DC vs Marvel and the Taxpayer’s Money
By now, even the most average of moviegoers has been converted into a comic-movie fan. You have to have watched at least one of the three Iron Man movies, one of the two Avengers, one of the two Thors, one of the two Captain Americas (about to be three shortly) and so on.
At least you know the Hulk.
You also would have heard about the critical ‘tragedy’ Dawn of Justice: Batman vs Superman was. And this is supposed to be a review of that movie (my editor and I argued over this); but I figure it’s pointless at this point. You know enough to have made up your mind about it – you’ve read about all the bad parts, and even though few critics saw the good in it, there are glowing reviews of that same movie.
I decided not to bother – and this is my opinion; it wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it’s not as bad as people have been raving.
Captain America: Civil War will be hitting cinemas by Thursday, and I feel sorry for DC because the movie is going to be a huge success – and it will be compared to Dawn of Justice way more favorably. Which would be an unfortunate disservice; because as I stressed, DC and Marvel universes are fundamentally different.
Sadly, I doubt even DC understands that.
It was around 1994 – 95 I decided to read the fine print at the bottom of the first page of one of my comics and I found that DC was actually owned by Warner Bros, one of the oldest and largest movie studios in the world. As at then, we had seen two Batman movies, four Superman movies, several cartoons and stage plays. I could remember seeing that WB logo on several films and television programs – and I remember wondering why we hadn’t seen more comic movies. That is a question that; till now twenty-one years later, still doesn’t have an answer.
After the critically panned Batman Forever and Superman IV: Quest For Peace, someone decided to take some time off and focus on made-for-TV shows. A number of campy, home-friendly series were premiered then while the casting for the ‘perfect’ Superman went on.
Introducing Brandon Routh.
Meanwhile at Marvel, things were less than stellar. In 1996 December, the company after being taken public by then-owner Ronald Pearlman (not to be confused with actor Ron Pearlman) had to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
What a blow on the house Stan Lee built.
But they didn’t stay down that long – even though they had been forced to let a lot of the rights – to the movies at least – to their characters be acquired by studios who could afford to do movies of those characters. Maybe DC saw this as a reason to relax?
In 2001, Marvel relaunched and things started picking up almost immediately. A few powerhouses in the building came together and they agreed that they weren’t making as much money as they could be, so they decided to build Marvel Studios.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe started in 2008 with Iron Man, a movie that had a time of it finding writers and then a director, in spite of being owned by and planned for/on by Universal Studios since 1990. Fast forward, eight years and twelve films later (including a 4 billion dollar acquisition by Disney) and Marvel is rich.
So rich, they can afford to make studios who own rights to some of their most popular characters renegotiate.
In 2005, DC signed with Christopher Nolan to reintroduce Batman, which he did with amazingly visual storytelling – although some parts of the character development were frowned upon by fans. However, his Dark Knight trilogy went on to collectively gross 2. 464 billion dollars on a collective 565 million dollar budget. No wonder Nolan was retained as producer and executive producer for 2013’s Man Of Steel and Dawn of Justice: Batman vs Superman.
And therein lies the rub.
Marvel had at least three years to plan for their cinematic universe. They took the time to plan and sketch out what they want to see happen. They knew what the risks were – and in fact, Avi Arad, then head of the Marvel’s film decision was so unsure about the shared universe idea he resigned.
Now DC is trying to do in two films what Marvel did in five (the first Avengers movie was the sixth movie). The sights of all the billions seemingly flying around is pushing them – and therefore they are not actually acting; they are reacting.
What this means is; instead of taking the time to plot and flesh out things, they rush into things. And that leaves us with a lot of un-explainable plot holes and a storyline that leaves so much to be desired.
As a ‘by-the-way, who designed Flash’s and Cyborg’s logos in Dawn of Justice? I can understand Wonder Woman’s (it’s the logo on her tiara) and Aquaman’s (it’s the sign on his belt), and both of those guys have been heroes for more than a minute, but as at Dawn of Justice Flash and Cyborg were still un-costumed. Where did they get logos?
For example, we had to wait fifty years for the official death of Superman at Doomsday’s hand – yet two movies into the DC Extended Universe and Supes is dead. At the hands of Doomsday no less.
That to me, as I noted when I heard the news is desperation.
So far, none of the two movies released under the DC Extended Universe banner (2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Dawn of Justice) has hit the billion-dollar mark at the box office. Man of Steel grossed 668 million and Dawn of Justice has 862 million so far. Meanwhile, February 2016’s Deadpool made 781 million on a 58 million budget in what looks to be the greatest dark horse of the year – a relatively unknown character.
DC had three of it’s biggest guns/stars/characters in Dawn of Justice. What a flop.
Let’s not even go to the Marvel/Netflix Universe, which has Luke Cage primed for a September release, Iron Fist has begun principal photography and Netflix just ordered a stand-alone Punisher series. After watching Jon Bernthal in Daredevil’s Season Two, who can blame them?
Spoiler Alert: If there’s going to be a Season Three of Daredevil, I know the storyline!
Compare all these victories to DC/CW’s campy and for-kids shows like Green Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Gotham and Flash. While some people would argue that every world has its own audience, the DC shows are simply not good enough.
As far as the movies go however, I applaud DC’s decision to stay with a darker-themed universe (that may suddenly be in question; as I heard August’s Suicide Squad has ordered some humorous-reshoots) because I can only stand one world in which every dialogue line contains one family friendly one-liner designed to make the family audience laugh – and Marvel has the lock on that.
So what’s the way forward for DC?
Visually, I like their new world. They just need better stories; I wonder what they’re still doing with David Goyer who is too busy to turn in good scripts now. There are several great writers on the DC roster; Geoff Johns and Stan Berkowitz (RIP to Dwayne McDuffie) amongst others. And then, they need to stop rushing and plan properly with a strategy. Until then, Marvel wins. And both of them are taking our money home.
Watch for my Captain America: Civil War Review.