As of this writing, Joker has surpassed the $300 million mark at the worldwide box office well ahead of its second weekend in theaters. Amid the slow death of the mid-budget drama in Hollywood, it turns out that audiences will indeed show up for an old-school psychological character study if you wed it to a piece of highly-visible superhero property. Joker‘s immense success now opens up the floodgates for a full-on genre takeover mounted by the ever-inflating superhero bubble; theatrical avenues that were once closed can now be opened with the right framing.
If the future of the superhero movie industry is “[insert genre] delivered as comic book material,” than we have a few suggestions for what should come next.
Reed Richards and Sue Storm
Under 20th Century Fox, the Fantastic Four appeared in three vastly disappointing feature films; the 2015 reboot is even one of the most egregious box office bombs in the genre’s history. Now that Disney owns Fox, the characters will be rebooted within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But instead of running back the same origin story formula for the fourth time in 15 years, why not try something different?
The MCU embraces humor and has shown a willingness to expand its tonal and stylistic scope (2021’s Doctor Strange sequel will be a horror movie). To infuse the Fantastic Four with some much-needed new life, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige could turn their introduction into a romantic comedy featuring Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and Sue Storm (The Invisible Woman). The genre is still relevant and potent under the right circumstances, such as when it provides demographic diversity (Crazy Rich Asians) and impressive meme fodder (Always Be My Maybe).
While the MCU would never abandon the conventional superhero structure to the degree that Joker did, it has amalgamated other frameworks in the past. Captain America: The Winter Soldier drew inspiration from the political thrillers of the 1970s; Ant-Man is a heist flick at its core; Black Panther is infused with afro-futurism and distinct sci-fi elements. A meet-cute between real-life husband and wife John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as our lead characters that goes the way of the rom-com would be a delightful new turn within the MCU.
This one is from Scott Mendelson of Forbes who believes we could see “a Gambit movie that is 99.9% romantic heist flick with little-to-no superhero shading beyond a few exterior references.” So, the charisma and stylistic thievery of George Clooney’s Oceans franchise mixed with the raw sex appeal of Basic Instinct? (Side Note: Steven Soderbergh or Paul Verhoeven should absolutely direct Gambit’s romantic heist film). Who says no to that?
Gambit, the card-throwing fan-favorite Cajun mutant, was badly mishandled in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and was doomed to development hell as a solo flick with Channing Tatum. The character is desperately in need of a cinematic makeover. A low stakes, low cost, sexy heist thriller is exactly the way to reintroduce him to modern audiences while also making the type of adult-skewing big screen feature Hollywood rarely tackles anymore.
Josh Holloway or Timothy Olyphant could handle the role while bringing the necessary con-man wink-and-smile charm to the proceedings.
Ryan Reynolds’ 2011 Green Lantern is not a good movie and Warner Bros.’ plans for a galaxy-spanning Green Lantern Corps feature set within the DCEU have not yet come close to fruition. As of right now, GL’s big screen prospects are dormant. Instead of a traditional superhero adventure that connects to the Justice League, we suggest making a Green Lantern film that is more of a war epic that just so happens to be set in space.
Adopting this boots-on-the-ground mentality enabled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to stand apart from the franchise and earn north of $1 billion worldwide. Similarly, it could provide DC Films with an ambitious shellshock of a movie-going experience. Imagine the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan, but instead of American soldiers, it is young Green Lanterns pouring into the line of enemy fire in the stratosphere of some far off world. Mirror the claustrophobic first-person terror of Dunkirk as our protagonists are pinned down by encroaching enemies.
DC Films is expected to launch a new banner dedicated to experimental superhero films. What’s the point if they don’t shoot for the stars?