Thursday, July 5, 2012

How DC Can Get Its Groove Back, Part 1

So last week it was revealed that, as part of the build-up to Avengers 2, Marvel will produce a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, bringing the franchise into the cosmos and establishing Thanos as a baddie in his own right. This is unprecedented. GotG was always a third- or fourth-tier property that no one ever imagined could be its own film because no one ever cared that much. (Except maybe Jim Valentino.)

Also in the works Marvel currently has Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, and maybe movies about SHIELD, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange. There are so many in the pipeline that all the Marvel Studios movies so far are just called “Phase 1.”

Note that this is in contrast to Warner Brothers/DC, which only recently announced plans to maybe try to develop a Justice League movie.

With the disappointment of Green Lantern and Superman Returns (as well as the failure of the Wonder Woman pilot), DC does not currently have the momentum to pull this off. Dark Knight Rises will be successful (though less so than Dark Knight, critically and commercially, and probably Avengers too), after which point the Caped Crusader will be subjected to a reboot everyone will roll their eyes at. Other recent DC films have sputtered (The Spirit, Jonah Hex), so the organization is really going to have to stretch to succeed with the Justice League – or ANY movie for that point.

Take that, Brandon Routh!

But they could – DC has a few advantages that Marvel doesn’t, which they could leverage into box office gold, namely: 

#1 Better known title characters. DC’s big three – Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman – don’t need introductions. They’ve each been around for 75 years.

#2 Experienced cross-over talent. Historically moreso than Marvel, DC has had access to creators who are experienced in adapting comics to other media. Foremost is of course Christopher Nolan, who has already been tapped to provide elder statesman-esqueguidance to Superman and other adaptations.

Other qualified creators DC could marshal include Neil Gaiman (who is also popular with women!) and Bruce Timm (overlord of The DC Animated Universe for 20 years). DC can also win nostalgia points in films with cameos from Adam West, Lynda Carter, and anyone from the Superman movies.

Millions of Family Guy fans can't be wrong ... 
well they are, but not about this guy

#3 A better library of stories. While Marvel has a higher RBI, DC is better at grand slams. You can adapt pre-existing, popular source material into films rather than needing to synthesize original stories. The DC Animated Universe is already doing this extremely well.

There are so many iconic Batman stories that you can have a list of his top 25 and still see a lot that are missing – you can’t really do that with any Marvel property, even the X-Men.

Literally the only thing that could be cooler than an Infinity Gauntlet movie

#4 Ability to leverage properties from other comics. Warner Brothers already did this with 300 (Dark Horse) and could do the same with other successful comics from DH or Image. The success of The Walking Dead shows that secondary publishers can have mass appeal. The fact that no one has tried to make an Invincible movie is surprising.

#5 Warner Brothers owns all its properties. Fox has the film rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four; Sony has Spider-man. Warner Brothers owns all the DC characters, so they can pick and choose whichever they want.

This great article on Screenrant outlines which movie studios own the rights to which Marvel characters. Sadly, Marvel can’t even say “adamantium” to describe Cap’s shield because the X-Men franchise got there first. These other production studios (Fox, Sony) are contractually obliged to keep producing new films or sacrifice the rights (X-Men, Spider-Man), which would then shift back to Marvel … this is why we’re subjected to sub-par remakes trotted out with little grace or artistry (First Class, Amazing), kind of out of greed but mostly out of spite.

Because of course Marvel would hate to put Spider-Man and Wolverine on screen in Avengers 2.

 So hope is not lost for DC. But if it wants to successfully pull off a Justice League movie, it needs to leverage those advantages successfully, which we’ll look at tomorrow.

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