The other day Tim Zachary wrote a great article on why DC can never match the Marvel Universe. It's a great read and presents some convincing arguments, so I'd recommend checking it out either before or after reading this. Just make sure you come back, yeah?
So I feel I need to disclose this with a preface saying that I do, in fact, love Marvel and what they're doing with their cinematic universe. It's pretty damn awesome. But I've always been a DC guy, a species that seems to get more endangered with every new Iron Man film. So in that regard, I'm biased I suppose, but I'm not here to present both sides of the argument, just defend DC, so we don't have to worry about bias here. So let's get right down to it.
Nick Fury, Bucky Barnes, Phil Coulson and Steve Rogers. What do these four guys have in common? They all "died" and then came back to life in a subsequent films or TV shows. Nick Fury actually comes back in the same film as he "died" in. It's a major gripe that I (and many others) have about Marvel's universe: no major character dies.
But more than that, there are no lasting consequences because they have to keep the status quo intact for the next Avengers film. DC is looking to capitalize on this, with the aftermath of Man of Steel looking to be a significant part of Batman vs. Superman, and Suicide Squad looking to give us a look into the criminal underworld. If DC can keep this idea going and continue to incorporate real world cause and effect then they'll be creating a much more engaging universe because we'll actually fear for people's lives and it'll feel that little bit more real.
Provide something different
DC won't beat Marvel at their own game. They won't be able to create a universe of action comedies to rival what we've already seen. But they can provide a world that's much more grounded and dark, which appears to be what they're doing, if Man of Steel is anything to go on. Which, you know, it is. This allows the two universes to co-exist and both satisfy different desires for us. DC has always excelled at telling grittier stories and tackling real world themes like they did in Watchmen, the Dark Knight trilogy and Batman Returns. If they can consistently do that and still adhere to their characters' source material faithfully then it allows them to have their very own place in cinema alongside Marvel.
See, that's the thing, DC and Marvel aren't competitors, they're a yin and yang. Publicity for one boosts the sales for the other, both of them fill a separate gap in the market: Marvel gives us fun and DC gives us gritty. That's not a blanket rule but it applies for the most part. So if Warner Bros. can translate that into the film industry then we can have the same balance we get with the comics between the two, with the current quality of content dictating who's "winning" at the time.
The big names
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn't come out until March 2016 and we know virtually nothing about it apart from what the title tells us and a handful of little facts that we've been teased with. Yet it's one of the most anticipated films of the hour, with the hype and news coverage off the charts. Why? Simple, it's the first time in history that Batman and Superman are going to be in a film together. While a lot of people, myself included, were thrilled at the prospect of the Avengers coming to screen in 2012, it was more to do with the idea of a connected cinematic universe and less because we'd get to see Iron Man and Captain America on-screen together, although that was pretty damn exciting too. However, when it comes to Dawn of Justice, the sheer name-power of Batman and Superman is enough to carry its popularity, despite the mixed opinions of Man of Steel and a year long delay. Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern are also household names, Flash more so thanks to his popular (and excellent) TV show. This also applies to the villains. No Marvel villain has the same standing in pop culture as Joker, Lex Luthor, Sinestro, or pretty much any of Batman's rogues gallery (i.e. Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze etc.).
Marvel has the jump on DC in that they're already finishing up their second phase of films in Avengers: Age of Ultron this May. Which means that DC can't just copy Marvel's strategy of lining up their films in phases. So bust out the cake because that's exactly what they're doing. Batman vs. Superman and Wonder Woman will fast-track us to that ever illusive Justice League film we've wanted for so long and then we'll expand out into solo films for all of our League members. Warner Bros. has also come up with a very clever plan for this. In Suicide Squad we're going to spend a film with villains Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress and Joker. So that's three Batman villains, a Flash antagonist (Boomerang) and one of Wonder Woman's rogues (Enchantress). Why is that significant? Well, it means that for those heroes' solo outings, no time needs to be spent introducing us to a villain, as they were already developed in Suicide Squad. The method of a universe that starts out small and then explodes into a much larger and more spread out one is interesting. They don't even have to all be pointing to a bigger picture like we're going to see in Infinity War, it would be interesting to just see different angles on the universe through the different characters' films. But if they do go in for some sort of endgame that's ok. *cough* Blackest Night *cough*
In truth, none of this is set in stone, DC could maximize on all of these aspects perfectly and yet, if their films just don't cut it then they can say goodbye to matching the Disney/Marvel combo. But hey, here's hoping.
But what do you guys think? Whatever it is, feel free to let us know in the comments. And if you want, you can also check out my YouTube channel over here.