DC Comics Strikes Back

Avengers. You know, that movie directed by Joss Whedon that was the culmination of Marvel’s brilliant shared cinema universe plan? Its now the Number 1 grossing comic film of all time, surpassing The Dark Knight with close to $1.4 billion and counting. Avengers is doing so well that its torpedoing other summer movies that have been released five weeks afterward! Crazy, right? And yes, I’ve seen it twice now, something I rarely do for theatrical releases.

My question has been this. Will what Marvel’s done be enough to wake Warner Bros up on the potential they have in the DC Comics Universe outside of Batman and Superman? Yes everyone knows how awesome Nolan’s Batman has been and the ways its reinvented the comic book movie. However, Nolan’s Batman does not exist in a universe where there are any other superheroes. And after The Dark Knight Rises, both him and Christian Bale are done.

Interestingly enough, Warner Bros has just made some waves about hiring a new writer to craft their latest attempt at a live-action Justice League movie. Considering how they actually had Joss Whedon writing a Wonder Woman adaptation and FIRED him, I’m sure they are feeling like world-class idiots now.

Now if Warner Bros/DC Entertainment are serious about truly utilizing the thousands of characters in DC’s rich pantheon, how should they go about it? Should they go the Marvel route (aka the Long Game) and kick off a shared cinematic universe?

Or, should DC just do the opposite – push out a Justice League flick first and then feature its roster in solo flicks?

Solo Films First, Team-up Films Later:

Let’s face it. Marvel’s strategy was genius. They took a bunch of B to B- list superheroes and with a calculated 4-year film strategy that began with the first Iron Man flick, brought them all up to the main event. Now DC could totally go this route, but who could they build their shared cinematic franchise around?

The obvious choices would be the most recognizable two: Batman and Superman. Here’s where you encounter the first roadblocks. Since Chris Nolan is ending his run on Batman with TDKR and his Batman trilogy has no connection to the rest of the DC universe, it would be impossible to really bring in a whole new Batman in a solo act for a good 4-5 years. Possibly longer.

As for Superman, he’s got a brand new reboot coming out next summer. But Superman’s cinematic road has been a rocky one. After the first to films was so revered, everything else after that fell flat (Superman Returns) or outright sucked (Superman 4: the Quest for Peace). And lets not even get into the development hell of 15+ years it took to even get another Superman film onscreen prior to ‘Superman Returns.’ You know what? Let’s get into the development hell that was Superman 5. They are all worth a read.

Go on. I’ll wait as you guffaw in disbelief.

Superman Development Hell, Part 1

Superman Development Hell, Part 2

Superman Development Hell, Part 3

And here’s an image of what the Super suit would have looked like in Tim Burton’s Supes flick.

The Superman outfit from Tim Burton's proposed 'Superman Lives' flick.

Ridiculous, right? But I digress. In short the Man of Steel movie really needs to reestablish Superman’s place in the comic book hero hierarchy. But will Superman still appeals to any mainstream fans? And can he be the lightning rod DC needs to kick start is cinematic universe?

They already tried and failed with Green Lantern, which had too many issues to count hobbling it. Though I hear they are still forging ahead with a sequel (??) Maybe the Flash is your lightning rod (no pun intended). Or Wonder Woman. Probably not Aquaman unless its for a cameo in another hero’s flick.

Wonder Woman might work is done right. the folks at IGN said it best in terms of Wonder Woman is similar to Thor in that her world is based on myth and magic. If they can use Wonder Woman’s Greek mythology connection the right way with a balance of her acclimatizing to man’s world, we might have something here. But Wonder Woman will also need a strong villain who could be more rooted in the new world she’s trying to inhabit. I mean, Cheetah? Uh, no.

Shared Films First, Solo Films Later:

Not sure how many people remember this, but Warners actually did try to make a live action Justice League film in 2008. But due to the Writers’ Strike and a number of other factors, the film got cancelled. This was probably a good thing when looks at the film’s casting.

Now, as they restart the JLA film project (in clear response to Marvel), will people care that this Batman is not Christian Bale? Or, will the Superman in the JLA be the Superman from ‘Man of Steel’? Its not the worst idea to have a Justice League film out of the gate. The biggest problem, however, are the minor League characters whom nobody knows about. The Avengers, thanks to their long game paying off, was able to feature almost every prevalent from their past Marvel Universe films in Avengers. There were points of reference, and in many cases we gave a shit about their story arcs.

A Justice League film as a whole has a huge hurdle to cross, not just because of the unfamiliarity of most characters outside of the big three (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman). Its how the characters are perceived by the audience. While all the Avengers characters save Thor are very human characters, the JLA roster at times are literally gods (save Batman) among men. How will Warner Bros plan to bring these characters down to a level where the audience can relate to them and buy them in a life-threatening bind? How can you honestly get Superman in a perilous position without a big green rock, a red sun or magic?

Yea, exactly. But you know what my biggest fear is. That Warners approaches their new superhero push the same half-assed way they did Green lantern and Superman Returns. Too many cooks, too high a budget, too derivative a story. Because if Warners gives us a crapfest dressed up as a huge tentpole, no one will buy it. In fact, they could possibly have done irreparable harm to the financial viability of these properties.

Just my four cents. Feel free to interject!

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