[UPDATE: James Gunn has clarified his comments with regard to DC's movies. Scroll for details.]
Marvel Studios has cornered the market on integrated superhero blockbusters for more than half a decade. Amazing that it's taken that long for rival companies (and comic book publishers) to step in and give the House of Ideas some real competition for the first time in six years. That's all thanks to DC and Warner Bros., who very recently announced their long-term plans all the way through 2020.
Their bid to give Marvel a run for its money begins in 2016 with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which will lead into part one of Zack Snyder's two-chapter Justice League picture in 2017 (with Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad sandwiched in between). That is a seriously packed release slate, and for good reason: with The Avengers: Age of Ultron rumbling into multiplexes in 2015 and the next phase of Marvel's own schedule plotted out up to 2028, DC and Warner Bros. have to run like the wind to catch up to their rival.
There's room to argue that their concept here is too much all at once, and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn appears to be of that exact mindset. In a sit-down with the folks at IGN, Gunn mused over the the reverse path taken to get Justice League into theaters; rather than invest multiple films into building up to their banner production (as Marvel did with The Avengers in 2012), they're starting with Justice League and working backwards. (Not to say that there's anything wrong with that, of course, but it feels like as much a gamble as The Avengers was on paper.)
Here's the full quote from Gunn:
The truth is, it's a list of titles, and if they're done well they'll be good. If they aren't, they won't be good. But I think we have a little bit more of an idea of what we're getting with Marvel. I mean, we know the actors, we know the characters -- we've seen movies with these characters. You have some idea of what's going on already. We've told a big part of the story. With DC, they haven't told the story yet.
He's not throwing shade; he's just being observant. Marvel and DC both want the same thing- a joint cinematic universe for their characters to thrive in - but DC is kind of in a pickle here. They can either do what Marvel did in 2008 and slowly work up to a Justice League film one individual property at a time, or they can go all-in on Justice League and see what happens. Neither design is perfect, and given that DC is already far behind Marvel in the movie world, it's understandable that they'd feel compelled to make Justice League a priority.
But Gunn has a fair point. DC and Warner Bros. are on the back foot here. Maybe their gamble with Justice League will work out for them, maybe not - it's not a bad approach, just a different approach - but either way they're making a movie that's front-loaded with characters instead of letting viewers (some of whom may not know the comics) get to know them.
Interestingly, Gunn also commented a bit on theories about legendary DC villain Darkseid playing the role of Big Bad in Justice League, describing it as a "strange choice" in light of his similarities to Marvel's Thanos. Gunn's only speaking to his gut reaction, but if people outside of DC and Warner Bros. can spot the similarities, then maybe those rumors about Darkseid being held off until Justice League 2 are more meaningful than we realize.
UPDATE: Recently, a DC movie fan who didn't appreciate James Gunn's aforementioned comments took to his Facebook page to give the director a piece of his mind. Gunn responded:
Also, while we're at it, I don't have any problems with DC characters or DC movies. I grew up reading them and loving them just like I did Marvel characters. What seems to have outraged a small section of DC acolytes is, when asked what I thought of the DC slate, I said I didn't really have an opinion, because at this point it's a list of titles I don't know much about. I went on to explain that with Marvel we've seen most of the onscreen portrayals of the characters in upcoming films, as well as the actors who play them, and we know many of the writers and directors making these films. You kind of know whether you like Marvel movies or not. But what we know about the DC projects in comparison is small. I'm excited and hopeful that these movies are good. But I'm waiting to see just like the rest of you.
PRETTY OUTRAGEOUS, HUH?!
I'd like to say I'm dumbfounded as to how this line of thinking has caused controversy, but I'm not. If there's one thing I've learned in my years on the Internet is that people LOVE to be outraged and look for any chance they can to be so.
Love you all. Even the outraged ones. Bat-Mite for life. xo James
Justice League will arrive in theaters on November 23rd, 2017.