When it’s all said and done, odds are pundits will remember summer 2012 as the “summer of the comic book movie.” With The Avengers having made over 1.5 billion in box office dollars, the Spider-Man reboot doing impressive early business, and The Dark Knight Rises right around the corner, the past few months have been dominated by stories about caped crusaders fighting seemingly unstoppable forces of evil.
With those numbers, one would expect more superhero movies in the very near future – and Marvel is set to deliver, with no less than four films slated for release by 2014. DC, Marvel’s arch-rival, isn’t nearly so fortunate. As a recent LA Times piece points out, DC and Warner Bros. have traveled a different road than Disney and Marvel when it comes to shepherding their projects from the printed page to the silver screen – and it appears as though it might cost DC in the long run.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has done huge box office for Warner Bros., thanks in no small part to the filmmaker’s singular vision for the character. With that series now drawing to a close, WB had hoped to entice Nolan to take on a producer role for upcoming adaptations – a role he’s playing for Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel. Nolan has unfortunately declined – leaving Warners and DC with a slate of projects in development, but nothing prepped for a near future release. How bad are things for the team? Sources speculate that after Man of Steel debuts next year, it could be three years before any of the other DC films are ready for release. In the fickle world of pop culture, the superhero movie craze could be dead and buried long before titles like Justice League or Wonder Woman or even a Batman reboot ever see the light of a xenon bulb. Even a best case scenario has DC giving Marvel three full years without any competition in the market.
Warner Bros.’ film group president Jeff Robinov is aware of this and working to map out a path to the future for the company. “My hope is that over the next month or so we’ll be ready to lay out the plan for the next DC movies.”
As /Film points out, one thing working to DC’s potential benefit is that they retain the rights to all of their top tier characters. Marvel sold off film rights to their A-list heroes (The X-Men, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four) years ago and has been forced to develop secondary heroes like Thor and Iron Man. That they’ve been successful is an understatement, but DC is at least theoretically ahead in the game since they can still adapt anything in their long and storied history. Fans clamoring for Batman, or Superman, or Justice League can only get their fix from Warner Bros.
Of course, that doesn’t mean anything if they never actually get a project up and running. DC has come across as the anti-Marvel for the past few years – riding on the success of Nolan’s films while struggling to bring their other stars to the screen. The Justice League debacle – which saw the movie announced and then canceled – is the stuff of legend at this point. Naturally, in the wake of The Avengers, it’s back on again – but it should have been on all along. Where Marvel has become a major player in the industry, pushing projects full steam ahead, DC appears to be still trying to figure out what life will consist of after Batman ends. It’s not a good sign, especially when that new life phase begins in a week.
It’s hard to get a real feel for why DC has been so slow to develop their stable of beloved characters, but the company would be wise to start looking at what Marvel’s doing and emulating that. Failure to do so could make them the also-rans in what is essentially a two-horse box office race. While the company deserves credit for getting their characters into videogames and cartoons and other media, it’s all sort of pointless if none of them ever make it to a theater near you.
Will you still be interested in DC’s movies if there’s a three year gap between Man of Steel and titles like Justice League? Will this open the door for Marvel to completely take over the market? Look into your crystal ball and share your thoughts with us below.