LAST TIME OUT...
As always, we begin with a recap of the past year, which saw new instalments from the three highest-grossing superhero franchises - Batman, Spider-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe - as well as another outing for Nicolas Cage's Johnny Blaze in the sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance...
Last Year’s Prediction - “On paper, everything looks set for 2012 to become the year of the superhero movie and - done right - all four releases have the potential to become the defining installment in their respective series (which in the case of Ghost Rider, isn't saying all that much). Selecting a favourite will probably come down to personal taste, but in terms of critical and commercial success it's hard to look past The Dark Knight Rises. If the current level of hype is anything to go by, Nolan’s goodbye to Gotham City is going to be huge and may even surpass the billion dollar haul of its predecessor. It will also cut into the takings of The Amazing Spider-Man, so although Sony’s reboot will enjoy a fantastic start, I expect it to end up the lowest-grossing installment behind Spider-Man 2 ($783m). The Avengers on the other hand should set a record for Marvel Studios and will probably offer the most competition to The Dark Knight Rises, with the big event picture arriving early and facing little competition from fellow superheroes as it looks to overtake Iron Man 2's global haul of $623m. As for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, it won't set the box office on fire but will more than likely do just about enough to 'warrant' another installment.”
The Reality - Well, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance didn't set the box office alight, but it did turn a healthy profit, banking $132.5 million from a $57 million budget - although thankfully, a third instalment is yet to be announced. In terms of the big three, Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man pulled in $752 million, leaving it trailing Sam Raimi's prevous efforts, while The Dark Knight Rises did surpass the billion-dollar haul of 2008's The Dark Knight to become the highest-grossing entry of Warner Bros.' Batman movie franchise with $1.081 billion... however, it wasn't enough to take the superhero crown of 2012, with Marvel's The Avengers easily shattering the previous MCU high set by Iron Man 2 as it banked a year-high of $1.511 billion, making it the third-biggest film of all-time behind Titanic and Avatar.
THIS TIME OUT...
While 2012 may have been a landmark year for superhero movies, 2013 looks set to go one better with five big releases arriving in cinemas: Disney and Marvel Studios launch Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with two solo sequels in Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World; Hugh Jackman dons the adamantium claws once more for 20th Century Fox's solo X-Men sequel The Wolverine; Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz return in Kick-Ass 2; and Warner Bros. looks to launch its own shared DC movie universe with the hotly-anticipated Superman reboot Man of Steel, which also happens to be the only non-sequel this year.
Will 'the greatest superhero of all time' prove enough of a draw to give Warner Bros. and DC their first box office victory since The Dark Knight bested Marvel's Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk way back in 2008? And with so much content incoming over the next twelve months, could this be the year that the superhero movie bubble finally bursts? Here's my take on 2013's Superhero Showdown...
Iron Man 3
Directed by Shane Black.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, William Sadler, Ashley Hamilton, Stephanie Szostak and Paul Bettany.
Marvel Studios gets the 2013 Superhero Season underway this year as Robert Downey Jr. reprises the role of billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark to kick-start Phase Two of the MCU with Iron Man 3. The solo sequel sees Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) taking over directing duties from Iron Man and Iron Man 2 helmer Jon Favreau and promises to deliver a dramatic change in direction from previous instalments as the Armored Avenger goes up against his arch-nemesis The Mandarin (portrayed by Ben Kingsley), not to mention Aldrich Killian's (Guy Pearce) 'extremis' army.
In terms of its chances of success, things are looking extremely positive for Iron Man 3 - Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is a huge fan favourite, it's the first superhero movie of the year, it's Marvel's first movie after The Avengers, and it's also occupying the same release slot as last summer's mega-blockbuster. In fact, the only downside is that it's a follow-up to Marvel's weakest film to date Iron Man 2, but The Avengers factor will have pushed that to the back of people's minds and only a fool would bet against this being anything but a smash hit.
Iron Man 3 is set for release on April 26th in the UK and May 3rd in North America. Watch the trailer here.
Man of Steel
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Ayelet Zurer, Antje Traue, Christopher Meloni, Tahmoh Penikett and Jadin Gould.
Now that Batman has hung up his cape (for the time being at least), it's down to Superman to carry the DC flag at Warner Bros., and this year 300 and Watchmen director Zack Snyder will attempt to succeed where Bryan Singer's Superman Returns didn't quite succeed / failed miserably [delete as appropriate] by delivering a 21st century take on the Last Son of Krypton with Man of Steel. With Dark Knight maestro Christopher Nolan producing and David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) penning the script, there's an air of expectancy around Man of Steel, which will follow Henry Cavill's (Immortals) Clark Kent on his journey to becoming to the greatest hero the world has ever known.
Fans aren't the only ones with high hopes either, with Warner Bros. looking to use Man of Steel to kick start a DC movie universe that may or may not lead to the long-rumoured Justice League feature. The studio has a lot riding on the reboot and with the talent on board there's every chance the film will deliver, so Man of Steel should find itself comfortably overtaking the $391m gross of Superman Returns to become the highest-grossing instalment in the franchise. Highest grossing comic book movie of 2013? Well, that's another question...
Man of Steel is set for release on June 14th. Watch the teaser trailer here and theatrical trailer here.
Directed by Jeff Wadlow.
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo, Lyndsy Fonseca, Lindy Booth, Donald Faison, Morris Chestnut, Yancy Butler and Clark Duke.
A sequel to the 2010 cult hit, Kick-Ass 2 is based upon the ultra-violent comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. and sees Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) succeeding Matthew Vaughn in the director's chair. Having inspired a new generation of costumed crime-fighters, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) joins the masked vigilante group Justice Forever, but the heroes soon find themselves hunted by the Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) - reborn as the world's first super villain The Mother F*cker - forcing Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to come out of retirement to help Justice Forever against The Mother F*cker and his own team of criminals, The Toxic Mega-C*nts.
Considering the risque content of the comic book, Kick-Ass 2 is likely to kick up a storm of controversy and is sure to bag itself a hard-R rating, which is obviously going to limit its box office potential. Still, the first movie has a cult following, and the addition of Jim Carrey for the small but pivotal role of Colonel Stars and Stripes is sure to put a few bums on seats, so expect Kick-Ass 2 to do solid business and go on to at least double its rumoured $40 million budget.
Kick-Ass 2 is set for release on June 28th in North America and July 19th in the UK.
Directed by James Mangold.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima and Hal Yamanouchi.
Hugh Jackman makes his sixth outing as the X-Men's adamantium-clawed mutant Wolverine in director James Mangold's (Knight and Day) solo sequel to the original X-Men trilogy. Based upon the classic Japan storyline from the 1982 limited series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine sees Logan struggling to get over the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, who is rumoured to have reprised her role for a cameo appearance) in X-Men: The Last Stand; venturing to Japan, Logan is pushed to his physical and emotional limits as he faces his ultimate nemesis, the Silver Samurai (Will Yun Lee).
We're yet to see a first trailer for The Wolverine, so it's tough to judge how this one is shaping up. Jackman's last solo outing X-Men Origins: Wolverine was an abomination, so I'd be very surprised (and very disappointed) if this one wasn't a huge improvement in terms of quality. Still, it's going to be a tough sell with the Japanese setting (especially if we're getting subtitles) and the fact that Jackman is the only recognisable face in the cast; his drawing power will be enough to ensure The Wolverine turns a tidy profit, but it's not going to be breaking any records either - and that includes The Last Stand's franchise high of $459.4m.
The Wolverine is set for release on July 26th.
Thor: The Dark World
Directed by Alan Taylor.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Jaimie Alexander, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.
Thor was probably the biggest surprise of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Introducing the mythical elements of Asgard was always going to be a risky proposition for Marvel Studios, but it paid off handsomely as Kenneth Branagh's Thor pulled in just under $450m in worldwide receipts and made a star out of its leading man Chris Hemsworth. Now Hemsworth is heading back to Asgard post-The Avengers under director Alan Taylor, who'll be drawing upon his fantasy experience on Game of Thrones as Thor battles to save the Nine Realms from Christopher Eccleston's Malekith the Accursed and his army of Dark Elves.
Given the popularity of Hemsworth's God of Thunder - and Tom Hiddleston's Loki - the stage is set for Thor: The Dark World to close the 2013 superhero season in style. The first movie was a solid hit for Marvel Studios, especially internationally, and Thor: The Dark World should build upon that success, even if The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will offer some competition at the back end of November. Still, at least it's not going up against The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and I expect Thor: The Dark World will round out another fine year for the folks at Disney and Marvel Studios.
Thor: The Dark World is set for release on October 30th in the UK and November 8th in North America.
Firstly, I feel confident in saying that 2013 will be another good year for the superhero genre, and I expect each of the five films will turn a healthy profit for their respective studios, as well as all being pretty good films to boot. Kick-Ass 2 has no chance against the big boys, but it should go on to roughly match its predecessor with a global haul of around $75-$80m, while The Wolverine will benefit from the added 3D surcharge to pull in around $350m, which is on par with X-Men: First Class and about average for the franchise. Now that the character is firmly established, I imagine Thor: The Dark World will outperform the $450m take of the first movie and has a shot at reaching the $623.9m haul of Iron Man 2 if it can get off to a strong enough start.
That just leaves Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, and I have to say I'm struggling to separate the two. Both will likely open huge and should each hit at least $700m worldwide, with $1 billion not out of the question. However, Iron Man 3 won't enjoy anywhere near the same kind of repeat business as The Avengers, while Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III will all cut into its long-term takings. However, Man of Steel isn't without competition either (Monsters University, World War Z, The Lone Ranger and Pacific Rim all arriving within a few weeks of its release - but if Snyder, Nolan and Goyer can deliver anything close to Dark Knight quality, then Warner Bros.' Superman reboot could really soar.
So, it's a tough one, but my pick for the biggest superhero movie of 2013 is Man of Steel, which I think could just edge out Iron Man 3 to give Warner Bros. and DC Comics their first box office victory since 2008. Marvel will be back on top next year though - Marvel Studios has Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, Sony has The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Fox has X-Men: Days of Future Past; and Warner Bros. has... nothing. Unless Justice League sorts itself out, there's nothing concrete for 2015 either (or any other year, for that matter).
How do you think this year's big superhero movies will fare, and which will come out on top box office-wise? Let us know your thoughts on the 2013 Superhero Showdown...
2012 - Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance vs The Avengers vs The Amazing Spider-Man vs The Dark Knight Rises
2011 - Thor vs X-Men: First Class vs Green Lantern vs Captain America: The First Avenger
2010 - Iron Man 2 vs Kick-Ass vs Jonah Hex
2009 - Watchmen vs X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen - Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.