Ahh 2003. The year that the industry realized that perhaps comic book movies were not a guaranteed goldmine. The year started off with the release of Daredevil on Feb 14. Nothing says I love you like a blind vigilante I guess. The film played up the romance between Daredevil and Elektra and actually performed fairly well. People like to label this as one in a string of Affleck flops, but the truth is the film earned a tidy $103 Million on a $78 Million budget. Throw in DVD sales and this film certainly turned a profit, and yielded the true flop Elektra semisequel. Speaking of the DVD, a few months after the DVD release, a Director's Cut was released with significant additions. This extended version downplayed the love story, and instead developed a subplot focusing on Coolio's character who was framed for murder by the Kingpin. Remember how in the movie, after Daredevil whooped up on the Kingpin, all of the sudden the cops were coming (as if its a crime to get beat up by Daredevil). Well, in the Director's cut, the cops actually had some evidence of wrongdoing, and a reason to arrest Mr. Kingpin. Daredevil was enjoyable, especially the sonar effects, but the character just doesn't have the broad appeal of Spider-Man or Batman. Nevertheless, this was one of the first benchwarmers to receive a decent theatrical treatment.
X2: X-Men United opened on May 2 and built upon the success of the X-Men movie. Turns out, this would be one of the finest comic book films to date, and would be well received. The film opened with the incredible Nightcrawler attack on the president, and the film continued to make up for any shortcoming of the original. The closing of the film teased that the Phoenix storyline was coming, though the follow-up in X-Men: The Last Stand would fail to meet many fans expectations. In the end, the film took home an impressive $215 Million and made a lot of X-Men fans very happy.
On June 20, The Hulk smashed its way into theatres. After a great opening weekend of $62, something went terribly wrong. Receipts dropped a huge 70% the second weekend, and the films totals fizzled out to a disappointing $132 Million. Many reasons for the failure of the film have been cited. Some cite Superbowl ads that featured a poorly rendered CG Hulk as souring fans opinions early. Also, director Ang Lee's ambitious treatment using comic book panels and multiple angles on screen were perhaps too high brow for fans wanting "Hulk Smash." The pacing of the film was slow and deliberate, which I thought was wonderful, but again not what fans necessarily expected from the not-so-jolly green giant. Lastly there were some silly elements like a Hulk-Poodle and an over the top Nick Nolte Absorbing Man dad that could have been done better. Fans opinions were split by this film. Marvel itself has stated that they were proud of this film, but next time (of course there is always a sequel) they will present a Hulk-Lite or Diet Hulk with more smash for your cash and less brooding.
October brought a direct to video release titled Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. This film continued in the continuity of Batman: The Animated Series. The film introduces three new lady friends for Bruce Wayne, and one new vigilante, The Batwoman. Who is she? Batman also fights the Penguin (quack, quack) and Bane. While enjoyable, this film was not as good as previous Batman animated videos Subzero and Mask of the Phantasm. Still worth checking out though.
2003 also saw the premiers of several animated series. First up was the Teen Titans. This show put together Robin, Beast Boy, Starfiire, Raven and Cyborg in an anime influenced series. The show ran 5 seasons and introduced a whole slew of other titans along the way including Kid Flash, Speedy, Aqualad, Bumblebee and original creations Mas y Menos.
Spider-Man: The New Animated Series debuted on MTV after the Spider-Man movie. The series used some funky CG renderings, that in my opinion looked terrible. The stories built on the movie plot, and I think Doc Ock was not allowed, but Electro and Lizard showed up among others. The series only lasted 13 episodes, though it may eventually continue elsewhere. Basically, MTV is not a place to start up a long lasting series.
Lastly, Stan Lee, creator or X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk etc. made his latest contribution to the genre: Striperella. This Spike TV series involves a crime fighting stripper. Stripper by night, crime fighter by late night. Pam Anderson starred in this short lived blotch on Stan's resume. Since I never saw the show, I guess I can't be too critical, but the premise is pretty ridiculous.
That my friends was 2003, the year that the tide started to turn for the genre due to oversaturation. Though overall, I have to say, the movies this year were all pretty decent.