What audiences and filmmakers didn't know then was the impact that "X-Men" would have on the future of filmmaking. It helped to introduce the Marvel world to the big screen and comic ensembles to the masses. (Yes, we also acknowledge "Blade" came out in 1998.) "X-Men" wasn't part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we know and love today and was produced by 20th Century Fox, but it really helped to open the door, nonetheless.
Now, more than 15 years later, we stand on the precipice of potentially one of the greatest movie rivalries and it's set to take shape in 2016: the battle between D.C. Comics and Marvel. The critics will say D.C. hasn't established its universe yet in the way Marvel has, but at least there are two universes to begin with. If you really think about it, we've never seen this before.
Not to mention that in addition to the slate of movies about to come out, there are great TV franchises that have supplemented the MCU, for instance, with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Daredevil," while D.C. has series like "Arrow" and "Supergirl" that have fans and critics alike in a happy frenzy. Fans of superhero movies have never had the equivalent of a Yankees-Red Sox or a Lakers-Celtics rivalry. In the end, the real winner in a scenario like this is the fan, with an absolute feast for your imagination right at your fingertips.
Fast forward to 2008. "Iron Man" hits theaters and the second wave of Marvel movies -- owned, produced and creatively directed by Marvel Studios -- is about to take over the world. It's not only the role Robert Downey, Jr. was born to play, but everything began to be tied together with post-credit scenes that lead into the next movie and characters bouncing in and out of each other's worlds with the culmination being 2012's "Avengers."
By the time Iron Man teamed up with the Hulk, Cap and the gang to save the world, Marvel had a bona fide dynasty on their hands and they knew it.
The Old Guard
Then came 2005 and with it, "Batman Begins." A modern movie and hero ahead of its time and so revolutionary; the only drawback was it lived in a silo. There was no D.C. Universe, mainly because this kind of huge exploration into the cinematic world hadn't been tried yet and hadn't been proven to be successful.
So, the Christopher Nolan franchise continued on as planned with 2008's "The Dark Knight," quite possibly one of most well-received comic-based movies ever dreamed up. That run all ended in 2012 with "The Dark Knight Rises."
But the very next year, fans everywhere were introduced to a new Superman, Henry Cavill, in "Man of Steel."
The D.C. Universe continued to get even darker with "Suicide Squad," which absolutely, positively stole the show at this summer's San Diego Comic Con after debuting the movie's first trailer. D.C. hasn't quite caught up to Marvel or even gotten close, but it's a good start, and we can expect plenty more to come.
The Year of the Nerd
With both core universes in pretty strong position, D.C. and Marvel are primed to have an epic 2016 that might mark the beginning of the high-point of this whole superhero era. In fact, there are as many as six such movies set to be released next year, most with a ton of buzz surrounding them.
In February, Ryan Reynolds will bring back Deadpool, then we have "Dawn of Justice" the next month and "Captain America: Civil War" in May.
The trailer for the third installment in the Cap franchise just debuted last month and as expected, the Avengers are split down the center. They should reunite, but not without a few anticipated casualties, by way of storytelling or off-screen choices. These stories and these actors can't go on forever, they change, people take on other projects, so enjoy this cast and this year while it lasts.
Around the time of "Civil War," Bryan Singer brings us "X-Men: Apocalypse," another superhero film that reportedly will be the last "X-Men" title for Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence. In the summer, "Suicide Squad" will be revealed, spearheaded by the gritty genius that is David Ayer. The big names continue in November as Benedict Cumberbatch joins the MCU as Doctor Strange.
Next year won't be the end though; 2017 sports films like "Guardians 2," "Thor: Ragnarok" and "Justice League, Part 1," while 2018 boasts "Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1," among others. But 2016 absolutely is the year it will all take shape and the year fans will start to take sides on who they care more about -- D.C. or Marvel.
But isn't that what all this is about? Being able to argue with your friends who is better, Batman or Iron Man, Thor or the Flash. That's why this is so much fun.
Again, there's no way to know if future films like "Wonder Woman" or "Doctor Strange" will be any good or if Affleck will be able to live up to what Bale and Keaton did previously, or even if all the movies promised to us will get made. But what we have is a discussion and for the first time as it pertains to movies, comic nerds are leading discussions and debates that the mainstream now cares about. That may or may not be what the purists want, but it's here and it starts in 2016.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author alone.