A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After I wrote it, I went and saw the new Thor movie, and it fit right in with the outstanding work that had been done previously, taking Thor to another level and continuing to pave the way to the big Avengers blowout in May.
There are two major comic book companies. Marvel has been #1 for a long time, but the other big gun is DC Comics. You know, the home of Superman, Batman, etc. So what have they been doing to compete in the movie business?
Not much, really. DC and Warner Brothers tried to start up a movie franchise back when Man of Steel was released with Henry Cavill now portraying Superman. The movie was miserable and flopped. It was dark and depressing, which is everything a Superman story should not be.
A few years later, the studio released Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Fans cried out when they learned that Ben Affleck would play the Dark Knight. DC was oh-for-two when it came to casting. The movie itself was mildly better, especially since it premiered Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and made references to other heroes such as Cyborg, Aquaman, and the Flash.
Later that year, Suicide Squad was released. This seemed an odd choice since it featured characters who were villains, but were brought together to save the world and would win their freedom if they did. If they failed, well, without a world, there wasn’t much left to be free for. This movie made no bones about the fact that it would be mostly action, without much story, and that was absolutely correct. About twenty minutes into the film, things really got moving and character development went by the wayside. Still, it was better than the first two DC movies.
This past summer, Gadot returned in a Wonder Woman movie, and it rose head and shoulders above the other DC films. Diana of Themyscira was portrayed in all her mythological glory, and we finally had a super hero who was cast well. Gadot played the Amazonian princess superbly and hope began to rise.
This past month brought most of these heroes together in Justice League. This was supposed to be DC’s answer to the Avengers of the Marvel Universe. It was an enjoyable movie, but nowhere near what the Thor movie had been earlier in the month. The box office results are showing that the gathering of Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Superman will be a huge flop. So now what?
DC is still planning new films including sequels for Wonder Woman and the Suicide Squad along with movies for Aquaman, Cyborg, Shazam, and the Green Lantern Corps. There continue to be rumblings about another movie each for Batman, Superman, and the Justice League along with various other DC Universe characters. But they are starting to shy away from making them all connected like Marvel has done. Marvel clearly had a plan from the start while DC has made so many starts and stops that it’s difficult to build.
The funny thing is that DC charcters on television are doing just the opposite. The CW Network currently has four shows airing with super heroes: Supergirl, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Arrow. These shows sometimes share characters and even have a yearly crossover that involves all four series. And it’s working. Not every episode is great, but these shows are entertaining and keep building a mythology that interconnects and invites expansion.
Where DC fell short is not having these characters and actors play those same parts in their movies. Fan outcry against the Flash of the movies is immense. Grant Gustin plays that hero on TV, but DC chose to have a different actor for Justice League, saying this was a different version of the DC Comics Universe. What? More fans of the shows would become invested in the movies if their favorite actors would be part of that structure.
Marvel has made attempts to have its television efforts connect with its movies. The biggest example is Agents of SHIELD, which stars the character Phil Coulson, an agent seen in the first Avengers movie. The show makes regular references to actions and characters from the movies, helping viewers feel it’s all related.
Marvel’s not always successful as seen by the recent Inhumans show, which was miserable. Plus, there’s the unrest about the X-Men franchise and related shows being disconnected, but it’s pretty mild compared to the hole DC has dug for itself.
Will I keep going to watch DC movies? The answer is yes, because I keep hoping for something good. Wonder Woman was able to do that, so hopefully more will in the future. And if the movies don’t, at least I’ll still have some good television shows with those characters, even if I don’t eat popcorn while watching them!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is pernoctate, which means to stay up all night, as in, “It was rare to see anybody pernoctate for tickets to a DC film, unlike the ones from Marvel.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!