First Ant-Man, now Shazam. Things aren’t looking good for comic book movies in 2023

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulMar 20, 2023 | 14:02

First Ant-Man, now Shazam. Things aren’t looking good for comic book movies in 2023

With Shazam: Fury of the Gods following suit after Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’s critical panning and box office tanking, are people finally sick and tired of comic book movies?

Over the past decade, the comic book movie genre has experienced an unprecedented surge in popularity, thanks in large part to the success of Marvel and DC's cinematic universes. However, as the years have passed, many have noticed a sense of inertia setting in for these franchises, with an increasingly formulaic approach to storytelling leading to a critical and commercial decline.


At the heart of this issue is the fact that both Marvel and DC have become trapped in a cycle of producing films that adhere too closely to a tried-and-true formula. Each film follows a similar structure, with a larger-than-life villain threatening the world, a group of heroes banding together to stop them, and plenty of explosive action along the way. While this formula worked wonders in the early days of the MCU and DCEU, audiences have grown tired of seeing the same story told again and again.

Critics have been particularly vocal in their criticism of Marvel's approach to storytelling. Film critic and former Rolling Stone editor Peter Travers has described the studio's output as "assembly line entertainment," while many directors across Hollywood haven't held back their strong criticisms towards Marvel cinema over the years.

Fans themselves seem to be growing increasingly frustrated with these formulaic stories, with recent Marvel releases such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania failing to generate the same level of excitement as earlier entries in the franchise.

Meanwhile, DC has struggled to establish a cohesive cinematic universe, with the success of individual films such as Wonder Woman and Joker not translating into wider critical or commercial successes for the franchise. Last year’s The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, was seen as a make-or-break moment for the studio, as it attempted to pivot away from the  routine approach of earlier DCEU films.


Despite these challenges, there is reason to believe that Marvel and DC can break free from the monotonous style of storytelling. By taking risks with their narratives and embracing new voices and perspectives, both studios can inject new life into their respective franchises. As audiences demand more diverse and nuanced storytelling, Marvel and DC have the opportunity to create superhero films that truly resonate with viewers and stand the test of time.

In the end, it will be up to the two megastudios to decide whether they will continue down the path of pedestrian storytelling or embrace the potential for innovation and evolution. As the comic book movie genre enters a new era, the stakes have never been higher, and the potential rewards for those who can shed the exasperating cliches in their style of storytelling have never been greater.

Here’s a list of the remaining comic book movies set to release in 2023, ranked on the basis of how great we think they’ll be:


7. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (December 25)

Synopsis: When an ancient power is unleashed, Aquaman must forge an uneasy alliance with an unlikely ally to protect Atlantis, and the world, from irreversible devastation.

Verdict: Regardless of its predecessor’s billion-dollar success, we find it hard to believe that the second Jason Momoa-led Aquaman story will evolve enough to break itself free from the DCEU rut.

6. Blue Beetle (August 18)

Synopsis: Mexican-American teenager Jaime Reyes gains superpowers when a mysterious scarab binds to his spine and provides him with a powerful suit of blue alien armour.

Verdict: An origin story amid the James Gunn-Peter Safran helmed DCEU revamp seems like a hit or miss.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5)

Synopsis: Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill must rally his team to defend the universe and protect one of their own. If the mission is not completely successful, it could possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them.

Verdict: The final chapter in James Gunn’s Guardians franchise comes at an iffy time for the MCU, as the very next cinematic release following the flunking of Quantumania. A lot rides on this film.

4. Kraven the Hunter (October 6)

Synopsis: Russian immigrant Sergei Kravinoff is on a mission to prove that he is the greatest hunter in the world.

Verdict: Sony, fresh off the release of the meme-inspiring film Morbius, starring Jared Leto, is preparing to unveil a new addition to their roster of Spider-Man villains. With the upcoming debut of Kraven the Hunter, Sony is undoubtedly banking on a success more akin to the profitable box office run of Venom, rather than the appaling reception that Morbius received.

3. The Flash (June 16)

Synopsis: Worlds collide when the Flash uses his superpowers to travel back in time to change the events of the past. However, when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, he becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation. With no other superheroes to turn to, the Flash looks to coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian -- albeit not the one he's looking for.

Verdict: DCEU's highly-anticipated Flashpoint film was initially slated for a 2018 release. However, due to Warner Brothers' wavering confidence in their DCEU strategy, the project underwent numerous changes, including the involvement of multiple writers and directors.

Once intended to serve as a means of rejuvenating the DC Cinematic Universe, The Flash was set to introduce a new Supergirl as a replacement for Superman, as well as resurrect Michael Keaton's iconic portrayal of Batman. Nevertheless, it appears that these plans have been abandoned, as James Gunn and Peter Safran, at the helm of DC Studios, have opted to rebuild the DCU from the ground up.

2. The Marvels (July 28)

Synopsis: Following the events of Ms. Marvel (2022), Carol Danvers, Kamala Khan, and Monica Rambeau begin swapping places with each other every time they use their powers, and must team up to determine why.

Verdict: In Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, viewers were introduced to the beloved Kamala Khan through the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel. Additionally, Marvel Studios reintroduced the iconic Monica Rambeau in WandaVision and hinted at a greater involvement for her in the larger MCU. Fans of the franchise are looking forward to seeing both characters, alongside Captain Marvel, reprise their roles in The Marvels.

1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (June 2)

Synopsis: After reuniting with Gwen Stacy, Brooklyn's full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is catapulted across the Multiverse, where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. However, when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders. He must soon redefine what it means to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most.

Verdict: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse remains the most critically acclaimed Spider-Man movie, having garnered widespread praise for its exceptional animation and emotionally resonant narrative. Following its monumental success and Academy Award triumph, fans have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of its much-awaited sequel; which of course seems destined to follow suit of its award-winning predecessor.

Last updated: March 20, 2023 | 14:02
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