“You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.” Since 2008, Marvel Studios has been building a shared cinematic universe with the release of Iron Man. It wasn’t until the very end of the film when Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr., found himself in the same room as Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., did audiences realize what Marvel Studios was doing with their brand of movies. Each Marvel movie has its own post-credits sequence that clues in audiences to the bigger picture. Ever since, the comic book movie studio has been releasing standalone movies that fully explore the many edges of the Marvel universe.
With the success of [The Avengers](movie:9040) in 2012, other movie studios have been trying to build their own cinematic universes with various degrees of quality and success. Fox successfully expanded the X-Men with [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942) and Sony is struggling to build a shared universe with The Amazing Spider-Man and [Sinister Six](movie:1274281) franchises. It’s hard enough to build one successful film franchise and now movie studios are trying to build collections of successful film franchises that interact and informs each other. Which brings us to DC Comics and Warner Bros.
It stands to reason that DC would be competitive with Marvel when it comes to movies. After all, the two comic book companies are rivals in every other aspect of publishing and entertainment. But as of this post, Marvel is the clear-cut winner when it comes to comic book movies with DC lagging behind after Christopher Nolan closed out The Dark Knight trilogy in 2012 and with the moderate success of Man of Steel in 2013. An attempt to expand its superhero team Justice League with the release of Green Lantern in 2011 found very little critical and commercial success.
Although it seems as if DC should just copy what Marvel was doing in 2008 with Iron Man and slowly build a cinematic universe with standalone movies until they all meet in one Earth-shattering event, DC’s approach to a shared cinematic universe seems almost novel and quaint by comparison. Warner Bros and DC are making one superhero team up movie with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and then, get this, are planning to make a sequel to the would-be blockbuster. What? No spin-off movie? No standalone superhero movie? No prequel to a bigger movie? Imagine that, a movie studio planning to make a sequel to a successful movie.
“Every comic book fan on the planet, who is a DC comic book fan, I think we all wanted to see Batman/Superman: World’s Finest… But look, they’re obviously beginning something, and there’s a stretch of these flick,” continued Smith.
“And so this is the beginning of the Justice League, as we all suspected as they were announcing that cast. We were like, ‘This is the beginning of a Justice League movie.’ From what I understand now, it’s no longer like, ‘This is Superman 2.’ They’re not doing these things. They’re doing like, ‘Here’s Man of Steel. Here’s Batman/Superman: Dawn of Justice.’ The next one is not like a sequel to one of the characters. They’re just going to keep building their universe for about five or six movies… But all of them…it’s supposed to tell one massive story, which is all Justice League oriented,” added Smith.
It seems to me that telling one continuing story is a better approach to storytelling than telling multiple stories that branch into each other. While fans aren’t used to this approach of storytelling in comic books, this is a very conventional way to tell a story in a movie. If you look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, how does the story told in Iron Man 2 inform The Avengers, outside of introducing characters? How will [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073) relate to Captain America: The Winter Soldier or the troubled Ant-Man? It seems like Marvel is building a character brand, while DC is seemingly building a story arc. If these six proposed Justice League movies include the same collection of villains, than that already seems like a better way to spend time in the DC Cinematic Universe than Marvel’s. Because, you know, we were all taken by the villain in Thor: The Dark World… what’s his name again? Oh yeah, Dark Elf Malekith. How could I ever forget that name?
While we wish DC and Warner Bros were doing the exact same thing as Marvel Studios by delivering a standalone Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter movies that would lead up to a shared Justice League movie, ramping up straight into the action, drama, and conflict of Justice League itself seems like a better way to tell a story and spend time in a movie theater than to watch a collection of origins stories. While DC and Warner Bros’ approach doesn’t seem ideal, we’ll see if the movie going market has room for two big superhero team up film franchises after The Justice League movie is released sometime in the future.
There’ll be plenty of time for a standalone [Wonder Woman](movie:45787) movie and a proper Man of Steel sequel, but it seems that this approach will work just as well. I mean, why does DC and Marvel have to do the same thing?