The Ups and Downs of the Shared Universe, and the Potential of DC Properties
With Marvel Studios kicking off Phase two of their Cinematic Universe and WB announcing their own superhero team-up, I give my take on the pros and cons of having a shared Universe, more after the jump
Marvel's The Avengers has scored big at the box office this summer with their multi-franchise ensemble, becoming not only the highest grossing superhero/comicbook movie, but the 3rd most profitable film ever made, so a few moths after it's release, life-time rivals DC/WB habe announced their own superhero team-up of a lifetime, the Justice League.
This is not one of those "how a Justice League movie should be done" or "making the DC Cinematic Universe work" articles, I don't want to flood the site with more of those. I will be taking a deeper look at what works and what doesn't in the MCU from what we already know, and also be taking a closer look at DC's most recent movies and plans.
The fact is that a shared Universe is very original and it has been done right until now by Marvel, with the trailer for Iron Man 3 making fans look forward to an even more successful Phase 2. Their plans are a little obvious, the main heroes, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America will get their own trilogies while The Avengers as a whole while receive the same treatment. Other important characters like the Hulk, Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy had or will have movies made depending on what the studio's plans will be for the future. Phase two is already set with Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, all planed to culminate in what will be The Avengers 2, while Ant-Man is still a mystery when it comes to his place in this Universe.
Leaving aside all the good stuff Marvel had to offer to the fans, we can honestly say that there where times when their decisions might have affected their movies in order to focus more on the big picture, the crown jewels: The Avengers. Some might say that it's worth sacrificing small details in order to succeed on a bigger scale, but these decisions can affect the solo movies a great deal. I can imagine that except Iron Man(the movie, not the character), all the Phase One films have suffered from being in the shared Universe:
Iron Man 2 was fun but it was too much of a teaser for the inevitable The Avengers, it did good at the box office, but was more of a disappointment to fans, and it already started what recently has become an even bigger issue: the recasting of characters, more on that later.
Thor, who is my personal favorite Marvel character, had a good movie, and the character grew more popular and now interest for the sequel, The Dark World, is very big. I was very touched be the ending of "Thor" with him stuck on a broken rainbow bridge, and his new found love, Jane Foster doing everything she could to get to him. Going to The Avengers as a Thor fan, I only cared about two things: first, (and it has been debated to death on CBM) how will he return to Earth - the words "dark magic" where mentioned briefly by Loki and that was it! Second, the ending to his solo movie showed Thor and Jane wanting to do anything to be reunited, but no sweat, Jane was in Norway at the time and Thor probably couldn't get Mjolnir to fly at the the time.
Last but not least: the good Captain, his solo movie was great, it showed us the early years of the MCU, but his flash forward to modern day was way too early, Evans is too young to portray a war veteran, Captain America is supposed to be an expert on the Battlefield, but the movie only showed us a pre-supersoldier Steve Rogers reading a book or two about war, needless to say, his story is rushed, as mentioned before for the bigger picture.
The most recent problems of the shared Universe are the actors, some don't want to return, a few,like Mickey Rourke and Hugo Weaving have started having disagreements with the studio, Natalie Portman is rumored to not want to work on Thor 2 due to Patty Jenkins not directing, and after Rhodey and Bruce Banner we now have Fandral played by a different actor. These chioces have worked out so far, but in a 10+ years plan with 15 or more movies to be made, recasting can become a problem later and confuse audiences.
Moving on to DC's stable of superheroes we can see that they can't compete with Marvel in making superhero movies, even tough their potential is great and making a cinematic Universe can work very well, but Warner Bros. is not a superhero-exclusive studio, they have a lot of movies every year, so they prefer to play it safe giving us a Batman or Superman movie from time to time, so looking at their recent movies and announced plans, if we where to ever get a DC Cinematic Universe it will be either rushed or not at the same level with Marvel's.
Batman has been the only one waving DC's flag high the last few years, the Dark Knight trilogy has been successful both financially and critically, it was an original idea, more grounded in reality than his comic book counterpart, but a great take on the characters. Tough the lack of supernatural elements has disappointed some fans, this may be the best Batman we will see for quite some time. A new take will surely follow in the next few years, probably as a trilogy, as the potential of the Caped Crusader's is endless.
Green Lantern. This movie got a lot of hate from the fans, it was not as bad as some people here on CBM say but it was a great opportunity wasted. There is so much potential in the Lanterns mythos to even rival Batman. This title could have been the space epic that most fans would have wanted. Starting with hall Jordan, you can introduce the other Green Lanterns: John Stewart and Guy Gardner or even go all-out with fan favorite Kyle Rainer or even new-comer Simon Baz. The Sinestro Corps, Red Lanterns, Star Sapphires, could all have had their chance to shine, but after last years flop, who knows if we will ever see the Emeralds Knights unless it's in the Justice League movie?
Watchmen. This movie was a surprise, and one of DC's best, with stunning visuals, story and characters, Zack Snyder gave us a master-piece. It's an adaptation, not an original take, even tough some important things(like the ending) are changed. These type of movies are always welcome by fans, adapting a storyline or a lesser known property could mean great things, another good example being V for Vendetta.
Superman Returns is another movie that had potential, but failed in execution, so it comes as no surprise that next year we will see the Man of Steel reborn in what we hope is the best take on he character yet.
Other DC greats have been shelved for years, Wonder Woman and Flash are some of the greatest characters ever created, but we have yet to see a definitive take on the big screen. Unlike Batman, Superman or Green Lantern, these two don't have the potential to build a trilogy, but a solo movie with any one of them is imperative in the years to come, owning these two titans and not doing anything about them is just a big shame.
Aquaman. The King of Atlantis has had his fill of fish jokes the last decades, but his recent comic-book run is one of the New 52's greatest titles, needles to say an underwater epic, with Black Manta as the villain can mean something that has never been done on the big screen.
Justice League. The movie is set to debut in 2015, but it remains to be seen whether or not we will have a shared Universe with Man of Steel, the new Batman or Green Lantern.
Overall, DC don't have to copy Marvel in everything they do, either going with solo franchises or a shared continuity, the winners will be the fans. I'm sure Marvel have learned from their mistakes and will tie all loose ends better when Phase 2 will be upon us.
Thoughts, opinions? Sound off in the comments!
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