It’s an awesome time to be a superhero fan right now. Ever since Christian Bale and Robert Downey Jr. donned their famous alter egos as Batman and Iron Man, Hollywood has realised that not only that comic book adaptations don’t have to be cheesy, they can make a lot of money. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (or the MCU, as it’s more commonly known) is now the highest grossing film franchise ever at a staggering $9 billion and it should come to no surprise that since since 2012, the top 10 bigger earners of each year has been filled with massive superhero hits like Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and X-Men: Days of the Future Past. Unlike many blockbusters of the modern age, these movies are also running away with critic and fan appraisal too. Rotten Tomatoes – the biggest movie reception database taking critic and fan reviews from all over the web – doesn’t rank a single MCU movie under 66%, with the likes of Iron Man, Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy all hitting the 90s in approval ratings. Ten years ago these sorts of figures and opinions were completely unheard of in the comic book movie world. Back then, superhero fans were happy if we got a half decent, non-dancing Spider-Man movie, but now we expect only the best. We expect the most action packed, the funniest, the most gripping and sometimes grittiest Hollywood has to give to fill out superhero need. Every few decades, the movie industry tends to see a golden age of a particular genre. In the 1960’s we saw the rise of the Spaghetti Western and the 80’s saw over-the-top, mindless action films draw in crowds. I don’t think there’s any hiding the fact that the mid 2010’s – early 2020’s is going to be the prime time of superheroes.
While you could argue that we have already reached the golden age of superhero movies with these huge critical and financial successes, I think we’ve only just passed the origin story of this mighty tale and merely turning the first pages of issue #2. 2016 promises to be one of the most ambitious years for comic book movies ever; especially for Marvel. On the big screen, the entire MCU is set to change forever with the hugely anticipated Captain America: Civil War which will see Cap and the now mega-star Iron Man facing off against eachother. Later in the year will also see the arrival for a brand new hero into the Avengers mix in the form of Doctor Strange, who will catch most casual viewers attention by being played by Sherlock himself, Benedict Cumberbatch. As for the small screen, things are anything but quiet on the Marvel front. Agent Carter has already returned for a second season on ABC, with Agents of SHIELD set to conclude its third season after a breathtaking mid-season finale. Meanwhile over on Netflix, the second season of Daredevil is returning in March with Luke Cage making his solo debut on the streaming service later this year. Feeling overwhelmed yet?
Outside of Marvel Studios there is no difference in terms of content we’re getting. Deadpool (a Marvel property produced by 20th Century Fox) is set to open in theaters in just a few days time and – despite being a very adult comedy – is predicted to be a huge success. This success for Fox is expected to be followed by X-Men: Apocalypse which hopes to follow on from the huge critical acclaim the last chapter in the mutant saga back in 2014 (Days of the Future Past). If you’re not really a Marvel fan however – or simply just want more superheroes – DC has you covered with even more action-packed blockbusters. March is going to see the release of what I would argue is the most hyped comic book movie of all time, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. The conflict between these superhero giants is expected to open up a huge cinemtatic universe to rival that of the MCU, and Warner Brothers are quick to establish this as May will see the release of Suicide Squad featuring none other than everyone’s favourite evil clown, The Joker.
I haven’t even went into the Doomsday sized number of DC related TV shows on the box this year but I think you get my point. There’s a lot of comic book content on the horizon for 2016 and 2017 is going to be even bigger; especially for Marvel.
2017 is the big, big year for Marvel Studios in my opinion, which for the first time will see three MCU movies released over the 12 months. First up we have the highly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Called a big risk from Marvel Studios which left even the biggest of comic book fans puzzled over it’s conception when released in 2014, GotG’s story, action and fantastic performances from Chris Pratt and co. made this unknown superhero team into a household name faster than you can say “I am Groot.” The critical acclaim alone from Guardian’s of the Galaxy’s trailers were enough to allow Disney and Marvel announce that this sequel several weeks before the movie even opened. They saw it as no risk and it paid off, now fans everywhere are eager to rejoin Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot again and further push the cosmic side of this universe. While very little is known about the second 2017 project, next summer will also see Spider-Man return to the big screen again this time finally under the Marvel Studios umbrella. Although many may be tired for yet another film based on the web-slinging teenager (this will be the sixth one since his movie debut in 2002), this is a brand new telling of the hero and promises ditch the whole origin story dealio we’ve seen so many times now. Plus – depending on how he is treated in his actual debut in Civil War – Tom Holland’s Spidey could already be much loved by fans by the time Spider-Man swings around next may. The final movie in the Marvel Studios 2017 catalogue is Thor: Ragnarock, which if you believe the rumours will entail the god of thunder teaming up with the Hulk to save Asgard. I don’t think I need to explain why this is going to be a big deal, not only is it a sequel in an already popular solo hero IP in Thor, but second billing is one of the most famous, recognisable and currently underused characters in the Marvel roster. With the right marketing campaign, Ragnarok could very easily end up being one of the most successful movies Marvel has released yet. The promise of Thor vs Hulk action, the lovable villain Loki and maybe even a tease towards Infinity War – the closing Avengers chapter on this aspect of the MCU – will be more than enough to get even the most casual of Marvel fans into cinemas.
So where does this all tie in to Disney, and particularly Disneyland Paris? Well as you probably already know, Disney own Marvel so they have a very invested interest in the success of the Marvel Studios projects. It’s also in their interests Deadpool and X-Men don’t flop but I won’t go into that here. Ever since the purchase of the comic book giant in 2009, Disney has slowly been incorporating Marvel into their Disney Parks and experiences and clearly sees them as a strong element to the modern Disneyland experience. We’ve seen the likes of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Spider-Man pop up in Disney parks around the world with Hong Kong Disneyland expected to get the first Marvel Disney attraction this year in the form of Iron Man Experience. While most Disney parks have been basking in the sweet shawarma of Marvel’s popularity with guests, Disneyland Paris has definitely been the War Machine of the team and showed up late to the party.
In the last 7 years since the initial buyout, the only Marvel addition (other than merchandise) we have seen to Disneyland Paris is the Spider-Man meet & greet which popped up in two years ago in Walt Disney Studios. While this is a great addition and I highly praised it at the time, the fact we have gotten literally nothing since then – and missed out on the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man really baffles me at the decision making going on at DLP. Even something as inexpensive as a character meet & greet would have pulled drones of kids and superhero fans during the release of each of these movies I’m sure. I shouldn’t be too surprise though, as management has been making a trend recently in missing major movie successes such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens that my good friend Geoff has went into great detail talking about.
The next 24 months are a huge, huge time for superhero movies and superhero fans. As I already went into detail we’re very soon going to be spoiled for choice with the number of comic book movies to look forward to. Soon everywhere you look is going to be about Marvel this and Iron Man that. This means that it’s going to become an expectation of guests to see Marvel related elements in Disney parks, that includes Disneyland Paris. You know how every so often you’ll see the Facebook post or a tweet asking where Anna and Elsa are in the parks? I expect to see these questions being asked about Captain America and Thor in the coming months if DLP. That is, if they don’t follow Nick Fury’s advice regarding the decision to ignore these properties.
It doesn’t have to be something huge or ground breaking. I’m not asking for a major Avengers E-Ticket to be built on the ground of the stunt show within 6 months. I genuinely believe an inexpensive but high quality solution can be found that would see a lot of people entering Disneyland Paris and indeed Walt Disney Studios during this very transition year of the resort. We already have Spider-Man occupying the old AP building in WDS’ Backlot, why not do what I have been asking for years and turn that into a Marvel equivalent of the Princess Pavilion? We’ll start with the currently present Spider-Man and added Captain America taking daily turns to meet guests in the venue, which has been re-themed to a SHIELD facility in order to suit the Marvel Cinematic Universe theme that the two heroes share. This would start from summer 2016 in order to make the most of the hype and predicted success of Civil War. As each new movie is released, more heroes will be added to the roster to tie in, so Doctor Strange coming in November, Starlord next May, maybe Iron Man to fill the void of Spider-Man being as he’ll already have a presence by July and Thor in November of 2017. Indeed, there’s no reason as the MCU movie schedule progresses we can’t see even more characters popping up in here until we have a roster to rival that of its Fantasyland cousin. Ant-Man, the Wasp, Captain Marvel and Black Panther all have movies set to be released within the next 4 years – and I’m certainly not going out on a limb to say I’m certain they will all be big successes.
The Walt Disney Company have been striking gold lately with Marvel and its cinematic universe. They’ve seen billions and billions of dollars come flooding in by box office and merchandise sales with fans in their drones descending upon the parks all over the world in their best Captain America t-shirts and Hulk hoodies, hungry to see their favourite characters in the Happiest Place on Earth. Whether you think Marvel should be considered part of the Disney family or not there’s no denying it is now a huge stakeholder in the company, this is something Disneyland Paris need to very seriously recognise. It would be foolish for DLP to let the dawn of the golden age of superheros slip through their net.