We're pretty far along now in the latest wave of superhero movies and TV shows, and the studios are starting to run out of big name heroes to bring to the big screen. There are a couple of obscure figures I'm hoping will still manage to land their own movies while the momentum is still going, but most of the latest projects in development right now are focusing on characters with more concrete ties to bigger names we've already seen. In essence, these are spinoffs of already popular franchises. But do they have much of a shot at success? I'm going to look at a couple of these projects below with some very preliminary thoughts.
"New Mutants" - This is the most interesting project I've seen at the moment. Josh Boone of "The Fault in Our Stars" will be directing an "X-men" spinoff about a group of young mutants in training, including Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams). It's also reportedly a horror movie, and possibly the beginning of a new trilogy. This looks like a good move by FOX, continuing to diversify their "X-men" universe films by creating a series aimed more squarely at the YA crowd, and tackling a different genre. My only worry is that there's going to be some cannibalization of the main series of "X-men" films, which already heavily involve training young mutants. I'll be keep an especially close eye on the next "X-men" film centering around Jean Grey (played by another "Game of Thrones" vet, Sophie Turner). Both movies are currently due out in 2018.
"Venom" - Meanwhile, over at Sony, they're still trying to find ways to mine the "Spider-man" universe for more material. While the "Sinister Six" movie looks to be permanently dead, things are rolling along very well for a spinoff starring the alien symbiote Venom, who featured in "Spider-man 3." Tom Hardy will star and "Zombieland" helmer Ruben Fleischer is directing, aiming for a late 2018 release date. Somehow, the film will not have any ties to the continuity of any of the Spider-man films, will be more adult-oriented, and is expected to be the start of a new franchise. Frankly, I never understood the appeal of Venom, only being familiar with his appearances in the cartoon and "Spider-man 3." Still, he looks like the most likely candidate for a Spidey spinoff as one of the most popular antihero characters in the franchise. And that brings us to the other Spidey spinoff...
"Silver & Black" - Gina Prince-Bythewood has been announced as the director of a new film starring Spider-man's sometimes ally, sometimes love interest Black Cat, and her gal-pal, the mercenary Silver Sable. This is the Sony attempt at a female-centric comics property. It's a novel concept at least. To my knowledge we haven't had a superheroine buddy movie yet, or even one starring female antiheroes. The notorious "Catwoman" didn't even manage to get that right. I'm willing to give this one a chance mostly because of Gina Prince-Bythewood, who I'm glad is finally getting a break. I know almost nothing about Black Cat and Silver Sable, and I suspect that it may be better if I keep it that way. However, I remain skeptical about Sony's universe-building plans, and hope this is handled more like a stand-alone project.
"Nightwing" - Warner Brothers' most recently announced DC spinoff is also very much in the development stage. Chris McKay, the director of the recent "Lego Batman," is currently attached to a project about Nightwing, the superhero that Dick Grayson eventually becomes after outgrowing his sidekick gig as Robin. Now, I like the Nightwing character, but pretty much all the buzz I've heard about this assumes that it'll be a semi-sequel to "The Dark Knight Returns," and everyone very badly wants Joseph Gordon-Levitt to come back. That is far from a given, and McKay hasn't handled any live action films before this. So, this sounds like a great idea if DC can get all its ducks in a row, but this is DC we're talking about, and their record is spotty at best.
"Shazam" - And I guess I really should talk a bit about DC's "Shazam" project, currently slated for 2019, which may turn into two movies, "Shazam" and "Black Adam." Literally the only thing we know is that Dwayne Johnson is involved, playing the villain Black Adam. The wizard hero is definitely one of DC's second stringers, who skews more kid-oriented because his secret identity is literally a kid. With no official director, this project is still very much up in the air, and I think it's an even bet as to whether it actually makes it to theaters or not.