Superhero Hype’s Biggest Milestones of 2001-2021: #15-11
The last two decades have immensely changed the superhero, sci-fi, and fantasy genres. But some of the biggest changes happened in the last 10 years alone, and Superhero Hype was here for all of them. In that timeframe, the entertainment studios have also taken big swings on lesser-known properties and reaped a wide variety of rewards. And for better or worse, it seems like everyone is still trying to ape Marvel’s shared universe model. Some have had better luck than others. Now, without further ado, this is the continuation of our look back at the stories that defined the last 20 years. Here are our picks for #15-11. Superhero Hype’s biggest milestones..
15: Disney Buys Fox’s Entertainment Assets
After Spider-Man showed up in Captain America: Civil War in 2016, the only thing standing in the way of a fully unified Marvel Cinematic Universe was 20th Century Fox. In the early 2000s, Fox owned the rights to more Marvel characters than any other studio in Hollywood. The X-Men, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool all fell under its IP umbrella. While the original X-Men walked so the MCU could run, Fox’s subsequent forays into superhero territory were largely hit-or-miss. In other words: for every X2, there was a Fant4stic waiting in the wings.
That changed in early 2019, when Disney officially acquired Fox’s entertainment assets for a whopping $71.3 billion. News of the merger dominated entertainment headlines for weeks. But if you’re a Marvel fan, chances are you only cared about one thing. With Deadpool 3 and another Fantastic Four reboot in the works, the MCU is about to get a lot bigger. As for mutants, we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.
14. Black Panther
Wesley Snipes spent much of the 1990s trying to bring T’Challa the big screen. But his failure to launch was actually a blessing in disguise, as it paved the way for Chadwick Boseman’s game-changing (albeit way too brief) run as the character. The MCU was on the verge of celebrating its 10th birthday by the time Black Panther hit theaters in 2018. But even with a decade of movies under its belt, the introduction to Wakanda guaranteed that the franchise had no steam to lose. Anchored by Boseman’s canny performance and Ryan Coogler’s smart direction, Black Panther still holds up as one of Marvel’s best. And even Academy voters took notice. The film went on to become the first superhero movie to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.
Boseman’s approach to playing Marvel’s first Black superhero made his death at the age of 43 all the more tragic. Time will tell how the studio plans to address T’Challa’s absence in next year’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But in any case, we can be sure that the MCU will carry on Boseman’s legacy for years to come.
13. Wonder Woman
Diana of Themyscira was another character whose big-screen debut was long overdue. Years of false starts eventually gave way to her first theatrical appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. And although Gal Gadot’s performance as DC’s Amazon warrior is still considered to be one of that film’s few bright spots, it wasn’t until a year later that she really took the world by storm. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman overcame an industry bias against female-led comic book movies to become the DC Extended Universe’s strongest entry yet. Gadot continued to shine in the title role, bringing a surprising amount of pathos to a character who is basically a demigod. But more importantly, the film allowed young girls to finally see themselves reflected in a major superhero tentpole, inspiring a whole new generation of fans in the process.
Ryan Reynolds’ anemic take on Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (and his even less successful headlining turn in Green Lantern) made it really hard to get excited about the Van Wilder actor playing a superhero ever again. But third time’s the charm! Thanks to some carefully-leaked test footage (which may or may not have come from Reynolds himself), Fox execs saw the potential for a re-do, and immediately greenlit a new feature that ultimately turned the Merc with a Mouth into a household name. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay featured all the trappings of a classic Deadpool story: fourth-wall breaks, toilet jokes, and an R-rated sensibility that proved to be the film’s biggest selling point.
Upon its release in 2016, Deadpool became the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, a record that was later broken by its own 2018 sequel (which in turn was bested by Todd Phillips’ Joker in 2019). In short, Reynolds’ Deadpool is here to stay. And we can’t wait to see how he shakes up the MCU.
11. Game of Thrones
The early days of peak TV didn’t leave much room for big-budget fantasy stories. However, HBO set a new benchmark for the genre in 2011 with its small-screen translation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. And political intrigue never looked so good. For eight years, viewers dutifully tuned in every Sunday night for a healthy mix of swordsmanship, sex, and severed heads. (Oh, and there may have been some dragons in there, too…).
Game of Thrones may have lacked the name recognition of Lord of the Rings when it first got underway. But by the time it reached its conclusion, the show had asserted itself as a cultural force to be reckoned with, even if its finale still has fans divided.
Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a closer look at Superhero Hype’s Biggest Milestones #10-6. Until then, share your thoughts on this latest round of stories in the comment section below! Hype’s Biggest. And then Hype’s Biggest. Also, Hype’s Biggest.