REVISITING LAST YEAR'S PREDICTIONS...
As always, we'll get things underway with a recap of the past year, as Warner Bros. rebooted Superman and kicked off its DC Movie Universe with Man of Steel, Marvel Studios got Phase Two of the Cinematic Universe underway with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, 20th Century Fox banished the ghost of X-Men Origins: Wolverine with The Wolverine, and Universal Pictures found itself struggling in the crowded marketplace with Kick-Ass 2...
Last Year's Prediction - "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 [and] if Snyder, Nolan and Goyer can deliver anything close to Dark Knight quality, then Warner Bros.' Superman reboot could really soar."
The Reality - Well, I overestimated Kick-Ass 2 and Man of Steel somewhat, with Kick-Ass 2 pulling in just $59.6 million and Man of Steel just falling short of $700 million with $662 million, while Iron Man 3 had no trouble hitting a billion, obliterating the box office competition and becoming the biggest release of the year - and the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time - with $1.215 billion. The Wolverine also performed better than I expected, banking $415 million, while I was pretty much bang on the money with Thor: The Dark World.
THIS TIME AROUND...
Warner Bros. hasn't come out on top at the box office superhero showdown since The Dark Knight bested Iron Man back in 2008, and its assured that won't happen this year either, with DC entirely absent from the 2014 superhero season (and the 2015 superhero season, but that's another story). So, as WB puts all of its efforts into 2016 and Batman vs. Superman, Marvel fans are left with plenty to look forward to this year as Marvel Studios continues the build towards The Avengers: Age of Ultron with Captain America: The First Avenger and Guardians of the Galaxy, Marc Webb expands Sony's Spidey universe with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Bryan Singer brings together 20th Century Fox's two X-Men timelines for X-Men: Days of Future Past. Let's take a look at each in turn...
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.
Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Georges St-Pierre, Toby Jones, Maximiliano Hernandez, Dominic Cooper and Samuel L. Jackson.
Chris Evans returns for his third outing as the super soldier Steve Rogers as Marvel kicks off the 2014 superhero season - and continues Phase Two of the Cinematic Universe - with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a loose adaptation of Ed Brubaker's Winter Soldier story arc which sees Cap's best buddy Bucky (Sebastian Stan) returning from the dead as the bionic-armed assassin.
Captain America: The First Avenger wasn't the biggest of successes for Marvel (it's the studio's second-lowest earner behind The Incredible Hulk), but the sequel has a few things going for it. It's the first superhero movie of the year, it's got little in the way of blockbuster competition throughout April, and - much like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World - it's also going to benefit from the Avengers Bump (it's cleverly been described as 'Avengers 1.5' by Anthony Mackie, and there are several familiar faces on display). So there's absolutely no doubt that The Winter Soldier will go on to outperform its predecessor, although it's not going to find itself challenging the top earners of the year either.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is set for release on March 26th in the UK and April 4th in North America. Watch the trailer here.
Directed by Marc Webb.
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Chris Cooper, Colm Feore, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Felicity Jones, B.J. Novak, Marton Csokas, Martin Sheen, Chris Zylka and Sarah Gadon.
The second superhero movie of the year - and the second sequel - sees Andrew Garfield donning his new-look Spider-Man costume to do battle with a host of new villains, including Jamie Foxx's Electro, Paul Giamatti's The Rhino, Dane DeHaan's Harry Osborn / Green Goblin and Chris Cooper's Norman Osborn (that we know of), as Sony looks to take on Marvel Studios by expanding its Spidey Cinematic Universe.
Despite a mixed reception from audiences, Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man managed to pull in over $750 million at the global box office back in 2012, and while that leaves it the lowest-grossing instalment of the franchise, the sequel doesn't have The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises going up against it. Usually, superhero sequels manage to outperform their predecessors (although that wasn't the case with Spider-Man 2), and with the wall-crawler the most recognisable name in this year's showdown, Sony must be confident that TASM2 will enjoy a solid run at the box office. But is cramming the film full of villains the answer? It didn't work out too well for Spider-Man 3, did it? Well, actually, box-office wise it did - the threequel is currently the highest-grossing chapter of the Spider-Man franchise with over $890 million in the bank.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is set for release on April 18th in the UK and May 2nd in North America. Watch the trailers here, here and here.
Directed by Bryan Singer.
Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Lucas Till, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Daniel Cudmore, Evan Peters, Omar Sy, Booboo Stewart, Fan Binbing, Adam Canto, Josh Helman and Peter Dinklage.
Arriving just three weeks after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is yet another sequel, with Bryan Singer bringing together the casts of the original X-Men trilogy and X-Men: First Class for an adaptation of the classic X-Men comic book arc Days of Future Past, which sees Xavier's team battling to prevent an apocalyptic future for mutantkind.
Despite reinventing the modern superhero movie back in 2000, Fox's X-Men franchise has never quite managed to reach the box office heights enjoyed by Sony, Marvel Studios and Warner Bros., with X-Men: The Last Stand currently the biggest earner with just under $460 million worldwide. However, Singer has assembled a virtual who's who of the X-Men franchise for Days of Future Past, led of course by Hugh Jackman (whose last solo movie The Wolverine pulled in a solid $415 million last year), so the signs appear good for this one at the box office. However, repeat business could be tough, with the likes of Maleficent, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon 2 all arriving within a few weeks of its release.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is set for release on May 23rd. Watch the trailer here.
Directed by James Gunn.
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close.
And so, we come to the first original superhero property of the year - and the one that has the most question marks surrounding it - with director James Gunn bringing Marvel's cosmic superhero team Guardians of the Galaxy to the screen for the final Phase Two offering before The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a bold move for Marvel Studios, with the team having little in the way of name recognition outside of comic book fans, not to mention the fact that the last space-set superhero movie Green Lantern failed to live up to expectations both critically and commercially. However, this is Marvel Studios, who are still riding high of the success of The Avengers, and at this point look as if they can do no wrong. The internet is on board, but the question is, can Marvel get the general public interested? It's still early days with regards to the marketing campaign, but from what we've seen the film looks like a tonne of fun and if that comes across in the trailers then there's a chance Marvel can bring the 2014 superhero season to a close with a bang. However, it won't be easy, especially with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opening the following week...
Guardians of the Galaxy is set for release on August 1st.
In 2012, superhero movies grossed $3.5 billion at the box office, with both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises hitting the $1 billion mark. Last year that figure fell to just under $3 billion, with only Iron Man 3 reaching the magical ten figures. This year, the cumulative gross is sure to fall again - probably by a bigger margin - and I'd be hugely surprised if any of 2014's offerings manage to crack a billion. Saying that, 2014 isn't going to be the year that the superhero bubble bursts and I expect each of these films to make solid profit for their respective studios.
As for the biggest earner of the year, I can't look past The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and I expect the sequel to pull in around $700 million, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past with around $550 - $600 million apiece (if I had to pick between the two, I think The Winter Soldier will have the slight edge due to The Avengers Bump). And as for Guardians of the Galaxy, it's really tough to predict... but if it reaches $400 million then I think Marvel would be happy with the returns.
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 2014 Superhero Showdown...
2013 - Iron Man 3 vs Man of Steel vs Kick-Ass 2 vs The Wolverine vs Thor: The Dark World
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.