No modern comic fan needs to be told about the ongoing rivalry between the two oldest publishers. But as Marvel Comics fans have seen their beloved characters adapted to the big screen in displays of superpowers, thrilling mutations, armor-clad combat, and soon, a robotic AI uprising, DC Comics’ films have taken a very different course. Not a ‘better’ one, since every viewer is sure to have their personal preference, but what is often seen as a more ‘grounded’ one.
Christopher Nolan showed with his Dark Knight Trilogy that there was a thriving market for more ‘realistic’ comic book action, and director Zack Snyder took the style to heart with Man of Steel, making even a superpowered alien seem more reality than fantasy. As Batman V Superman kicks off DC’s shared Justice League universe, the head of Warner Bros. says that will continue to be the studio’s direction, promising a universe that’s “edgier” than that of Marvel.
That claim was made by CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara when asked by Variety if the sudden success of ‘comic book media’ was going to fatigue audiences. Clearly, Tsujihara feels that concern isn’t really relevant at present (as others have offered, it’s akin to wondering when audiences will stop caring about seeing great stories told well). But as the man strongly encouraging the spread of DC Comics properties to film, TV, and video games, Tsujihara explains that seeing all comic book content as one sensation isn’t quite accurate:
“The key thing is that the movies and the television shows and the games, everything looks very different …you have to be able to take advantage of the diversity of these characters.”
Viewers don’t need to be reminded of the many ways that Arrow, The Flash or Gotham differ from DC’s movie universe, with the TV side already boasting multiple crossovers (and the potential for even more on the way).
Of course, it isn’t just DC’s properties and plans that risk overwhelming audiences, but the Marvel properties and shared universes now being pursued by Fox, Sony, and Marvel Studios as well. Again, Tsujihara believes that by offering something different from the competition, ‘fatigue’ becomes even less of a concern:
“The worlds of DC are very different… They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”
Tsujihara follows up by explaining that DC doesn’t have a monopoly on edgy storytelling, singling out Fox’s upcoming Deadpool (we would add Kingsman: The Secret Service to that group as well). That being said, it’s nice to hear from another studio executive that the difference in direction sought by Warner Bros. and Disney serve both.
The pendulum of edginess could be seen as swinging away from Marvel at the moment, having recently parted ways with Ant-Man writer/director Edgar Wright, rumored to be due to the studio’s wish to mold the film to its existing universe (and cutting down on its ‘edgy’ factor in the process). By contrast, Warner Bros. is calling on a director known for his gritty violence to shepherd Suicide Squad, with a chilling vision of Aquaman and even a Sandman adaptation moving forward.
It’s hard to compare the studios’ willingness to push the envelope at the moment, since risk becomes less appealing to those currently in first place. And with a formula and style for Marvel movies now firmly established, some serious turbulence may be required to change things up (with Sony possibly seeking to emulate the Marvel style for Spider-Man, as well).
It’s yet another reason why success for every comic book film is a net positive (for even those who openly hope to see those of a rival studio fail). Competition can only raise the bar, and if Tsujihara believes that DC films will push the envelope, then we expect Marvel to stay close behind.
What do you think of these comments? Is DC’s edgier, more grounded approach a refreshing counterpoint to Marvel’s technicolor comic book action, or do you disagree with Tsujihara’s claim? Sound off in the comments.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters on March 25, 2016, followed by Justice League – Part 1 on November 17th, 2017, Aquaman on July 27th, 2018, and Justice League – Part 2 on June 14th, 2019.