In less than two weeks, Warner Bros.' big attempt to (yet again) bring Superman to contemporary movie audiences, Man of Steel, will be unveiled. Like The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises before it, director Zack Snyder's reboot is destined to be one of the high points of the summer blockbuster season, and the studio's marketing is making sure of it.
With so much riding on Man of Steel, the chatter around it inevitably turns to the planned Justice League movie, Warner Bros. own attempt to match Marvel's superhero team-up blockbuster The Avengers. With Marvel well ahead of the curve when it comes to establishing a unified cinematic universe based on their comic books, Man of Steel will have to be DC's launching pad.
Despite early spoilers that hint toward his movie setting the stage for this, director Zack Snyder denies any knowledge of the reported 2015 release date for Justice League.
In an interview with Collider, Snyder was asked about whether he'd prefer to do a Man of Steel sequel before Justice League, were he offered either of these projects. His response:
"Look … completely hypothetically, I feel like you need … to get Superman a little further down the road, I think, before you can do a Justice League movie."
This response is a little surprising given the marked lack of DC characters on the big screen, and could be a signal that the Man of Steel story is actually incomplete, with the ending setting up a direct sequel.
Still, since the end of the The Dark Knight was (SPOILERS for the handful of people that haven't seen it!) sort of a cliffhanger, maybe we should've seen it coming. Sequel-bait endings drive critics insane, but Hollywood loves them because they think audiences love them. Christopher Nolan's middle act to his Batman trilogy was nearly perfect - and some considered the ending to be the main let-down.
This approach contrasts with Marvel's. Their films tend to be stand-alone affairs which don't require much knowledge of the other films to enjoy (the exception to this being The Avengers - without at least a cursory knowledge of the other Phase One movies, a viewer would probably be lost). And while Iron Man 3 is informed by the events of The Avengers and references them, it takes off in its own direction.
Are we reading too much into Snyder's remarks? Perhaps, since he'd understandably prefer all the attention remain on Man of Steel.
Still, we know DC and Marvel have taken different approaches to their cinematic world-building, but if this is an indication of Warner Bros. and DC's direction, it could be a miscalculation. With the variety of different characters and worlds Marvel has given us - and plenty more on the way - audiences seem to be ready for DC to explore their untapped characters, not give us endless retreads of characters we already know.
As always, time will tell.
Man of Steel opens in theaters on June 14th, 2013.