What’s more troubling is that “Ant-Man” shows that even with the strongest brand in comicbook movies behind it, audiences won’t show up to see just any costumed vigilante. Marvel may have felt emboldened by the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which took marginal figures and fashioned them into film stars, but James Gunn’s pop culture-infused direction helped elevate that material. There simply wasn’t enough to distinguish “Ant-Man” from the onslaught of origin stories and superhero films.
Standing out from the pack will only get harder. In the coming years, Marvel is delving deeper into the comicbook archive, backing movies based on more obscure heroes like Black Panther and Doctor Strange.
At the same time, the studios it licenses its characters to, such as Fox and Sony, plan to raid the recesses of the X-Men and Spider-Man universes to produce movies based on niche figures like Deadpool and Venom. That’s to say nothing of DC Comics, which is about to embark on its own ambitious cavalcade of superhero movies with the 2016 releases of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” All these movies will beget an endless array of spinoffs, prequels and crossover films, testing enthusiasm for the genre. It’s a slate that has the Comic-Con crowd in a state of euphoria, but the rest of the public, not versed in the fruits of Stan Lee’s off-days, may need convincing.