Warner Bros. is both expanding and organizing its DC film and television universe with upcoming projects The Flash – a direct spinoff of the Arrow TV show – and the Man of Steel sequel, tentatively known as Batman vs. Superman, which is going to introduce versions of Batman and Wonder Woman that exist in the same world as Henry Cavill’s Kal-El/Clark Kent. Many people watching all this from a distance have argued that WB is, in no uncertain terms, clearly emulating Marvel Studios’ approach to brand-building – and, to be fair, that’s a fairly persuasive and reasonable argument to make, given that Marvel’s recent financial success is undoubtedly the envy of other studios.
The Marvel Movie/TV Universe maintains continuity between its big screen and small screen installments alike; if something major happens in the Marvel films, then it directly impacts any related characters or events on TV (see: how this week’s episode on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show will tie-in with developments in the newly-released Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Of course, the question as to whether or not Warners and DC ought to replicate the Marvel Studios’ formula for success with the architecture of its own movie/TV universe – that’s an issue we’ve debated many a time in the past (including, on the Screen Rant Underground Podcast).
20th Century Fox is starting over on its Fantastic Four movie franchise and is looking to instill new life into the X-Men film series through this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, with assistance from creative talents like director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg. Similarly, Sony has put together its own “brain trust” of creative talent to oversee the expansion of its rebooted Spider-Man property The Amazing Spider-Man, with this year’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 laying the foundation for solo vehicles featuring Spidey anti-hero Venom and the villainous Sinister Six – the latter of which is being written and directed by Drew Goddard, who’s also working on Marvel’s Daredevil Netflix series, by (probably not a) coincidence.
That is to say, Marvel Studios’ “Shared Universe” approach has certainly influenced how other studios are now playing the superhero/comic book movie game, though neither Fox nor Sony’s Marvel universe-building tactics are a direct copy-cat of the Marvel Studios technique. Filmmaker David S. Goyer, who wrote Man of Steel and co-wrote Batman vs. Superman, has likewise suggested that while WB might want to bring the tidiness of the Marvel-world to its DC-verse, they’re not necessarily going to rehash Marvels’ formula step-for-step either.
Goyer has been collaborating with WB for years now and recently signed a formal three-year deal with the studio, which helped to lock him down while he essentially serves as the (technically, unofficial) overseer on the new wing(s) of the DC universe. It was during an interview with IGN that Goyer offered his thoughts on the possibility of future DC show connecting to upcoming DC movies, similar to what Marvel Studios is doing:
I mean, it’s too early. I know that Warner Bros. would love to make their universe more cohesive. There have been a lot of general conversations about that, but it’s really, really early. I’m not sure. Marvel has had enormous success, but I’m not sure that everybody should try to emulate them either. It’s just been vague conversations so far.
It’s already clear that the DC universe won’t be structured exactly like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given that the new Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are crossing over with Man of Steel‘s Superman before they’re even given their own solo vehicles. Similarly, recent DC projects like Man of Steel and Arrow have very much skirted the thin line between fantasy and sci-fi genre elements, yet are by and large are grounded in sci-fi mechanics (read: non-magic) like Marvel’s film/TV universe – yet with upcoming ventures like the Constantine TV series and the Sandman movie, both of which feature Goyer in a creative capacity, the DC universe is headed deep into fantasy territory.
Admittedly, Marvel Studios has begun to open the doors so that it might organically incorporate characters that have supernatural abilities and use magic into its films and future TV programs. However, during the same interview Goyer told IGN that “I’m trying to branch off with Sandman,” indicating that he’s not, per se, striving to make Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s comic fit together smoothly with Zack Snyder’s vision of the world occupied by Superman, Batman and other Justice League members (or any other DC properties, for that matter).
All things considered, it’s arguably encouraging to hear Goyer shoot down the idea that WB and DC will play the same game as Marvel Studios. Marvel and DC comic book properties are very different beasts, so it doesn’t necessarily seem all that wise to use the same approach to organize them while adapting them into live-action form. Besides, as profitable as Marvel’s shared-universe has been thus far, it’s also had its share of shortcomings from a creative perspective, which just goes to show: there’s not yet been a way to play the superhero movie game that’s been proven to be perfect.
Would you like to see a more “cohesive” DC universe, in terms of the various films and TV shows? Or do you think that WB and DC should keep things more separate, rather than attempt and link everything together in a manner that resembles the Marvel Studios approach?
Batman vs. Superman is currently scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on May 6th, 2016.