We all know about the current powerhouse that is the Marvel cinematic universe. We all saw the Avengers. Superhero movies are some of the biggest things out there right now, and it seems that Marvel has cornered that particular market. We also know that DC Comics is trying to create their own cinematic universe to rival Marvel’s. The question is, how can they do this?
The first, biggest point I think is DON’T COPY MARVEL. The key to success isn’t just to imitate the same things Marvel is doing. I know many people who have already said that it almost seems like “DC is just trying to copy off Marvel’s success” or “they just want to get in on the superhero craze before it ends”. While these aren’t true, there is risk that this could become so. Marvel has its own formula for making movies. It’s that same formula that DC needs to avoid using merely because of its proven success. They can effectively create their own formula for movies, and they can make it work.
Secondly, there are some ways in which DC should follow Marvel’s lead. While they shouldn’t emulate the way Marvel makes its movies, they should emulate some of the thought processes behind them. The current Marvel cinematic universe began with the first Iron Man movie, way back in 2008. Yes, The Incredible Hulk is technically part of the same universe, but the universe couldn’t have been built on that movie alone. It was Iron man that made it possible. The question is, how?
The reason Marvel worked is because of Iron Man. The reason Iron man worked is because, quite simply, it was a good movie. Of course, I’m oversimplifying that fact. The reason it worked is because Marvel focused on making a good movie, rather than on a fan-pleasing movie. Before 2008, Iron Man was a B-list hero. He was important as an avenger, but not on his own. He didn’t have really interesting villains. You wouldn’t think a movie about a less-popular character could work. The reason it did is because Marvel worked to make a good movie. They had a good story for Iron man so they did it. They got Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges, 3 very talented actors. They got a good director. This was the key to its success. They viewed it as a movie, rather than as an extension of their comics. In the end, people will go see a well-made movie, regardless of how popular the character is. This is the most important thing for DC to realize.
So where does that leave DC Comics? If DC can make good movies, they should make them. That much is obvious. However, where I think they’re currently falling short is getting caught up in what they think fans want to see, versus what they can make well. Superman and Batman are staples, and everyone wants to see them. We know that they’re planning a much-anticipated Flash movie, as well as hoping to make a Wonder Woman movie. The question I pose is this. Can they make these movies? Are they so caught up in the idea of these heroes as the ones they need and the ones that fans want, they they’ll focus too heavily on them, instead of on a character that they could make into something the fans want? Their version of “Iron Man” so to speak? Is their long-term goal of Justice League, and the heroes they think should be included in it, going to affect what they make beforehand?
Quite simply, my point is this. Work from the screen to the character, not from the character to the screen. If DC can make a Green Arrow movie, or a HawkMan movie, or a Question movie, they should, regardless of if it’s the hero fans really want to see or not, or whether it’s a hero they think should be in their universe in the future. Focus on the movie itself. If it’s a good movie, people will see, you will make money, and your universe will grow stronger. I think Man of Steel and Zack Snyder is a movie in the right direction for this. A good director, good actors, and a new idea, rather than the classic “origin story” for a hero’s first movie, are all steps towards this goal. We’ll have to wait and see how Batman Vs. Superman turns out before deciding if it’s right or not of course.
In the end, DC can’t try to follow in Marvel’s footsteps. They have the characters and they have to influence, they just need the minds to make it work. A little competition between movie industries is always a good thing: it gives the studios something to work at and strive to beat, and it gives us, the fans, more, and more importantly higher quality movies.