The Superhero Movie Matrix | Virgin Media
The Superhero Movie Matrix

The Superhero Movie Matrix



Ignore Iron Man v Captain American; forget Batman v Superman – the biggest battle this year is Movie Goers v The Critics.  Despite a 26% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes, Harley Quinn’s baseball has smashed box office records for Suicide Squad for film with an August opening and has grossed an estimated $135.1m in it’s opening weekend. That should keep The Joker in new teeth grills for a good while.  Final figures from across the globe are set to be released soon, but what will this mean for the Superhero Movie Matrix? Will the Squad be giving it’s DC stablemates Batman and Supes some company in the bottom right quadrant?  Or are we looking at another Fantastic Four?   We’ll be on the edge of our seats to find out.

Credibility and commerce are the twin pillars on which superhero movies are built. Can a movie be hated by critics and still be lapped up the public? The Superhero Movie Matrix takes a deep dive into the data, plotting 60 of the most high profile superhero movies of the last 40 years on the axes of credibility (Rotten Tomatoes ratings) and commercial success (worldwide box office, adjusted for inflation). What information will the matrix reveal? You’ll have to see it for yourself…

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Fascinating stuff, we’re sure you'll agree. Here's what we discovered:

- Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice really is in a league of its own.  Of the 60 movies we looked at for this study, BvS is the only one that was placed in the bottom right quadrant - that's critically disliked movies that made a fortune nonetheless. We should point out that the halfway point on our grid ($800m) is not an indicator of the average box office take, but even so, you have to look pretty hard to find a movie sporting similar data: the last movie that this happened to was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which made $150m less than Batman V Superman and scored almost twice as high on the Rotten Tomatoes scale.

- Marvel really know what they're doing. Apart from the three Punisher movies, released in the days pre-Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not a single Marvel movie dips below the Fresh/Rotten divide. They have truly mastered the art of quality and quantity: the four most successful superhero movies of all time wear Marvel red. And just look how far the Avengers are ahead of the pack! Adjusted for inflation, Avengers Assemble almost tops out at $1.6 billion - that's just under double what DC's banner movie, Batman v Superman, could manage. Along with The Dark Knight, Iron Man is the highest rated superhero movie on the Tomatometer with a score of 94%.

- Female-led superhero movies really did not do themselves any favours. If you are a cold, methodical and ruthless movie producer and you have some similar sort of data analysis prepped and left on your desk, there's no way you're going to green-light a female superhero movie based on the stats evident here. Supergirl, Catwoman and Elektra occupy the least desirable corner of the matrix, where critics hated them just as much as paying customers. Of course, all of this is reading too much into the data: these were all terrible films regardless of the gender of the hero. And with eagerly anticipated female-led superhero movies like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel coming soon, you'll start to see the girls scoring wins all over this graph.

- Note to studios: stop making the same Punisher movie over and over again. 1989, 2004, 2008: you are doomed to repeat the failures of the past. We've all got together and we've all agreed that yes, thank you, we can get by just fine without another Punisher movie in our lives, cheers.

- The classics can still cut it. Adjusting for inflation is what puts this data on an even keel: without it, any movie released pre-2005, pre-IMAX, pre-3D, wouldn't have a chance at competing on a dollar-by-dollar basis. But with that adjustment for inflation, suddenly you start to realise that the original gangsters aren't ready to lie down and die just yet. Superman: The Movie made just over $300 million in 1978, but in 2016 money that'd be enough to take it over the billion threshold where it's tussling for position against modern juggernauts like The Dark Knight and Spider-Man. And the original Batman, released in 1989, scores highly on our graph, out-grossing all of the X-Men movies. Still got it.