Marvel is unstoppable. You can run, but you can’t hide, because it’s only a matter of time before its barrel-chested horsemen come galloping into your village to take your children as slaves, your women as courtesans, and salt your fields so that nothing will grow there ever again. When the world was reminded why it loved Robert Downey Jr. with 2008’s Iron Man, we had no idea how far-reaching Marvel’s plans were, and how it would come to so completely and totally drink the superhero movie genre’s milkshake.
Since then, everyone’s been wondering when DC would finally get its act together and get in the game. If Marvel was going to spend millions of dollars getting the Avengers together on the big screen, surely DC would do the same for the Justice League. 2013’s Man of Steel was definitely a shot across Marvel’s bow, but as it turned out, DC had much bigger plans. On a call to its shareholders last October, DC announced a pretty ambitious slate of films that will play out over the next six years. That news has set off some serious Sharks vs. Jets shit between Marvel and DC fans, which is obnoxious and stupid and needs to stop. Why, you ask? Well…
1. Marvel vs. Warner Bros.: A Tale of Two Studios
People need to remember that Marvel and Warner Bros. are two different studios with two very different sets of priorities. While Marvel has co-produced several films in the past — including gems like Elektra and Ghost Rider — it’s only produced 11 (12, if you count the soon-to-be-released Ant-Man) completely on its own, all of which are set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The point is, Marvel Studios is in the Marvel superhero business. It has the luxury of concentrating all its efforts on building up a single unified universe. And as those 10 films have grossed over eight billion dollars so far, they have absolutely no reason to change horses midstream.
Warner Bros., on the other hand, is a huge company with an almost 100-year history (it released its first film in 1918). As such, it has many many many different properties it has to tend to. Properties like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, in addition to more budding franchises like the Lego movies and the rebooted Godzilla films. People are taking a huge dump all over them because those DC films were announced on a conference call to the studio’s shareholders, as if that was Warner’s hip way of unveiling those movies to the world. That’s never what it was intended to be. The shareholders’ call was just that: A call to shareholders. And it covered all of Warner’s upcoming films, not just the DC properties. It was never meant to be a fan event, and definitely doesn’t signal some sort of tone-deafness on the part of the studio.
“Marvel listens to the fans. DC wants money.” This may have been the single dumbest thing I heard anyone say after Marvel announced its Phase 3 slate of films at its press event in October of last year. Primarily because it assumes that DC — or Marvel, for that matter — can’t do one without also doing the other.
How many fans out there have been dying to see Wonder Woman get her own film? Or to see Batman and Superman onscreen together? These are movies that people — that fans — have been waiting years for. And does anyone truly believe that Marvel would be releasing films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange if movies like Iron Man and The Avengers hadn’t made buckets and buckets of money? If you go back and read interviews with Kevin Feige, you’ll find several instances where he’s said something along the lines of, “We’d like to do that, but we need to wait and see how this does first.” What does that mean? Well, if Thor had come out and struggled to make back its budget, the odds wouldn’t have been very good on Marvel bothering to move forward with Thor 2. Marvel is doing great things for its fans, but we need to remember that, at the end of the day, they’re not in the business of pleasing fans. They’re in the business of making money. And while you shouldn’t expect all of their decisions to be based on pure economics, you can’t go wrong if you don’t stray to far from the theory that money = good. The same goes for Warner Bros. If Green Lantern hadn’t bombed so thoroughly, we’d have gotten Green Lantern 2. Plain and simple.
3. Stop copying me!
Whenever news spread that Man of Steel was going to be DC’s lead-in to its own cinematic universe, you saw a ton of negative articles saying that DC was being motivated only by Marvel’s financial success. Since then, more stories have been written about how DC doesn’t have a solid plan for its universe, that they lack a figure like Kevin Feige to provide the films with one, central vision, lending credence to the theory that they’re just trying to push the movies out as fast as they can. “How dare they try and copy Marvel?” seems to have been the collective cry from fanboys across the internet. Fast forward a little over a year, and now we hear that instead of introducing characters like the Flash and Aquaman in their own solo films before bringing them together for Justice League, it would instead spin them out of that film and into their own. What heresy was this? Now we’re seeing a glut of articles complaining that DC isn’t following the Marvel formula closely enough. This on its own makes no sense, because introducing us to a team of unknowns is exactly what Marvel did with Guardians of the Galaxy, and will do again with Inhumans.
This just illustrates the pretzels the fanboy brain will twist itself into when talking about these things. They’re mad because DC is doing exactly what Marvel’s doing, but they’re also mad because DC isn’t doing it the exact same way Marvel did it. Frustrating, to say the least. And I’m not even touching on the complaints about how different the two companies’ films are in tone. I’ll go ahead and do that now.
4. How different the two companies’ films are in tone.
Marvel’s films have dealt with some serious themes in the past, with the best example of this probably being Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, their films are generally pretty lighthearted. I’d say that Marvel does a really good job bringing comic books to life, without making them feel cheesy. The material translates very well, which shouldn’t be taken for granted, because it isn’t always the case. DC, on the other hand, seems to be taking a more serious tone and grounding its characters more in reality. They did this with the Dark Knight Trilogy. They did this with Man of Steel. And it’s possible they’ll double down on it with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Some out there are having a really hard time coming to terms with this. “Why would you try grounding a guy who can fly in reality?” is a complaint I often hear.
It seems that people realize that the feature film landscape — hell, the superhero feature film landscape — is a wide one. There are no quotas that have to be filled as far as films with a certain tone are concerned. For the most part, filmmakers can pretty much do whatever they want. Some fans, myself included, are excited to see these characters against a darker backdrop**. For fans who aren’t as excited for that, you still have Marvel films, and will not want for more Marvel films in the future. And remember, 20 years from now all of these movies will have been rebooted two or three times, so I’m sure we’ll eventually get to see every flavor Superman or Iron Man movie under the sun.
**Notice that I say “darker” and not “dark.” You can call Man of Steel grounded, but the last truly dark superhero film we’ve seen was The Dark Knight. But that’s another article altogether.
5. DC doesn’t know what it’s doing.
Nobody can dispute that Marvel is ahead of the curve when it comes to making movies. Again, setting up and exploring this universe has been its only focus for almost 10 years now (Marvel put Iron Man into development as its first independent feature in 2005). But it’s not like DC is just some punk upstart looking to change the system. They made the Dark Knight Trilogy for crying out loud! Those movies grossed almost 2.5 billion dollars! Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his role as the Joker! The Dark Knight Rises is (as of this writing) the 13th highest grossing movie of all time! I know that’s a few rungs down from The Avengers‘ #3 spot, but it’s still nothing to kick out of bed for eating crackers. DC and Warner Bros. have talented people working for them, too, and know how to nurture a franchise and help it succeed. Just don’t pay any attention to that stack of Green Lantern DVDs behind the curtain!
Anyway, the list goes on. One of the things that surprises me most about all the DC hate out there is that it wasn’t so long ago that everyone was creaming their jeans over The Dark Knight. What a difference seven years and a talking tree make, huh? In the end, all the fighting over who could beat up who is stupid because successful superhero movies — regardless of who makes them — is going to be a good thing for superhero fans. Captain America: The First Avenger succeeding at the box office meant that we got to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and that we all get to see Captain America: Civil War. And the top shelf heroes raking in the bucks means that eventually lesser known properties will also get their day in the sun, ala Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther. And if that means we get to see Margot Robbie play Harley Quinn, well, isn’t that worth it?