Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Too Many Eggs in the Basket—The Potential Folly of a Justice League Movie

It’s undeniable by this point that when it comes to successful comic book movies, Marvel is to DC what the New England Patriots are to the Detroit Lions. 

Speaking strictly on box office receipts, even forgetting for a moment the critical praise, Marvel has dominated DC by and large on the big screen since the beginning of the 21st century and not even Jose Canseco, who denies everything from the way gravity works to meteors exploding over Russia, can start a truther movement to the contrary.


Now, I’m not meaning to rag on DC as a company.  And I’m certainly in no way denying the success of the recently wrapped Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan which, for all of its faults and planet sized plot holes, was likely as fantastic a Batman series as we’ll see in a lifetime.

But while they can churn out some solid animated featured from Justice League: Doom to the Dark Knight Returns, and they possess an amazing stable of well-known and liked characters, DC seems to have a problem translating that to the movies.

And that’s something they’re looking to change with a plan to bring the Justice League to theaters in just a few years.

Now, on the surface, that’s brilliant, a comic fan’s dream.  Just imagine Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman up there in larger than life action, explosions that would make Michael Bay proud popping in surround sound, special effects making James Cameron rethink his plans for a second Avatar, and Darkseid’s anti-life equation leaping off the screen in 3D.

And then remember this is the same company that brought you Jonah Hex.  And Superman Returns.  And Green Lantern.  And, going back further, Steel and Batman and Robin.

And then drink this.  Repeatedly.

See, it makes sense that DC wants to push ahead with a Justice League movie right now, especially after the massive success that was the Avengers and the aggressive next phase of Marvel’s movies that includes a third Iron Man, sequels to Captain America, Thor, and Avengers, plus Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Dr. Strange, not to mention non-Marvel Studios movies like Amazing Spider-Man 2 and a reboot of Fantastic Four.

DC is seriously behind in this department, and you really never know when the public’s infatuation with comic book movies will wane, but I’m here to tell you why a plan to do a Justice League so soon has too much potential to sink them.

Like this.

Had Marvel just put out an Avengers movie right away, I doubt the success would have been the same.  Instead, they did it smart, developing what were essentially a handful of prequels, all in a shared universe, and all building towards a logical conclusion, ie assembling the Avengers.

All of the movies, even Incredible Hulk, performed well at the box office.

DC, on the other hand, hasn’t had a comic book franchise outside of Batman be successful…since the 1970s.  They’ve been the Uwe Boll of comic movies.  They couldn’t even get a new Wonder Woman show to get picked up and considering that shows like Secret Circle, Jersey Shore, and The Neighbors have made it into our lives, that’s pretty awful.

So, why won’t a Justice League movie help buck that trend?

Because, more often than not, THIS happens with DC and WB.

It certainly could, but given DC’s track record, it’s unlikely and if they go bust on that one, what are the chances they’ll get the green light to do more solo hero pics?

They haven’t even seen how this summer’s Man of Steel will be received and they’ve already got the cart before the horse.

What they need to do is take a page from Marvel’s playbook and build a shared mythology.  One of the beauties of Avengers was that we didn’t get an hour of exposition explaining everyone’s origins.  Most of the audience already had an investment in the main players.  Even if DC only decided to spend 10 minutes on the origins of each member of the League, we’re looking at nearly an hour of the movie wasted.

Start smaller, DC.  Don’t try to fly before you can even walk.  Look at Superman Returns and Green Lantern; even your hottest properties are not guarantees when they’re done poorly.

I wished someone would have done this to me and I don’t have any powers…

In a rush to keep up with the Joneses, DC runs the risk of deep sixing their cinematic line.  Before planning on a massive Justice League movie, they need to make sure they can handle the first good Superman movie in over three decades.  They need to show they’re more than Batman.  They need to get their own studio like Marvel did and get more control over the characters and storylines.

See how Man of Steel does.  Figure out what works and what doesn’t.  But don’t just slap something together to try and upstage what Marvel’s done.  The Justice League can be the greatest movie ever…but based on recent years and the current plan, that gets less likely with each passing day.

So much wasted potential…

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