Entertainment Geekly: Is Warner Bros' DC film universe really a thing?
Entertainment Geekly is a weekly column that examines pop culture through a geek lens and simultaneously examines contemporary geek culture through a pop lens. So many lenses! Sometimes, there will be an event so mysterious that it can only be properly understood if everyone offers their own profound opinions in the comment boards. This week’s Entertainment Geekly Hot Topic: Is the DC Cinematic Universe actually a thing?
It’s easy to announce a release date. Watch this: Hellboy 3 is going to come out on May 21, 2019. There, I announced it. Do I know that for sure? No: The future is yet unwritten, and even if it has been written, Wolverine might time-travel from the future and change the past to save our present, or something. Also, summer 2019 is five years away. There could be a financial crisis. Aliens might attack. People might get bored of superheroes. Guillermo del Toro might decide to direct Godzilla vs. King Kong, which you have to remember is sort of a thing that might happen.
I’m not sure if we are living through a renaissance of superhero movies. Nothing that came out in 2014 matched up to the one-two-three punch of 2008. (Iron Man in May, Hellboy II in mid-July, The Dark Knight one week later: 2008 was to superhero movies what 1994 was for actual movies.) But we are definitely living through a renaissance of announcements about superhero movies. Back in March, Fox announced an X-Men sequel, a Wolverine threequel, and the sequel to a Fantastic Four movie that doesn’t even hit theaters until 2015. A few weeks ago, Disney went ahead and announced five more Marvel movies on top of the five other Marvel movies they already announced, plus the implicit 20 Marvel movies they haven’t announced yet.
Meanwhile, Sony has practically perfected the art of announcing release dates. There are now two radically different parallel realities in Sony’s Spider-Man universe. In one of those realities, Amazing Spider-Man 3 & 4 are switching off years with The Sinister Six and Venom. In another, more recent reality, The Sinister Six is arriving in 2016, followed by a movie starring a human female of some sort.
Now comes Warner Bros. and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film which will have been a fascinating cultural idea for nearly two and a half years before it finally opens on its third or fourth release date. For a little while, BvS:DoJ shared a release date with Captain America 3. Yesterday, Warner Bros moved the film up a couple months, to March 2016. Is this an admission that the Warner Bros. superheroes can’t beat the Marvel heroes at the box office? Certainly, the timing is auspicious: Marvel recently taught the average John and Jane Q. Moviegoers of America to love a movie about a talking raccoon, a talking tree, and a talking Dave Bautista. On paper, it looks bad. Pause to imagine Captain America defeating Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
But Warner Bros. also immediately shifted the narrative, taking the opportunity to announce an incredible nine DC movies. That’s two per year starting in 2017. It’s a bold attempt to Marvelize the Snyderverse, and if it sounds insane, keep in mind that a few years ago, it sounded pretty wild for Marvel to say “We’re gonna make a movie about Thor and then we’re gonna make a movie which prominently features Hawkeye.”
Serious question: Is this a thing? Should we take it seriously? Does it matter that all of this might/will change if Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Planet of the Justice grosses less than a billion dollars? Certainly, it’s fun that this feeds into the neverending Ur-narrative of Marvel vs. DC Comics. (It’s a narrative that had been dry-docked for the last few years in the world of comic books—years that saw Marvel undergo a new Renaissance while DC seemed to mostly default to slapping Batman on the cover of every comic book.) From the perspective of someone who grew up reading comic books, Warner Bros.’ announcement feels like a weird sort of validation. Twenty years ago, I was the only kid in my class who had ever heard of Shazam and Dr. Strange and Ant-Man and the Sandman; now it’s entirely possible that they’ll all star in movies so important to the bottom line of a major corporation that they have to announce the movie half a decade in advance.
But will the plan actually come to pass? Can anyone else be Marvel besides Marvel? And how much longer can Marvel be Marvel, anyhow? Is this actually what geeks wanted? Or is this a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation: Are we doomed to see the comic books we loved transformed into vanilla imitations pitched at the globo-demographic? Does anyone want to see a PG-13-rated Sandman movie? Offer your thoughts in the comment section, or just vote in the poll below.