If the entertainment industry has taken over Comic-Con, it's probably equally accurate to say that the Comic-Con industrial complex — that is the audience for comic books and science fiction — has taken over the movie business. And, if you're a movie fan, that's not a good thing.
Hollywood has been obsessed with making big movies that can become multi-picture, marketing tie-in, merchandising-rich franchises and milked for the big bucks for a while. And right now, that means comic books.
So that worked. And the Marvel movies have been well-made. But—especially looking at the numerous tentpole disasters of the summer—success breeds imitation and many of the movies drafting off of Marvel's recent dominance are either failing at the box office (Pacific Rim) or doing little to win any critics over (Man of Steel). Comic-Con is a place where franchises thrive. Fanboy/girl excitement is often driven by a pre-disposed connection to the material and a desire to consume as much of it as possible, and that's fine, but in return, the industry is getting bloated.
Now other entities are trying to replicate Marvel's success. Warner Bros. and DC, for instance, have started to play that game with Man of Steel. Disney, now in control of Lucasfilm as well will look to do something similar with Star Wars, not simply producing a new trilogy, but also standalone films based on individual characters. Marc Webb of Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man—which has a notable Comic-Con presence this year—is now talking in terms of "universe," with plans for third and fourth movies to come out with a seemingly unruly second in the works. Marvel, meanwhile, is delving into even more obscure properties. Phase Two of their cinematic universe will feature Guardians of the Galaxy, which stars a buff Chris Pratt and a raccoon.
Marvel hasn't faltered yet, but their schtick is also becoming exhausting. Iron Man 3 was a good enough movie, but it also felt somewhat rote. Sure, Ben Kingsley's performance was fun, but is this whole thing just a chance to sell more merchandise?
The problem is with niche-market success stories that went mainstream like the Marvel movies is that studios think they can have the repeat effect. And it's important to remember, as Hibberd and Breznican point out: "The Comic-Con crowd is a powerful niche group, but still a niche." That means movies like Pacific Rim are set up for failure. Sure, you can argue that Del Toro needed all that money to make Pacific Rim, but he's also made plenty of movies for less. Perhaps the studio should have just let Pacific Rim be what it is a cult movie. Studios may be better off embracing lower budget films, like horror success The Purge, and allowing them to become surprise favorites. A Purge sequel is in the works.
Comic-Con is all about expectations. It's about teasers and previews. (We haven't even gotten into Y.A., which had a big showing yesterday at the Ender's Game and Divergent panels.) But now the industry is essentially asking for high expectations. And that sets everyone up for disappointment.