Summer Superhero Movies: An Overview

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
July 16th, 2012

Summer Superhero Movies: An Overview

After the (Hulk) smashing success of May's "The Avengers," audiences may begin to feel a little bit of superhero overdose with two more comic book favorites featured in new movies. Batman will be in "The Dark Knight Rises," and Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Both of the films are about storied superheroes who have each had previous movie franchises with a different set of actors. That is pretty much where the similarities end, though. The two movies may be compared to each other all summer, but that would be doing each one a disservice, since there is not really enough to compare.

"The Dark Knight Rises" is the final installment in a trilogy that pretty much changed superhero movies as we know them. Director Christopher Nolan turned the somewhat campy 1990s series on its ear. Though some still argue that Michael Keaton made for a better Bruce Wayne (Batman's alter ego), new star Christian Bale made a huge impact, turning Wayne into a much darker character. In fact, the entire series was much darker than the 90s one. Even the villains were more serious. In fact, the tagline for the Oscar-winning second film, "The Dark Knight," was "Why So Serious?"

The previous two films have a very polished and sleek look to them, and there is no reason to think that "The Dark Knight Rises" will be any different. The preview clips and trailers that have come out suggest that this may be the darkest yet, with villain Bane (Tom Hardy) and the more ambiguous Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) joining the fray. Plot details have been guarded like Fort Knox, so there isn't much to tell. It will, like its predecessors, likely do very well both stateside and overseas in ticket sales.

In contrast, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is the first entry into a newly-rebooted Spidey franchise. The first starred Toby Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, a young high school student who is bitten by a radioactive spider. As a result, he develops the power to climb walls without falling over. His agility and speed are also greatly increased. At the urging of his wise Aunt May, he takes on great responsibility by trying to rid New York of crime. For the new series, British actor Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network") will step in to replace Maguire.

Meanwhile, he develops an unrequited crush on Gwen (Emma Stone). This is in stark contrast to the previous Sam Raimi-directed films. In those, the love interest was Mary Jane Watson, not Gwen Stacy. Fans of the comic books will recognize Gwen as Peter Parker's first true love instead of Mary Jane.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" is basically an origin story that tells how Peter Parker came to be Spider-Man and his journey to figuring out what it means for his future. Most trilogies begin with this kind of origin story. The Raimi films did, and the Batman trilogy had "Batman Begins" that explained about Bruce Wayne's transformation into Batman.

This is yet another difference between "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises." The Spidey movie is the beginning of a brand-new trilogy, whereas the Batman film is tying up its own trilogy. They are both bookends of a series, but on opposite ends. One is a beginning, while the other is an end, because Nolan has said that this will be his final Batman film. Sure, the studio could forge ahead with another film, but it would likely have to be another reboot. Fans have become very passionate about Nolan's brave new take on Gotham City and would likely revolt if a fourth film in the series were to be made without Nolan's involvement.

Plans have already been announced for a second film in the new Spider-Man trilogy, which has a tentative release date in the summer of 2014. Writers Steve Kurtzman and Roberto Orci of "Fringe" and the rebooted "Hawaii Five-0" fame are reportedly doing a rewrite on the script before it goes into preproduction. Of course, this is all contingent upon the box-office success of the film. Considering the huge fan base that Spider-Man has, that is almost a foregone conclusion.

There are some similarities, but mostly big differences, between these two summer films. The biggest difference might just be that they are from DC Comics (Batman) and Marvel (Spider-Man), two completely different comic book houses with fervent fan bases that often oppose each other. Think of the "Star Trek" vs. "Star Wars" fan bases as a comparison. In the end, both movies will likely do very well at the box office, prompting people who are more casual fans to wonder why fans of each comic book universe can't get along.