The final comic-based movie of 2016 opened in theaters as Doctor Strange rounded out a year packed with six films for the genre.
Doctor Strange arrived after Deadpool, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Suicide Squad crushed the box office throughout the year -- hauling in over $4 billion worldwide between them.
Doctor Strange was undoubtedly a touch formulaic by comparison to other Marvel Studios films: guy needs saving, guy gets powers, guy inherits bigger problems, guy saves the world. Regardless, the movie packed completely mindbending and unique visuals with an unmatched resolution sequence which was unlike any climax in any Marvel film - so it worked.
While many of the films in the genre followed a similar partern, not all were created the same nor did the group share equally in the haul.
Topping the charts in both dollars and audience reaction, was Captain America: Civil War. The latest ensemble film from Marvel Studios pitted almost all of its on-screen heroes against one another for a critically acclaimed smash hit. The byproduct was a project that raked in $179 million in its opening weekend and ran for $408 million domestically.
By comparison, the latest effort with Strange nabbed $84 million in its first weekend - a figure which surprised many analysts, but is still nearly $100 million shy of Civil War.
On the other side of the spectrum was Batman v. Superman. It was a film which saw DC Comics' two most iconic heroes together on the big screen for the first time. The film was panned by critics and word of mouth hurt the overall run. The dreaded combination is why it scored more than half of its $330 million domestic run in its opening weekend with $166 million before it was largely ignored.
Similar remarks can be lobbed at the second DC Film in this breakdown: Suicide Squad.
It featured the most star-studded cast of all comic book movies but also received lackluster reviews -- despite re-shoots attempting to make it more 'fun' in the wake of Batman v. Superman's criticisms. Still, the film was well-received by fans and smashed the box office in its first week with $135 million then saw a huge week to week drop and rounded out its domestic run with $324.7 million as many considered it a failure, too.
Then there were the 20th Century Fox properties, which could not have had more opposite impact with its two films.
The studio with rights to Marvel's X-Men characters struggled a bit with its latest ensemble film, X-Men: Apocalypse, as it garnered Ant-Man numbers to the tune of a $65 million opening weekend and paultry total of $155 million domestically.
On the other hand, the studio saw massive, unprecendented success with its R-rated anti-hero film Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds' efforts as the merc with a mouth took in $132.4 million in its opening weekend and went on fill its bag with $363 million in the States.
When generalizing the numbers at hand, it is safe to say that people still love comic book movies and super hero films.
Despite claims that the formula is contrived and predictable at time, these movies manage to outdo the competition with box office numbers. Some analysts are predicting a slightly stronger 2017, as well.
Fans can expect a 2017 with seven more comic-based movies on deck from Marvel and DC properties
Marvel Studios is undoubtedly the strongest studio heading into the new year.
With three films scheduled - none of which are first appearance characters - it will likely see the biggest year at the box office to date. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will kick off the season in May, and it is likely to be the biggest film of Disney's 2017. The first film blew fans away in 2014, crushing box office expectations and receiving some of the most flattering reviews in recent history. Rocket and Baby Groot's return will be met with piles of cash.
Spider-Man: Homecoming builds on the fallout from Captain America: Civil War as the wallcrawler's first standalone effort as a Marvel Studios character. Oversaturation and damage to the character in the wake of the Sony Amazing franchise may have a small effect on the box office. However, for those outside of that bubble will see the character reboot and an impressive cast -- which will most certainly include the ever-marketable Robert Downey Jr. in its previews -- to add another movie on the long list of Marvel successes.
Then, there's Thor: Ragnarok. The November film serves as the third of the Thor franchise which has historically seen less returns at the box office than other Marvel films but given the cosmic nature and addition of the Hulk to the franchise, it will far exceed anything preceding Thor films have mustered up.
DC Films, on the other hand, has reason to worry.
Not only the intense criticisms of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice damage the draw to anything with Batman involved but overusing the Joker in previews and underusing him in Suicide Squad has also left fans with a bad taste in their mouths.
The huge drops in the films' box office runs from week 1 to week 2 parallel that of Fifty Shades of Grey. After the first Fifty Shades movie, the franchise stepped back and allowed a few years to come and go between films instead of relying on the massive popularity of the books to see box office revenue. It looks like DC Films and Warner Brothers may be doing the same. With director Rick Famuyiwa exiting The Flash movie over "creative differences" and Justice League shaking up their approach stylistically - adding humor and levity - the studio may be in course correction mode as to not damage their brand any further.
20th Century Fox can be seen as both a winner and a loser coming out of the year.
The latest X-Men ensemble film was another run-of-the-mill with classic characters despite adding a hot young cast of new faces to play well-established roles. While $65 million is by no means a poor showing, but for an ensemble film which was the ninth of the franchise - sixth ensemble - it's a bit of a disappointment.
Clearly, the X-Men movies need to change things up because Days of Future Past, an inarguably excellent movie, managed to rake in $90 million in its first weekend. It's an almost 30% decrease from movie to movie and did little to build excitement for the upcoming Logan movie.
That said, Logan will likely prosper on regardless of quality as Hugh Jackman's last effort as Wolverine after putting in over 15 years in the role will pull plenty of fans to theaters. Following the success of Deadpool, the studio decided to have Logan debut with an R-rating, a move which may hurt its audience considering Jackman's character has, until now, been suitable for younger audiences. After all, it wasn't the R-rating which earned Deadpool its praises.
What it all of this means for 2017 is that the state of comic book movies is a delicate one.
While Marvel Studios continues to crank out hit after hit, it's because people enjoy having fun at the movies. Captain America: Civil War was built over eight years and packed emotional drama into an overall fun film in doing so.
Justice League is set to unite all of the DC Comics stars on screen in November but for eyeballs which have not turned pages of comics, some of the characters may be a touch obscure. Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Aquaman and The Flash will have one last chance to earn the trust and respect of their fans as they put it all on the line in November. The ensemble film is Warner Brothers' shot at redemption after a year of poorly received movies.
Of course, Channing Tatum's Gambit is supposed to arrive in October of 2017 but the film seems to have all but fallen apart so as 20th Century Fox reevaluates its plans for X-Men characters and movies, we can only assume the film is being held back.
The winner of the year will be either the Guardians sequel, building on the massive success and love for its predecessor or DC's Justice League. With Guardians 2 slated for Marvel's coveted first weekend in May, it may have the advantage of being a sequel, but Justice League debuts all of DC Comics' biggest names on the screen together for the first time.
2017 will be a great year for fans of the genre regardless, as more movies of the type are scheduled to arrive than ever before, but how the extra supply fares amongst all moviegoers is to be seen.