Superheroes have taken over cinema but that wasn’t always the case. When superheroes became the dominant genre at Marvel and DC, it was up to indie comics to explore the underutilized genres. I believe that the same thing could occur in film and with more indie comics being adapted, this could happen faster than you might think. So, to that end, here’s a list of emerging genres I think could rival superhero films in popularity.
Films based On Anime And Manga
Despite the fact that most live action anime adaptations are lackluster, the possibility for solid adaptation remains. I believe that the key to a good live action anime adaption requires three things: a story that is selected because of its quality not popularity; a story that is realistic enough to translate well into live-action; and a story authentic to its Japanese origins which includes casting Asian actors in the leading roles. Lone Wolf and Cub is a good example seeing as it already had a well-regarded live action film. There are plans for a Lone Wolf and Cub reboot and if the filmmakers focus on making a grounded and authentic martial arts film, it could be successful.
Films Based On Video Games
I had very little hope for video game adaptions until I encountered Netflix’s stellar Castlevania anime. I think the anime adaptation rules still apply. Choose a game that has a compelling plot and focus on what makes it special, as opposed to targeting games that are popular and sell well. A film that could be a turning point is the Metal Gear movie, now in development.
The works of HP Lovecraft are popular in geek culture but have never broken into film. Now that we can find collected editions of Lovecraft’s work in the classics section of a bookstore, it’s long overdue to have a Lovecraftian horror movie. Directors like Guillermo Del Toro have been trying to crack the code for years, so it’s only a matter of time.
Sword and Sorcery
Head Lopper, HillBilly and Klaus are all great examples of how to make Sword and Sorcery fresh and accessible to new audiences. Zack Snyder did a great job at translating the comic book stylization in 300. I’d love to see a feature film stylized to look like a Frank Frazetta painting. What’s great about Sword and Sorcery is the room for tonal variation. You could tell a story as wacky as Thor or as grounded as Gladiator.
Steampunk isn’t a genre so much as an esthetic. The film’s success will depend on whether there’s a solid story behind all the clockwork. Good examples are Princess Principal and His Dark Materials. There’s a Kingsman prequel in the works set in the 1900’s called the Great Game. If it’s a film about Sherlock Holmes as a Kingsman agent using steampunk gadgets, then my life is complete!
There have been several films based on Greek Mythology that are all pretty “meh.” I believe that part of the reason that the mythological films haven’t done well is because they deviate from the source material and water it down to appeal to a PG13 superhero audience. The world is very big and very old with hundreds of stories from every culture.
I would suggest looking beyond Western mythology and tapping into Indian mythology, for example. Black Panther proved that there is a market for fantasy films with dark-skinned characters. India has their own film industry (which is an article unto itself) if there were a joint venture with Hollywood and Bollywood, we could see a film that would appeal to everyone.
Mixed Media Films
Most SciFi and Superhero films use CGI for a majority of the cinematic spectacle. There’s an argument to be made that these films should be fully animated. I have a different argument. I would advocate for using mixed-media effects that are clearly animated. We used to use stop-motion monsters and 2D animated effects in old fantasy films and I think this esthetic is worth revisiting. The music video above is a good example of the type of modern mixed-media I’d like to see in feature films.