Why DC will struggle to emulate Marvel’s cinematic universe

Ben Skipper
17 September 2013
Kevin Smith Backs Up DC Movie Slate Claims
The Justice League of America

It's funny how things work sometimes. In the world of comic books The Avengers were formed in reaction the huge success of DC's Justice League of America and now, fifty years later, the reverse is happening on the silver screen.

Marvel's interconnected film world - an experiment that culminated with 'Avengers Assemble' - has proven to be the next step for superhero films on the big screen. It was a success to the tune of $1.5 billion, and Marvel are now building to an 'Avengers' sequel in 2015.

Elsewhere Sony Pictures are reportedly working towards bringing supervillain team the Sinister Six to battle Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man, and over at Fox Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan's X-Men will next year come face to face with James McEvoy and Michael Fassbender's younger X-Men in 'Days of Future Past'.

[Zack Snyder defends 'Man of Steel's huge death toll]

Warner Bros and DC comics are taking their time, but even if a Justice League movie is as far off as 2017, are things really going to work as well for them as they have for Marvel?

Marvel Studios' success was built on two things - the universally celebrated 'Iron Man' and risk.

There's always a risk in bringing a new superhero to the big screen but on top of that was the risk in hiring director Jon Favreau, who had never directed a major blockbuster, and the casting of Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr was the biggest risk of all, but five years on he's the biggest movie star in the world and the linchpin of the 'Avengers' universe, so it's safe to say the risk paid off.

[Ben Affleck could direct Justice League movie as part of Batman deal]

By comparison 'Man of Steel', which marks DC and Warner Bros' first step towards their own superhero mash-up, was less of a success and largely devoid of risk. Zack Snyder was an obvious choice of director and was to blame for most of the films problems as well.

In a quest to emulate the serious tone of Christopher Nolan's wildly popular Dark Knight trilogy Snyder made his Superman reboot a sterile, emotionless and humourless blob of CGI.

Tone has been incredibly important to Marvel's films - each having a sense of fun that has offset the inherent silliness of comic book adventures. Here's a billionaire, a World War 2 vet frozen in time, an enormous green rage monster and a Norse God. It's incredibly silly, but it works because the films know and embraces that very fact.

If 'Man of Steel' is an indication of the series' future tone then seeing a Batman, Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman on screen isn't going to work when juxtaposed with an air of seriousness.

[Batman vs Superman: Bryan Cranston cast as Lex Luthor]

Casting has proven problematic too - specifically the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in the sequel heading to cinemas in 2015. Actors have proven fans wrong before, but it's hard to imagine Affleck's Dark Knight being as great or beloved as Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark, Chris Evans' Captain America or Tom Hiddleston's Loki.

Rumours had suggested that a Justice League movie was going to rushed to release in 2015, so it's good to know Warner Bros are prepared to take their time. The inclusion of TV series in their universe - one starring Green Arrow already being a success and another starring The Flash on the way - is also interesting and could well reap benefits.

The real test will come when the studio has to make a step on the big screen that doesn't involve their two most loved creations. It could well be Wonder Woman who becomes the studio's first big screen departure from Batman and Superman, and that film will prove pivotal to the lasting success of DC's cinematic universe.

Do you think DC's road to a Justice League movie will be successful? What problems could they face along the way? Let us know in the comments below…

Ben Skipper is a freelance writer and Batman nut. He makes time to read Long Halloween and Watchmen at least once a year and hopes Warner Bros' attempts to make a connected DC universe for the big screen are successful, even if so far he's been less than impressed. Follow Ben on Twitter @bskipper27.

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