Justice League Looks to Avengers for Film Success
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Despite some mixed reviews, it would appear that Man of Steel is what studio accountants like to call something of a financial success. The reboot brought in an estimated $113 million in its first weekend, poising the sequel for a fast track release. The film’s success has prompted talk of reviving the on-again, off-again Justice League movie. Of course, the talk is only natural, since it’s only a natural progression after Marvel proved it could be done successfully with The Avengers. The problem is that DC/Warner Bros. is behind the curve when it comes to the other grand team-up film.
Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are three of the most readily famous superheroes in history, considering they’ve been around for so long. This would seem to be a huge advantage for DC, considering they can rely on the name recognition alone to carry a Justice League film. The problem is that the people that do know them don’t quite number into the record-breaking audience amounts, which means more work has to be done to introduce the viewer to them. DC hasn’t really seemed to want to take such a risk, relying instead on continuous Batman and Superman movies while constantly eschewing films about Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (until a few years ago) and Flash.
Marvel’s Kevin Feige has overseen most (if not all) of the Marvel phased movie projects. His goal was to first introduce the characters to the audience; characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow and Hulk. While some of these characters carry with them some name recognition, by and large, probably only Hulk was readily recognizable in a line-up before the solo films. In fact, the vast majority of the public probably knew very little about Iron Man before Robert Downey, Jr., stepped into the role.
Introducing the characters individually and tying them together with a team-up film in mind did wonders for all the characters and the actual team-up movie in The Avengers. DC, on the other hand, hasn’t done that. While Nolan’s Batman trilogy was a fantastic trio of films (possibly among the best superhero films period), it didn’t blend in with other DC mythology and relied partly on the audience’s awareness of the character. The same goes for the train-wreck that was Green Lantern (except for the awareness part). These films existed within their own universes, not really nodding at other aspects of the grander universe as a whole.
Staying with the characters, Marvel went ahead and secured most of the big-name actors for extensive deals. This means that they’ve got continuity, a word that is cherished when it comes to comic book properties. As far as anyone’s concerned, Downey IS Iron Man, despite rumors that he may be done with the role after the sequel to The Avengers. Christian Bale has intimated that he likely won’t be back as Batman in any Justice League film. Henry Cavill is likely on board, but questions remain about Ryan Reynolds commitment as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. Not having the same actors across all films hurts the overall chemistry of such a team-up film.
What DC has that Marvel doesn’t though is control over all the properties…somewhat. Because Warner Bros. owns DC, they can make any film about any DC character. That means that DC can include even the most obscure characters in their films if they want simply because they own all the rights to all of them. This would make a tighter, more cohesive universe, something that Marvel can’t quite do just yet. Marvel made a series of deals looking towards profits that took a lot of their characters out of house when it comes to films.
Marvel’s deals are a bit more fragmented, with X-Men, Fantastic Four and Daredevil rights with 20th Century Fox and Spider-man and Ghost Rider with Sony. That precludes in-house Marvel movies from referencing those characters, which separates the Marvel universe into smaller, studio universes. There’s even a tussle going on about the inclusion Quicksilver in both Avengers 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past, with the possibility of two different actors playing the same character. The reality that all the characters aren’t really there sometimes snap viewers out of the fantasy they’re immersing themselves in.
DC has proven that it can do their characters very well on the small screen. Smallville was a long-running work that was met with great acclaim and presented the “quieter” side of Superman, looking at his upbringing as a young Clark Kent. Arrow recently concluded its surprisingly strong first season and looked at the Green Arrow, showing another hero with a purpose. Unfortunately, the pilot for Wonder Woman didn’t fare as well, but that seems to be because nobody can seem to get her right as of late. Maybe DC would be better served building a Justice League film through TV series, as opposed to Hollywood blockbusters.
Ever since Batman Begins and Spider-man 2, studios realized that superhero films could be about superheroes, but still have a sense of gravitas to them. That’s what worked for the entire Batman trilogy by Nolan and it’s something that DC attempted to emulate in Man of Steel. It’s natural that such an approach would be desired for a Justice League film, but Marvel has proven that audiences like their films a little lighter and tongue in cheek. After all, how much fun would it be to see Tony Stark in AA meetings? Or Bruce Banner at anger management classes? Fans want their movies with the superheroes they know doing what they do best: saving the day and giving everyone a symbol to look up to.
And we all know it’s not really an S.