2015 could be a blockbuster year at the Box Office. The studios are putting together a host of massive franchise movies for the masses. But there’s a contest which stands out amongst the crowd as two cinematic universes prepare to collide. Me and Mark look ahead at the battle between Marvel vs. DC with Self-proclaimed movie connoisseur Justine Baron. You can read more of Justine’s writing at http://justbmovies.wordpress.com/ and follow her at https://twitter.com/justine_baron
Mark Longden (https://twitter.com/Mark_ISCFC):
I read an interview with a director the other day (annoyingly, I can’t remember who) and he talked about DC’s “Batman” movie series. He hated them, he said, because it was ridiculous to have a superhero movie be about brooding and emotions and all that – Marvel got it right with their lighter, breezier, fun romps; indeed, that’s the only way superhero movies should be. Now, I think that’s a load of rubbish, myself. I may not have liked ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ all that much (in its “Occupy Wall Street” based storyline, it seemed to side with the 1% over the 99%), but the previous one is as good as superhero movies have ever been or probably ever will be.
You wouldn’t say “all movies in this genre must be X” about anthing else, would you? Well, maybe you would, to be honest, I don’t really research these things and just rely on no-one ever taking me to task for the daft stuff I write. The single greatest comic of all time is a dark tale of how superheroes would behave in the real world; ‘X Men: Days Of Future Past’ and ‘The Wolverine’ don’t have tons of laughs; and, it might reasonably be said, the reason we don’t read as many superhero books as adults is because the storylines are sort of simplistic, obvious, and so on. I don’t know.
Here’s what we’ve got coming up from the DC Cinematic Universe:
- “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” directed by Zack Snyder (2016)
- “Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer (2016)
- “Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot (2017)
- “Justice League Part One,” directed by Zack Snyder, with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Amy Adams (2017)
- “The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller (2018)
- “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa (2018)
- “Shazam” (2019)
- “Justice League Part Two,” directed by Zack Snyder (2019)
- “Cyborg,” starring Ray Fisher (2020)
- “Green Lantern” (2020)
The first thing that springs to mind is – this announcing of a slate 6 years into the future seems like such a cold, corporate idea. While capitalism has its evil tendrils in us all, some of us like to at least pretend it doesn’t, but announcing this is letting the curtain slip a little bit. What happens if the next couple of Ray Fisher movies (whoever he is, boy do I need to research these things better) are terrible box office disasters? What if the next couple of years brings us a huge new action star who says he’s always dreamed of playing Cyborg? What if everyone else realises that Zack Snyder may be a great guy and a huge comic fan, but he’s not that great a director?
I think DC following Marvel’s ambitious pre-planning approach is dangerous. Yes, they carry the most recognizable and popular superheroes in their roster, but aside from the headline acts (Batman and Superman) the undercard is pretty weak.
There are a few problems I foresee; number one they don’t have the benefit of a steady build. Kevin Feige’s vision was a financial risk, but in hindsight it has proved to be a calculated and sensible one. The four years between the first Iron Man movie and the assembling of the Avengers allowed for characters and personalities to build. DC have less than a two year window between ‘Batman vs. Superman’ and ‘Justice League Part One’. Then we enter a what I think might be potential saturation period for Superhero movies which could well lead to a depression. Marvel kinda had the market all to themselves but in the next few years DC are not only competing with the established Marvel brand, the Coke to DC’s Pepsi, but also a whole host of returning powerhouse franchises like Star Wars, Jurassic Park and The Terminator.
I can’t see ‘Superman vs. Batman’ failing at the box office, but I wonder how Affleck’s Bruce Wayne will differ from Christian Bale; and whether it is too soon for a Batman reboot after Christopher Nolan’s excellent trilogy. How might a backlash against Affleck, which to an extent has already occurred, affect how the film is perceived critically?
There’s something also about ‘Wonder Woman’ that needs to be addressed. For me the film needs to be ground-breaking and empowering, a whole gender of female superheroes have been unrepresented in dire films such as 2004’s ‘Catwoman’ and 1984’s atrocious ‘Supergirl’. Even in the Marvel Universe under the eye of Joss Whedon, a man who has written several stellar female characters, we have Black Widow and that’s about it. It’s been forty years since ‘Wonder Woman’ was on our TV screens and that seems like an eternity. A whole generation have no frame of reference for the character. It’s not even like the ‘Wonder Woman’ show was repeated as frequently as Adam West’s ‘Batman’ series. The writers and directors and even the actress who will play the character Gal Gadot are under massive pressure to get it right. Otherwise all we’ll remember Wonder Woman for is for providing slutty Halloween costumes, and that’s currently a sad indictment of the character.
What DC is doing well is ramping up interest by casting the toast of Hollywood. ‘Suicide Squad’ becomes interesting with Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto on board. Then there’s the nice counterbalance to the Avengers, with a team of bad guys in the same movie. Perhaps this also will establish genuinely threatening villains as opposed to some of the poor villains that have been slayed by the Avengers to date.
DC also has ‘The Flash’, which is pleasing the critics and bringing home great ratings. This surely provides enough leverage for a successful transition of the character into the cinematic universe.
I think your use of what DC is presenting as a “cold, corporate idea” is dead on. Wouldn’t it have been nice for DC to not announce such a schedule but instead drop out of the blue trailers or post-credit teasers for future films? It’s copying Marvel, but the difference is that Feige has already got there first.
The showdown between Marvel and DC is something I’m genuinely looking forward to. Coming from someone who is a big Marvel fan, I’m eager to see how well Marvel fares with the competition. DC has some classic, very well-known superheroes to build their foundation on–Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to name a few–and that’s a small advantage.
DC superheroes in cinema have been around for a long time, but in my opinion, Marvel has been reaching levels of success that will be hard to match. If you haven’t already realized, just this year alone, a total of five films based on Marvel comics have come out in theaters and the majority have been a hit critically and financially. They’ve established themselves as top dog in the comic book movie business, and now DC is pulling out all the stops to remain just as relevant.
Marvel and producer Kevin Feige took a financial risk in planning this long string of films that would eventually weave into the same universe as like nothing we’d ever seen before. They took a big chance when they jump started the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man, a superhero I knew little about until I saw Robert Downey Jr. play the character. It was worth it when Iron Man turned out to be a box office and critical success. Now, six years later, we have an already large universe of superheroes, and it’s still expanding. Phase 3 of the MCU was being set up from the start, with the Infinity Wars being the ultimate event. As Feige has said, it will be “a culmination of everything that has come before.” Marvel made the right decision by taking their time with developing the characters with their own solo movies to give viewers a greater understanding of them, rather than just putting a series of cameos in one film. When they all come together in the MCU, it feels truly epic.
As Rich said, there’s only a two year window between Batman v. Superman and The Justice League, and DC’s attempts at competing with The Avengers could falter because of it. Not to mention, people already aren’t too crazy about Ben Affleck as Batman and it could affect the success of the upcoming movie, and Man of Steel didn’t quite live up to a lot of people’s expectations.
With DC not yet having a cohesive cinematic universe of their own, a lot is riding on Zack Snyder and the outcome of his film in 2016, and let’s face it, Snyder is known for receiving a lot of bad criticism, especially with his superhero movies.
With the announcement of DC/Warner Bros. line-up, it’s pretty clear they’re working hard to beat the competition, but Marvel is excelling with not only just the beginning of Phase 3, but also with Fox and Sony expanding their separate universes too. Let’s not forget about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the four upcoming Netflix TV series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist), plus a crossover mini-series (The Defenders), which will add to the MCU. That’s a lot to compete with.
For the next half decade, moviegoers are going to be overwhelmed with a myriad of superhero films. The ten DC films coming out are going to be matched by Marvel with ten movies of their own, and that’s not even including those that aren’t a part of the MCU (if you count all the X-Men + spin-offs, Spider-Man + spin-offs, and Fantastic Four, you’re looking at around eighteen movies between 2015 and 2019). Of course, things could change slightly as we’ve found out from the recent Sony hacks. Spider-Man could have a chance of joining the MCU and being included in the 2016 release of Captain America: Civil War, which would be amazing, and then could lead to him getting another refreshed solo movie in the future. If that doesn’t happen, though, and Sony decides to stay on track with their plans (which seems unlikely at this point), the list of upcoming Marvel films (including Sony and Fox) is as follows:
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1, 2015)
- Ant-Man (July 17, 2015)
- Fantastic Four (Aug. 7, 2015)
- Deadpool (Feb. 12, 2016)
- Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)
- X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27, 2016)
- Dr. Strange (Nov. 4, 2016)
- Sinister Six (Nov. 11, 2016)
- Wolverine 3 (March 3, 2017)
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017)
- Fantastic Four 2 (July 14, 2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (July 28, 2017)
- Black Panther (Nov. 3, 2017)
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 (May 4, 2018)
- Captain Marvel (July 6, 2018)
- Inhumans (Nov. 2, 2018)
- Amazing Spider-Man 3 (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 (May 3, 2019)
The age-old Marvel vs. DC battle attracts plenty of people to forums and social media where they can express their not always pleasant opinions, and accuse others of being “fanboys.” It’s already begun and it will only get worse. I’ll be first to admit that I favor Marvel, but many people see superhero films because they genuinely enjoy the genre as a whole. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the success of the seriousness of The Dark Knight or the light-heartedness of Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s that a lot of people love comic book movies regardless of their different styles or brand name. Some movies aren’t afraid to stand out in an overflowing and, sometimes, formulaic genre. They allow you to visually enjoy things you only ever read about (or never read about). Some are surely going to suck, and others are going to blow us away. But all arguments aside, I wouldn’t trade these next five or so years at the cinema for anything.