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The Rise of Superhero Films

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“Wonder Woman.” “Iron Man.” “The Avengers.” “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The past decade or so has seen an influx of superhero films based on comic books — major big-studio movies starring the highest-paid actors in the world (think Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr.) and outperforming any other movies released. This week, the world will enjoy a new addition to the superhero film repertoire: “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” featuring the work of NYFA alumnus Francesco Panzieri on special effects!

While 1990s blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Braveheart” were standalone epics based on books or historical events, today’s highest-grossing films are primarily superhero movies, based on a combination of factors such as escapism, cutting-edge special effects, and an older, wealthier population of comic-book fans.

The most significant, and grim, factor behind the rise of superhero movies has been the economic crash of 2008. There were popular superhero movies prior to this, such as “Spider-man” and Christopher Nolan’s excellent “Batman” series reboot, but following the economic downturn — in which many people lost their jobs and homes — superhero movies went into orbit.

People suddenly wanted escapism into a different world where the hero always triumphed and where distinctions between good and bad were easy to tell. Blockbuster epics with tragic endings like “Braveheart,” and “Gladiator” fell out of fashion, as no one wanted to compound the grim economic situation with an equally depressing movie. Comic-book superhero movies, in which the hero triumphs over evil, became more appealing to the general public. (While our economic downturn is not as severe as the Great Depression, it’s notable that the popularity of comic books in the 1930s mirrors the popularity of superhero movies today.)

With the rise of computers, special effects have become more realistic and believable — something that previously limited superhero movies. Compare the stiff, lumbering shark of “Jaws” — a movie that had exceptional special effects for its day — to the beautifully computer-generated creatures and atmospheres of today’s superhero movies.

Special effects designers have a wider range of options to work with, as well as better software and technologies, than they did 20 years ago. Need Captain America to soar to the heavens? Stand the actor in front of the green screen and virtually create the sky behind him. Need Ant-Man to fly through Iron Man’s suit and sabotage it? That can be achieved realistically as well.

Whereas “Titanic” required a replica ship, today’s computer generated imaging can produce entirely believable superhero action scenes through the digital manipulation of pixels.

The third factor in the popularity of comic-book superhero movies is the older age of the audience. Today’s superhero movies — even if they’re rated PG-13 — are primarily made for adults who grew up on comic books and now have a disposable income. These adults are mostly Generation X-ers and Millennials who read comic books as children during the 1970s-1990s and now have the money to see films and buy paraphernalia. While kids can beg Mom and Dad to buy movie tickets and Mom might possibly agree, adults can always purchase tickets and attend films — creating a great source of potential viewers who have fond childhood recollections of their comic book superheroes and villains.

What are your favorite superhero films? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about creating incredible films, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

Lessons from J. K. Rowling: How to Build a Successful Film Franchise

With “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” already projected to dominate the box office with at least $70 million in ticket sales, it’s hard not to reminisce about the time when Harry Potter ruled Hollywood. Harry Potter remains one of the most successful movie franchises in history, surpassing the likes of Star Wars and Batman and falling second only to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s quite an achievement. So how did it happen, and what goes into building a successful movie franchise?

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As an aspiring moviemaker, perhaps your dream is to one day captivate millions of people across the globe with your own franchise. Bear in mind that this is an accomplishment far easier said than done, but the truth is that franchises certainly have a place in the entertainment industry — and they always will. So it’s absolutely worthwhile to study what goes into creating a franchise like the one based on J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.

With Harry Potter and other major film franchises in mind, we’ve summarized four of the most important elements that go into a successful franchise:

Appeals to All Ages

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“The Lord of the Rings” is another movie franchise like Harry Potter that was adapted from books and found great success. But while it is considered by many to be the best fantasy series ever made, it didn’t have the same appeal for all age groups due to its more dense backstory, the darker world, etc.

The Harry Potter franchise, on the other hand, was created with the goal that children, teenagers, and parents alike would all be able to get something from it. From the first book/film all the way to the last, relatable things like friendship, hope, and love are represented through a magical world with peculiar people and creatures that appeal to a wide range of ages and personalities.

When considering your own movie franchise, remember that the more people your films appeal to, the greater your chance of success.

Has a Story With Characters That Grow

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In the original “Star Wars” trilogy, many characters grew throughout the adventure. We saw Luke Skywalker go from a nobody on a farm, to a rebel fighter, and finally a Jedi hero. Since we were there when his journey started and saw him mature when faced with adversity, we can feel like we had a part in his growth and triumph.

In “Harry Potter,” this same element of the hero’s journey and a character’s full arc is also very prevalent and powerful. The original book/film was aimed at children and featured characters around 10 years of age. But by the end, Harry and the rest were teenagers — just like all the loyal fans of the books and films who grew up alongside their favorite characters.

We’re not saying your characters have to age throughout your franchise. Rather, the takeaway is that it’s important to allow your audience to feel like they can relate and grow alongside your characters. Make sure your viewers can witness your characters evolve and mature, as this will drive the audience’s emotional involvement and make them eager to see where your story takes them next.

Have Relatable Characters & Basic Archetypes

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How is it that Disney managed to turn one of their theme park rides into a high-grossing franchise? We’re of course talking about the Pirates of the Caribbean, a runaway hit that’s bred a movie empire. Arguably, part of the success of this franchise can be attributed to its characters, who are firmly rooted in basic archetypes. One example is the hero, Will, who is on a quest to save the girl he loves from a crew of evil pirates. The archetype of the hero, the villain, the wise mentor, etc., can be found in great stories all over the world, and there is a reason that audiences respond to these archetypes. Tap into this powerful storytelling tool with your own future movie franchise.

Relatable characters and well-drawn basic archetypes are arguably one of the biggest reasons the Harry Potter franchise took the world by storm. You have so many characters that, despite living in a magical world, have relatable problems such as fear of girls, homework, etc. They feel familiar to the audience, like old friends. Eventually there are also mature issues that arrive, all while these characters become involved in a traditional tale of good vs. evil. It’s irresistible.

Want your franchise to succeed? Try fitting in archetypes that resonate with most people while creating characters that people can relate to and care about.

Take Them To Another World

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Right now, the by-the-numbers most successful (and largest) franchise of all time is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among the many reasons all these movies are a hit, the biggest one also applies to the comics that inspired them: they transport you somewhere else. You may be on Earth while watching “The Avengers,” but while you’re caught up in the story there are heroes and villains ready to fight for the future of the world.

Children and adults alike who love Harry Potter know what we’re talking about. From the moment viewers board the Hogwarts Express and arrive at the wizard school, they immediately feel enraptured by a world of magic and mystery. The characters still face relatable situations like mean teachers, but in Harry Potter your teacher is a cold, secretive wizard. It’s another world.

When planning your franchise, we suggest spending plenty of time creating the world your story and characters will take part in. It might just be helps viewers fall in love with your film.

 

What other elements do you notice in your favorite franchise? Let us know in the comments below!

Why You Don’t Want To Miss NYCC 2016

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As the biggest pop culture event on the East Coast, New York Comic Con (NYCC 2016) is always on the radar of every comic fan out there. For students studying at NYFA’s New York City campus, the opportunity to check out this highly-anticipated event should not be missed.

Here are several reasons why NYCC 2016 is going to be bigger and better than ever before — and why you should consider participating:

Awesome Panels for NYCC 2016

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The amazing panels alone make this anticipated event worth the trip. DC All Access will offer talks from the people behind “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and the “DC Comics Bombshells” series, as they give a sneak peak at the anticipated “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad.” Robert Kirkman will also make an appearance in a “The Walking Dead” panel to discuss what’s next for the Image Comics series.

Other notable panels not to miss include Tales From the Tardis with Matt Smith, Alex Kingston and Jenna Coleman, as well as World Premiere & Adam West, Too: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Check out the official NYCC 2016 panel schedule to get your chance at meeting the creative minds behind your favorite works.

Unforgettable Parties at NYCC 2016

The night doesn’t end when the panels are over. Each day of NYCC 2016 also comes with awesome parties where comic book fans can relax, mingle, and dance their costumes off. The best part is that each party has its own exciting themes. Here’s a list of the biggest ones:

  • NYCC Kick-Off Party
  • Anime Dance Music’s Annual NYCC Party
  • Rock Comic Con followed by BATDANCE: NYCC’s Official Video Dance Party
  • GBX: Electric Underground
  • Boozy Bowling Afterparty
  • Skint! Disco Inferno Geeks OUT Dance Party
  • New York Comic Con ’90s party

Great Cosplaying at NYCC 2016

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The art of cosplaying has exploded in popularity thanks to a growing subculture of die-hard fans. To see people dressed as their favorite characters or join them yourself, NYCC is definitely the place to go. There are also plenty of events aimed to encourage people to cosplay and have a blast.

In fact, things kicked off a week before the actual event with a Pre-NYCC Cosplay Cruise — in other words, a cosplaying party on a yacht. The biggest cosplay gatherings during the main event include Crossplay Cosplay Contest & Celebration, We the Heroes Ball, and Comic Con Vixens. Of course, you won’t have to attend any specific affairs to see great cosplay, since participants will be walking around all over the exhibition floor, ready to pose for a pic.

Video Game Events at NYCC 2016

Although NYCC 2016 is still primarily focused on comic books, it’s also become a great place to go if you’re a video game fan. In fact, a large number of cosplayers that show up every year are representing characters straight out of their favorite digital worlds. This year there’s plenty to check out if you’re a gamer.

New York Comic Con ’90s party will have a Spectacular Video Game Room complete with a Mario Kart 64 World Championship tournament. Gaimova’s After Party 6 will also have tournaments for Smash Bros Wii U, Street Fighter V, and several classic Xbox live and PSN games. Square Enix is even throwing a Demo Night featuring Deux Ex: Mankind Divided and the new Hitman. Mashfest NYCC Kickoff Party will have more than a dozen games available to play as well.

Must-See Exhibitors at NYCC 2016

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The heart of NYCC 2016 is the near-endless number of exhibitors ready to show off their latest comics, video games, and more. It’s your chance to buy awesome merchandise, get a first look at new stuff, sign up for giveaways, and meet artists.

Just like every year, NYCC 2016’s event will bring together an incredible number of worthwhile exhibitors. These include BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America, BOOM! Studios, DC Entertainment, Doctor WHO Store + Alien Entertainment, Double Take, GoComics, Black Mask Studios, and many more.

Are you planning on attending NYCC 2016? What are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!

Hey Marvel – Here’s Five Ways to Make a Solo Hulk Movie

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Everybody’s talking about what’s on Marvel’s docket after they released their slate of upcoming movies for the next five years. The core of their cinematic universe of course is the Avengers Trilogy (or Tetralogy since they’re splitting Infinity War into two movies). Sequels to Captain America, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy are no-brainers, and the addition of new heroes Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel aren’t just icing on the cake—they’re a whole extra cake, with icing.

But what about the Hulk? He was the second superhero introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, right after Iron Man way back in 2008, and unlike every other character since, he hasn’t gotten a sequel. It’s agreed by most that The Incredible Hulk was weaker than its compatriots, and like 2003’s Hulk, underwhelmed audiences despite making its money back and then some.

But Incredible Hulk starred Edward Norton and pre-dated the Hulk’s scene-stealing role in The Avengers. Mark Ruffalo is universally adored as Bruce Banner, and with Marvel seemingly making new movies out of thin air, it’s more than conspicuous that he hasn’t earned another solo blockbuster adventure. Gone is the argument that a CGI Hulk in every scene of a movie would simply cost too much money—after all, two of Guardians of the Galaxy’s lead characters are a CGI raccoon and tree. And if the new Avengers: Age of Ultron is any indication, the next Marvel movie will have a supporting cast of about ten thousand computer generated robots.

If it’s not the CGI, and it’s not Ruffalo’s undeniable charm, then just why isn’t Marvel producing another Hulk movie? Maybe they can’t think of a decent plot—The Incredible Hulk’s storyline was basically Hulk Smash. But that’s not a good excuse either. Here’s five ways to make a solo Hulk movie drawn from fifty-plus years of comics backstory, and five directors who could potentially bring these films to life. Get on this, Marvel, before you make us Hulk fans angry. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.

1. Grey Hulk

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If you haven’t noticed, Bruce Banner has a bit of a split-personality. What many casual fans don’t realize though is that he doesn’t just have one extra personality, he has several. Besides the big green, savage manifestation of his anger that likes to smash and talk in the third person, Bruce can also turn into the Grey Hulk.

The Grey Hulk is a little smaller and weaker than the Incredible Hulk, and his skin is, well, grey. But he still towers over the average-sized man and has muscles that would make Thor drop a Mjölnir in his pants. He’s also a little smarter than the savage Hulk, able to have conversations and drive a car. In fact, he holds down a job as a mob enforcer in Las Vegas as alter-ego Joe Fixit. He makes a great living actually. If you’re a bookie who’s owed some money, who better to scare your debtors into paying than a big grey monster packing heat.

A Vegas-set mob movie would be a great way to do a Hulk movie different from the previous two. And who better to direct a mob movie than Martin Scorsese? His talent behind the camera has been begging for a superhero to shoot, and he’s worked with Ruffalo before. It’s a match made in heaven.

2. Planet Hulk

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Why isn’t Hulk helping out Cap and Thor in their respective sequels? How about because he’s in space? Like, deep outer space. The Planet Hulk storyline from the comics finds Earth’s superheroes fed up with Hulk smashing their stuff all the time and banishing him to a far away planet, Sakaar.

The planet is filled with aliens from a multitude of races, forced to battle one another in a gladiator arena for the amusement of the evil Red King. Hulk fits right in, and leads a revolution from the ground up after smashing some space heads. The Guardians of the Galaxy could even make a cameo, helping Hulk overthrow the Red King and bring freedom to Ancient Rome, er, the planet Sakaar.

Ridley Scott has proven adept at directing space movies and gladiator movies, but he hasn’t tackled a superhero pic yet and this would be the easiest way for him to make that transition. With Scott at the helm, how can we not be entertained?

3. World War Hulk

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World War Hulk is technically a sequel to Planet Hulk, but since when has continuity ever been an issue in the MCU (cough, Don Cheadle, cough.) The Hulk has made his way back from the planet Sakaar and is more than a little pissed that he was banished in the first place (and that his gladiator girlfriend was killed in the space revolution.)

Hulk takes his revenge on New York City, fighting Iron Man and Doctor Strange as the super-angry, super-strong, super-huge World Breaker Hulk. It looks like he’ll be duking it out with Iron Man already in Age of Ultron but honestly, shouldn’t that be its own movie? Plus, with Doctor Strange in the mix, it could be Benedict Cumberbatch vs. the Hulk, which honestly is an even better title for the movie than World War Hulk.

This sequel would be loud, filled with mindless action and the borderline-offensive leveling of an American city. Michael Bay would be perfect.

4. She-Hulk

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She-Hulk is one of Marvel’s most underrated characters. Her alter-ego is Jennifer Walters, and unlike her cousin Bruce Banner, she is always big and green, but not nearly as mindless and angry. In fact, she’s extremely smart, and works by day as a lawyer.

If Marvel wants to introduce a new hero, they could give her origin in a Hulk movie, having the two team up before She-Hulk sets out on her own. Currently, She-Hulk is one of the most entertaining series in the Marvel line, with a fun, youthful energy that also knows how to have badass battles with fellow heroes like Daredevil and Captain America.

The Kids Are Alright director Lisa Cholodenko, who’s worked with Ruffalo before, could balance the witty courtroom repartee with the sweet kickass brawls She-Hulk isn’t afraid to back down from.

5. Guilt Hulk

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When Bruce Banner is angry, the green, savage Hulk lets out his rage by smashing. When Bruce is full of guilt and regret, in many ways, a much more dangerous emotion, he becomes The Beast, a.k.a. the Guilt Hulk. The Guilt Hulk is a terrible monster, larger and stronger than usual and makes the standard Hulk look downright cuddly. He’s got long, sharp claws, is covered in spikes, and on occasion, breathes fire. This ain’t your Daddy’s Hulk.

The Guilt Hulk is so scary the sequel would be more horror than action film, and Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro would be perfect to direct and design the cinematic look of the Beast. At his most contrite, the Guilt Hulk can tower over sixty feet tall and level buildings with a single swipe of his arm. After Pacific Rim, is there any doubt del Toro isn’t the right person for the job?