Though one has been running since 2008 and the other is just getting off the ground, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe will always be compared to one another. The two studios are obviously running similar franchises, bringing together multiple comic book heroes in a singular shared universe that allows the opportunity for crossovers and interconnectivity between installments. Marvel Studios has been very successful in their operation, as a majority of their films have been well-received and collectively grossed billions of dollars at the worldwide box office. They were the trend setters and showed the rest of Hollywood what could be done by combining properties.
They're still in the early going, but DC is facing a bit of an uphill climb. After the entry point Man of Steel divided critics and audiences, this year's followup, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, ended up scoring worse reviews and has seen a considerable decline at the box office. Zack Snyder's superhero epic was able to break records during its opening weekend, but now it looks like the film won't reach $1 billion globally - an unthinkable prospect a month ago. WB has maintained that they're unconcerned by these developments and are moving ahead on their DC slate, which Marvel boss Kevin Feige isn't surprised by.
While interviewed by io9, Feige was asked if the MCU would be able to thrive if the first Avengers had met a similar reaction to Batman V Superman. Read his response below:
Realistically, I don’t know. I think [Warner Bros.] is in a very different position than we were, when we were doing those early movies. We were just trying something, and now there’s a golden ring to try to grab. But I’ve always believed, since Iron Man 1, that things have got to work. Things have got to work, or people won’t let us make another one. I don’t think that’s the case for [DC].
Feige is right in saying that the times have changed. Nowadays, studios plot out a release schedule years in advance for their prized tentpoles. WB was already well into principal photography on Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman and about to start production on Snyder's Justice League Part One before Batman V Superman premiered, so word-of-mouth doesn't have any significant impact on their plans. It's true that top studio executives may take a more hands-on approach when it comes to guiding Justice League to the big screen, but the film is still coming through the pipeline. Feige implies that had this happened with the original Avengers, the MCU may not have been able to continue, which very well could have been the case.
It is interesting that he says it's not the case for DC that they have to make things work in order to prosper longterm. Some would argue that they are in desperate need of a critically acclaimed movie that has a lengthy run at the box office. So far, the DCEU is 2/2 in terms of polarizing opinions across the board, and Batman V Superman is on pace to become less profitable than its predecessor. Should a similar case emerge with Justice League, it could throw a major monkey wrench in WB's overall vision and perhaps lead to drastic changes. After all, Sony had a whole bunch of Amazing Spider-Man sequels and spinoffs planned before 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed. Nothing is guaranteed, even when some of pop culture's greatest icons are involved.
Luckily for WB, things could be on the up and up very soon. This summer's Suicide Squad is generating a lot of hype thanks to its gleefully kinetic trailers, and people are enthused to see more of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck's Batman. Recent reports have also suggested that Justice League will be designed as a crowd-pleasing action flick, which would be a nice change-of-pace after the dour tone of Man of Steel and Batman V Superman rubbed some audience members the wrong way. As long as WB stays the course and learns from their experiences, they should be fine. It wasn't that long ago some questioned if Marvel could actually pull this off, so bumps in the road seem to be standard for early shared universe building.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is now playing in U.S. theaters. Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016;Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017;Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019;Inhumans– July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.
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