New 'Green Hornet' has no buzz. Are minor league superheroes striking out?
What do the weak reviews for Columbia's new Seth Rogan vehicle, 'The Green Hornet,' mean for the league of second-tier superheroes set to swoop into theaters this summer?
“The Green Hornet” heads into the holiday weekend with less-than-boffo reviews.Skip to next paragraph
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Does this paltry punch behind the first of a league of superhero movies featuring less-familiar crime fighters – this summer’s Thor, Captain America, and Green Lantern – mean dire news for the second-string colleagues of legendary crusaders Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man?
The stakes are huge. Superhero movies are rarely cheap, due to big special effects and pricey stars.
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“Superhero movies are a very reliable franchise for the studios,” says Hollywood.com box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. Even with occasional flops, “this is a very durable genre, one that is often review-proo,” he says. When a franchise succeeds, he says, it can make up for many duds. "Spider-Man 3" took in $336 million in domestic box office alone, according to boxofficemojo.com.
This conventional wisdom is true up to a point, says comic book expert and aficionado Stephen Fishler of New York’s Metropolis Collectibles, one of the nation’s top comic book auction firms. There are mainstream reviews and then there is word-of-mouth, he says. “If a movie is bad, that word will get out, and it will not do well.” While fans of top-tier superheroes will often turn out for even a middling film, the failure of the 2006 "Superman" reboot proves that a bad vehicle can ground even the biggest guys.
So when it comes to the lesser-known figures that have a far smaller built-in fan base, says Mr. Fishler, “it’s more important than ever that the movie actually be good.” That means the same criteria any moviegoer might have: “good visuals, good storyline, and great characters.”
Heroes who have audiences wondering “who is this masked man?” have an uphill battle for name recognition in a crowded entertainment landscape. On the other hand, a minor character allows writers and directors more license for creativity.