It’s been the question on the minds of comic book fans ever since Marvel revealed their plan for The Avengers, and the launch of their larger movie universe: will DC Comics do the same? The public had already gotten more than a few (and perhaps more than necessary) looks at Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in live-action form, most recently with the groundbreaking Dark Knight Trilogy from Christopher Nolan. Would the world need an introduction to DC’s heroes as they had with Marvel’s? Or could DC and Warner Bros. cut to the chase, and release a movie version of The Justice League?
Some of us believe that strategy won’t just be a different approach, but one that will work best for DC Comics’ lineup. The strategy has worked before, and reflects the reality of WB’s situation. With Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel once again exciting comic book fans due to its amount of talent and Nolan-esque sensibility, DC has placed the rest of their bets on a Justice League film coming summer 2015. Here’s why it makes sense for the studio and cast of characters, and why fans should possibly be excited by the proposition, rather than disappointed.
First off, it’s important to recognize that DC isn’t making this decision lightly, in an effort to simply capitalize off of the success of The Avengers – no studio makes this big a decision off of one factor. DC and WB has plans for building an entire gallery of comic book movies at one point, and have since distanced themselves from most. Instead, Marvel’s ‘competition’ is putting of all their eggs into one basket, and giving themselves almost three years to create one story with a single creative team.
The plan is risky, but could work. Marvel fans (and those who’ve never read many DC Comics), please hear us out.
A Singular Vision
Rather than simply handing out every hero and super-team DC has ever created to a variety of directors and writers, the studio has the opportunity to bring DC’s best creative minds together for one great story. DC/WB creative talents like Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, or any combination thereof have proven their writing skills and knowledge of the characters time and again. That was the idea previously pointed to by our own Kofi Outlaw in his advice for building a DC movie universe, and it’s still the best route.
The assumption that more characters automatically means less story or development was proven dead wrong with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, and most comic book writers know that undercooked ensemble stories are merely a result of poor writing. If DC is taking their time, the opportunity is theirs to tell a strong story, while setting a single tone and style for their universe going forward. This is the same thing Marvel seems to be seeking after hiring Joss Whedon to oversee their entire “Phase 2″ universe, while not recycling any directors for their ‘Phase Two’ projects. Marvel’s using few writers as well – not surprising, since Whedon was brought in to rewrite both Captain America and The Avengers.
We know DC’s rogues gallery of writers can create a strong narrative utilizing the heroes assembled, since Justice League stories have proven to be among the best ones in the company’s history. Simply look to ‘Kingdom Come,’ ‘Identity Crisis,’ and the community aspects of ‘Green Lantern: Rebirth’ and ‘Flash: Rebirth,’ both written by DCU Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns.
Use a Team to Showcase Individual Heroes
Rather than fast-tracking development on half a dozen films in the wake of Marvel’s success – for reference, take a quick glance at Fox’s ever-growing ‘Marvel universe’ – Warner Bros. and DC are sticking to what they do best. Rather than trying to mimic Marvel, or convince the public that The Flash and Wonder Woman deserve attention – or promising they won’t repeat the mistakes of Green Lantern - they’re just going to show people.
DC/WB needs to prove that they recognize why fans disliked Green Lantern by highlighting the character in a better light (no pun), possibly with a new actor, and with powers and personality more in keeping with the source material. Fans would be fine with a smaller role for the hero if he’s done properly, but there’s no point in making an entire film/reboot/sequel/do-over that absolutely nobody is demanding (outside of the most niche fan base). Asking audiences to pay full price to risk being hoodwinked again isn’t fair and isn’t a wise business move – but a compelling, kinetic GL that fans can recognize, and newcomers gravitate toward, speaks louder than studio promises.
Take the ensemble of Justice League as a chance to prove that Wonder Woman can be a unique heroine, culturally relevant to modern women in a shared a world with Superman. Marvel’s movies have gotten female audiences through their leading men, but the films themselves have offered few women for audiences to identify with. Again, this is a character that even Joss Whedon’s failed to launch, and David E. Kelly’s failed to bring to TV. The overwhelmingly vocal male comic book audience and Internet community would be all too ready to attack a Wonder Woman film, for reasons that depress and infuriate us (costume, concept, etc). Why fight an uphill battle from day one?
Use Justice League to prove that The Flash can work in live-action, and how the audience will be granted a window into his accelerated perception. Since super-speed special effects remain largely unexplored, DC would be wise to first demonstrate (in limited example) that they’ve got it figured out, before going all-in. Even the biggest Flash-fans would have trouble explaining where his powers come from, be it through chemicals and lighting, or the mystical ‘Speed Force.’ How the character behaves is what defines him, not the origin story of his speed; it would be wise to show the payoff to The Flash’s powers before asking moviegoers to grasp the intricacies of their creation.
And finally, use a Justice League movie to introduce a new actor as Batman. He’s the character everybody already knows, but take this chance to show a side that Nolan’s universe didn’t touch. Honestly, it takes all of ten minutes for fans to ‘get’ how any director’s incarnation of Batman is different from those previous, and with the billions of dollars that Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy brought in, it’s safe to assume the people who ‘need to be introduced to Batman’s origin story’ aren’t planning on learning it in their lifetime.
Bundle Batman in with the League and fans won’t focus on debating whether the property should be rebooted, why Christian Bale isn’t coming back, how the new actor compares to his predecessors, etc. Just add Batman to the team, and let people see for themselves how he stands alongside the rest of the heroes. The differences between Joss Whedon’s Hulk, Thor and Captain America as seen in The Avengers and their lead-up films were ultimately seen as adding depth – not breaking continuity because the writer and director had changed.
If DC says Nolan’s version is canon, but they’re expanding on it, so be it – the question won’t matter if fans like this version. I’ve already written an entire article on how a new Batman could be more faithful to the comics than Nolan’s, and many of you readers agreed. We don’t need to see his parents getting Killed again and him discovering the Batcave (etc). It’s Batman: his origins always remain the same.
That’s four massive risks that DC would avoid by foregoing lead-in films and the attached skepticism. Have audiences enter the theater wanting to see Superman, Batman, and the Justice League, and leave wanting standalone films of each new hero they’ve come to know and enjoy.