Where to Now 6 Ideas for the DC Movie Franchise - Mania.com

Where to Now 6 Ideas for the DC Movie Franchise

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Where to Now 6 Ideas for the DC Movie Franchise

Mania has a plan...

By Rob Vaux     July 24, 2012
Source: Mania.com

Warners has to be happy with the box office returns for The Dark Knight Rises this weekend, but their joy covers up a fairly large problem. Where does the DC movie franchise go from here? Christopher Nolan was pretty much all they had, and while hopes run high for The Man of Steel, it’s holding all the marbles in its hands. If it fails, it may spell the end of DC feature films for quite some time.  What else have they got? Green Lantern tanked. Wonder Woman continues to elude adaptation. Green Arrow is locked into the small screen, and I’m not sure fans will line up around the block for a Flash adaptation. Contrast that with Marvel, enjoying an equally triumphant summer and with a full slate of movies in the next three years (including third-tier heroes like Ant-Man and The Guardians of the Galaxy) just laughing in DC’s face. Almost without realizing it, DC finds itself smoked like Christmas ham as its rival laps the field.
How can they fix this state of affairs? Nothing is guaranteed in Hollywood; even the clearest road map can lead to disaster with the wrong project, the wrong director or audience’s changing tastes. But DC has some options to get back in the game, and we have a few ideas we’d like to share.  Hopefully, they can help them catch up with Marvel and give us all the comic cold war awesomeness we deserve.


Integrate the Universe… Slowly

DC adaptations have previously shied away from the prospect of a shared universe. That’s a mistake, because it isolates the movies from each other and allows less-than-respectful directors to impose asinine “visions” upon the characters (see Catwoman or Tim Burton’s blessedly aborted take on the Man of Steel). A more disciplined approach will eliminate those unfortunate flights of fancy, and lay seeds for future crossover projects without much up-front investment. DC certainly has its share of characters they can use as a crossover maestro like Nick Fury – Amanda Waller, Lex Luthor and the boys at Star Labs come immediately to mind – and the tidbits add a richness and depth sorely lacking from, say, the Green Lantern movie.  Taking the time to develop the background universe makes projects like the Justice League or a Superman/Batman crossover an actively appealing prospect instead of just an overwhelming one.
Of course, those little fanboy details won’t mean a thing if the movies still stink. Which is why they need to… 

Find Directors Who Love These Characters

Sam Raimi grew up with Spider-Man on his wall. Joss Whedon knew comic-dom’s history inside and out. Warners needs to trust their heroes to directors with similar passion and respect for the characters. Granted, non-fan directors can still turn in a good film – Christopher Nolan and Bryan Singer were both relative newcomers – but the enthusiasm of a true fan can emanate outward across multiple movies and help talented outsiders find the right tone for their work. Whedon has indicated that he harbors no grudge over the whole Wonder Woman unpleasantness. DC could do worse by dropping him a line. 

Make a Proper Wonder Woman Movie

Speaking of Whedon, the inability to bring comic-dom’s greatest female hero to the screen is a massive black eye for DC. Yes, she’s tricky. Yes, Lynda Carter left some big shoes to fill (um, yeah… shoes…). But as the final member of DC’s Big Three, Wondie dearly needs a proper big screen treatment. The longer it goes, the more glaring the absence becomes. With Captain America, Marvel delivered a solid hook: keep her in World War II, with minimal “secret identity” nonsense and a fiendish Nazi to foil. With the right director, it’s a recipe for success… and can make it easier for the canon’s lesser known heroes to break out in feature film format. Without the Amazon Avenger, DC’s film roster will always remain incomplete.

Lay the Groundwork in Other Mediums

While their feature film ambitions flirt with disaster, DC has done quite well in other avenues, particularly television and direct-to-DVD releases. Unfortunately they tend to hinge such efforts around big-budget movie releases (Green Lantern DVDs and an animated series based around the Corps, for instance). Expanding those operations can increase awareness of smaller characters and establish that sense of a shared universe for later films to exploit.  Develop the shows with an eye on the bigger picture, but don’t link them so brazenly to an all-or-nothing movie project. Form the base before you build the pyramid: if a show like Arrow does well, it can feed into a larger DC franchise, but it doesn’t have to be yoked to whatever The Next Big Movie is. That allows DC to play to its strengths rather than struggling to catch up.

Let DC be DC

Marvel caught a break with the likes of Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer helming their films, but they didn’t really kick into overdrive until Head Poobah Kevin Feige implemented his grand vision. Marvel movies have worked because Marvel itself has a hand in how they’re produced. DC has to go through the suits at Warners, who have proven time and again that they fundamentally don’t get the characters. That needs to change. A figure like Dan Didio or Geoff Johns could devote the loving care that a DC franchise needs. Better yet, go to Paul Dini and the gang, currently helming DC’s direct-to-video features. These guys love and respect the characters; more importantly, they know how to tell good stories with them. Arm them with a little creative license and DC can get back up to speed surprisingly quickly.

Be Patient

Hollywood rarely thinks in the long term, but Warners needs to keep an eye on the big picture if they want to gain some ground.  Rushing into a Justice League movie would be a colossal mistake: smacking of desperation and losing the can’t-miss-it appeal that Marvel cultivated so carefully with The Avengers. DC needs to approach its future movies with an equal amount of thoughtfulness.  Start with one or two event movies – good ones – and include distinct but subtle hints at what might come later. Wait for them to succeed, then more forward with more complex arcs. Keep the end game in mind but don’t ask the fan base to wait for an entertaining movie. Give it to them now and then move to the next one. The future might just take care of itself.


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Betenoire 7/24/2012 1:26:17 AM

Fun little bit of lore: Sam Raimi made Darkman after he was unable to get the rights to Batman and The Shadow (this one hurts a lot) and there have been rumors for years that he is still attempting to get the rights to make a new film based off The Shadow. If true I doubt it would take too much to bring him into the fold though it might be more than WB is prepared to give as I imagine his first (and perhaps greatest) condition would be to have complete control so he doesn't run into studio interference of what he wants to do again.

Beyond that? Maybe WB/DC needs to tread a different path. It isn't like Marvel's plan is the only one that would work and DC does have an advantage that most of the Justic League has better recognition than much of the Avenger's core did before Marvel started with their plan.

Then again what do I know, I mostly enjoyed Green Lantern when I finally got around to watching it in the Extended Cut. It wasn't great but it wasn't cringe worthy like Ang Lee's Hulk.

Bestintheworld1 7/24/2012 1:58:41 AM

With all that marvel has and will accomplish in the future, I could care less about what DC is doing. I mean look at what we have to look forward to from Marvel : Captain America 2: winter solder, Thor 2, Ironman 3, Guardians of the galaxy, Ant man, Avengers 2, 2 more Amazing Spiderman movies, 2 more Hulk movies and a Wolverine sequel. Now look at DC: Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel, that's it. Since Dark Knight came out 4 years ago, that's all they got for us ? Who cares if DC's dragging their feet, Marvel's where all the fun is anyway.  With all the non-comic book movies coming, when DC finally stops dragging thier feet, they just won't matter anymore. So, I say keep it up DC !

vitieddie 7/24/2012 3:08:06 AM

@Bestintheworld1 ...  your whole post could basically be summed up as "Marvel is the best ... F U DC" ... are you a Marvel employee btw?

I imagine a lot of fans (both DC and comic fans) do care what DC does next ... and nothing is permanent ... years back - Marvel was struggling with the movies and doing well in the comics ... now DC is doing much better in the comics but have little in play at the cinema ... times change ... things change

Great article, Rob ... except for the "smoked like Christmas ham" bit lol ... I agree with most of your points ... but I think people are willing to line up for a Flash movie ... ditto for WW, Aquaman and MM ... with the right directors, road map and execution DC can exceed Marvel's accomplishments

DC should start with a World's Finest or Brave & the Bold ... Superman and Batman (Sam Raimi?) ... then make the following:

- Wonder Woman (James Cameron)

- The Flash (Jon Fareau)

-  Green Arrow and Black Canary (Michael Bay - yea i'm just putting a name here)

- JLA (Joss Whedon - pay him in gold, make him DC CEO, anything!!!)

theduck1980 7/24/2012 3:48:00 AM

I just saw Dark Knight Rises finally... good movie.  But at the end, after being treated to the little teases/hints Marvel movies threw in post credits on their movies, I found myself having to imagine my own little scene.(Batmans eyes opening to a white blurr that slowly fades as his eyes re-adjust... finding himself floating above the harbour, he suddenly looks up to see whats stopping him from falling, an arm with a blue sleeve holding onto his own, his eyes widen... end scene)

I definitely think a superman/batman combo is the way to go.  Assuming its success, individual Wonderwoman & Flash movies to follow before the big team up.  It would be a mistake to go with any more than four or five members.  I don't think you can right off individual movies like the flash as bad ideas...  I recall many were skeptical of some of the Marvel ones before they hit too.

DarthBob 7/24/2012 4:39:27 AM

DC missed out on a golden opportunity to create a shared universe through Nolan's Batman movies.  They had a captive audience!  It didn't have to be as deliberate as Marvel either.  Also, there needs to be a higher mind with a grand vision for tying together very different characters with different tones and mythos.

Take it slow and do it right.  I like the idea of a Batman / Superman movie for starters.  Also, the Marvel type approach doesn't work for many DC characters like Green Lantern.  A wise cracking Wally West Flash would work.

I believe that if DC figures out the formula that works for their universe and their characters, a well made JLA movie could top $3 billion in revenue.

SmokingFrog77 7/24/2012 4:46:42 AM

Great article Rob, and I too hope desperately for a great Superman movie. I loved Superman Returns, but clearly the Donnerverse isn't where the future of the DC franchise lies, and that's cool, I'm pumped for a new take on it. I didn't mind Green Lantern, had low expectations and enjoyed parts of it quite a lot. I don't know about the Hulk comparison, I actually loved Ang Lee's Hulk (yeah I know, I loved Lee's Hulk and SR - I'm a freak amongst geeks), and enjoyed Green Lantern more than the Norton Hulk (although Hulk vs Abomination WAS a better end biffo than GL vs Giantpootentacleface).

Perhaps a GL sequel with more of a focus on The Corps, with Hal Jordan emerging as a capable leader, would be a better take on things, and an opportunity to lay some groundwork for the wider literal DC universe. I think Flash and Wonder Woman films would be marketable with the right angle and the right director, and the fact that Warners haven't gotten their shit together on this is damning.

The thing that pisses me off though, the thing that gets my goat, is that the obvious villain for a DC movie has to be Darkseid, and Marvel are now putting him in the Avengers! D'oh! Give Geoff Johns a position overseeing the films. The man knows and loves these characters, he writes Superman and Green Lantern better than almost anyone. Get him and Dini mapping this thing out, I'd even forgive Johns the "New 52" debacle if he did this.

boxker 7/24/2012 6:08:29 AM

 I disagree with the article saying that DC needs to do a slow build up to a Justice League movie. The X-men was a success( I know a lot of people have a problem with it. I don't know why though.) but it worked. In fact I think the success of X-Men 1 and 2 helped bring us to a point where we could have Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and eventually an Avengers movie. 



By the way. I think an Ant-Man movie will derail everything. Who in the hell is interested in this guy. The biggest impression he has left on me is seeing him get punked ,like a sissy, by the Hulk in that Cartoon Avengers movie from the early 2000's.

JacenBlade 7/24/2012 6:13:45 AM

The most important point of your article Rob is also the main reason that D.C. superhero movies have failed to match the success of Marvel.  There in not ONE cohesive vision in place.  D.C. desperately needs an architect to map out a plan. I agree taking someone or a few people from inside D.C. comics to create a shared vision is the way to succeed.   Right now they are taking a one movie at a time approach with no sense of a shared universe.  If one movie is successful (BB, TDK, TDKR) that movie's "universe" prevails with no association with another heroe's reality.  If a movie tanks or is met with a resounding "MEH" from the movie going public (Green Lantern, Superman Returns) the studio has to step back, reassess or even reboot the franchise all over again.  They are wasting time and money.

     Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are D.C.'s big three.  They have to exploit that.  I have high hopes for Zack Snyder's Superman movie.  D.C. has to start there.  I would add something, ANYTHING Wonder Woman related into the movie.  A reference, a tease, something to tie Wonder Woman into the same world that Superman exists in.  It does not even have to be a cameo.  Fast track a WW movie and cast her later. In the WW movie cross reference back to Superman but this is MOST important: Tease a new Batman film.  Too soon?  I don't think so.  D.C. has to reboot Batman to fit him into a Justice League movie.  Release a rebooted Batman following WW then follow that movie with a Worlds Finest movie pitting Supes and Batman against an adversary or situation that they barely escape from, or defeat momentarily.  This necessitates  the formation of the Justice League to then follow in it's own movie. This gets D.C. to a Justice League movie within THREE films.  Other members of the Justice League don't need their own movies.  Green Lantern already has been established. Just put Ryan Reynolds in the movie.  The Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter can appear in cameos during WW, Batman or Brave & Bold much like Black Widow was introduced in Iron Man2.  Or they can just be introduced in the JL movie. 

redvector 7/24/2012 7:03:44 AM

I get the feeling by the time DC/Warner's gets thier creative shit together it'll be too little, too late.

DarthBob 7/24/2012 7:04:58 AM

Notice what Marvel is doing to further the expanded universe and it started in IM2, War Machine!  IM2 really had two Marvel characters.  CA2 will have Falcon (not my fav, but could work well if done right).  I wouldn't be surprised to see another character in Thor 2.  Maybe Hercules then they could spin off into a Heroes For Hire track.  Or maybe another God Squad character.  Maybe Namor or The Vision (wishful thinking on my part). Regardless, Marvel is making one big universe that can be spun off into many directions.  Some tangents will fail; I'm just not seeing the whole ant man thing.  Regardless, they are giving their fans the goods.  TDKR was a huge step backwards for DC; Superman could right the ship!

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