million in North America and $56.6 million worldwide is what this made and I can’t shake the feeling it should have been a straight to DVD affair.
In Part 7 we explore the new beginning of a beloved character, one that would mark a new turning point for superhero movies. I’ll give you a hint, he has a thing for bats.
– Superheroes at the box office (Part 1)
– Superheroes at the box office (Part 2)
– Superheroes at the box office (Part 3)
– Superheroes at the box office (Part 4)
– Superheroes at the box office (Part 5)