DC recently made the announcement that they would be moving the release date of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice yet AGAIN, this time to avoid sharing an opening weekend opposite what would have been a major Marvel contender: Captain America 3. Simultaneously, DC announced the release dates for movies through 2018. Which, considering they can’t lock down one release date for Batman V Superman, seems more than a little lofty.
I’m a huge Batman fan, and I love the DC Universe as a whole, but unfortunately, I think the only way to ensure a successful Justice League series is to slow down with it. In the [Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice](movie:711870) movie, we are, of course, getting introduced to Batman (his first iteration in this series, taking a different approach than any we’ve seen filmed up to this point), Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Lex Luthor, while rumors of Aquaman, Robin/Nightwing, and a Batman villain (who could be the Joker, but as far as the Legion of Doom goes, would make far more sense to be Riddler). It’s a lot to squeeze into one movie. And don’t get me wrong, it CAN be done–Marvel has proven that you can successfully introduce 5 members of an ensemble cast and develop each character well enough for it to work for an audience. But how was Marvel able to make this work?
Careful Planning – Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America
Firstly, and most obviously, Marvel didn’t take a huge gamble early on in their series. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have always been popular characters on the page, and so the jump to the screen (though none of these characters had been on the big screen before, Captain America did have 3 TV movies, and Nick Fury had one. Hulk had been done in film already in a box-office dud led by Avi Arad, but had also had a wildly successful TV show. Point being: these are characters that Marvel knew were audience and fan favorites. And those characters that Marvel hadn’t gotten to try out before launching their Avengers series? The comparison has always been drawn between Batman and Iron Man, as well as Superman and Thor. So, one could argue that Marvel could see the success of that type of character based on the Batman and Superman movies that existed up to that point.
The members of the Justice League don’t have quite the same pull as the Marvel names at this point. Some of the Avengers were household names before the launch of the series. The average non-comic book fan, I’m guessing, would be hard pressed to name most of the members of the Justice League (I’m sure everyone knows Batman and Superman, but oddballs like Hawkman and Martian Manhunter are sure to be below the radar of most people).
Develop Characters Slowly – Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye
As for the Agents of SHIELD, Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, these characters were introduced and developed very slowly. Nick Fury had like 3 lines in a post-credit scene that no one was expecting in Iron Man. Hawkeye was a background character in Thor. They were carefully introduced first, and then developed. The focus isn’t on them.
Perhaps that’s DC’s plan in Batman V Superman. If [Wonder Woman](movie:45787), [Cyborg](movie:1043082) and the other rumored characters make cameo appearances, as a mere introduction to await further development in their own solo movies (or later team-ups), then this could work out well. My concern is that DC has seen Marvel’s example and is trying too hard, too fast to emulate their success. Unfortunately, this could set them up for failure.
Possible Success, Probable Wrong Foot
Again, the next DC movie offering should be a huge success. Man of Steel, for all the negative reviews, was a box office success and got a lot of people more interested in Superman than they’d ever been. Add in Batman, a character made more and more popular with each movie series, and this movie shouldn’t fail. Yet, DC has this trepidation, sending their two biggest characters up against a second Captain America sequel. It shows that DC doesn’t have confidence in their two biggest heroes. If they can’t have confidence in the likes of Batman and Superman, how can they be confident in any of their other heroes?
Batman has had seven live action movies at this point; Superman has had seven as well (including one very old black and white film from 1948). DC knows what works and what doesn’t with these characters. Unfortunately for comic-book fans who didn’t like the representation of Superman in Man of Steel, this means that the success of Man of Steel has been a satisfactory launching point for DC’s series, which means we’ll be seeing more of the same attempts at a dark, gritty, misunderstood Superman. Which means, for a lot of fans, DC’s already started off on the wrong foot.
Going in Blind – Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Cyborg
The worst part is that DC is going into the rest of the series essentially blind. Wonder Woman has never had a big-screen adaptation. Neither has Cyborg (heck, he’s never even had his own live-action TV movie or series). Green Lantern has had one awful movie, and Flash, though he has an upcoming TV series, has also not been done before. Outside of Batman and Superman, DC has no idea what audience reaction will be like to ANY of the tactics they may try with these characters. Literally the only two characters they’ve ever used before are headlining the next movie, and DC is afraid to put them up against Captain America?
Marvel had more than a decade of movies - most great, some flops - to figure out what works and what doesn’t in a superhero movie. They were able to hone their storytelling and adapt their characters to fit an audience. DC doesn’t have that luxury. They have to sink or swim.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very excited for the potential that the Justice League series has. With rumors of a memorial to a dead Robin in the new Batcave, it leaves things wide open for a “Death in the Family” or “Under the Red Hood” movie, both of which are epic storylines. Of course I’m excited for a larger, more united cineverse, as the Batman and Superman movies up to this point have been stand-alone, with no unification beyond their own series.
Worrisome Future for DC
I’m merely concerned that DC is biting off far more than it can chew. It is illogical to change the release date 3 times to avoid box office confrontation with Captain America, while in the same breath insisting that you have the next 5 years or so of release dates set. What’s going to happen in 2018 when the Green Lantern and Flash team-up happens to go up against Squirrel-Girl and Jubilee?*
At this point, it seems that Marvel has DC running scared. It takes some audacity to try to put your foot down against a company that has been setting the precedent for comic-book movie making for years and years.
DC has its work cut out for it, that much is sure. I, for one, hope that I’m wrong about everything. I hope that Batman V Superman is the best movie DC has ever released and gets the world as pumped for [Justice League](movie:401267) as Iron Man did for Avengers. But, I also think that DC might benefit from a few more solo movie attempts before trying to unify all of their heroes in one universe. Heck, even the first Hulk movie served as a good lesson for future Hulk movies. It’s learning through experience, and DC doesn’t have the experience. If these next few DC movies aren’t awesome, then it’s only a matter of time before the whole series reboots. Are audiences going to want to sit through it all again? I’m not sure. A movie series as large as the Avengers demands a lot from its audience. If Justice League doesn’t stand up against Avengers and has to reboot, my bet is that the majority of fans just stick to the Avengers.
Tread carefully, DC, and don’t be afraid to take your time with this series. You’ve got a lot of fans, we just don’t want to be let down.
*”Squirrel-Girl and Jubilee: Teens in Space” are NOT movies that Marvel is developing, has announced, or intends to make at this time.
This article was written by Travis Czap on August 25, 2014.
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