Why Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is succeeding and DC’s isn’t

Why Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is succeeding and DC’s isn’t

This “Wired” interview with Marvel’s Kevin Feige is essential reading for anyone trying to understand why Marvel’s cinematic universe is thriving and DC’s is barely getting off the ground. Please read for full context.

It says, essentially, that the Marvel cinematic plan works for two reasons: 1. They HAD a plan, and 2. Kevin Feige keeps it together. From what I can tell, both from my own industry observations and this article DC and Warner Brothers don’t have a plan and they don’t have anyone leading the effort.

Man of Steel was a good movie, but I wouldn’t declare it a resounding success like 2008’s Iron Man was. Plus, the announcement of Superman vs. Batman feels spontaneous and not well thought out. For example, DC has changed course on their shared cinematic universe a few times since The Avengers came out. If you recall, DC initially said they would release Man of Steel and follow it up with Justice League in 2015 (when The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron will come out, FYI). Then, they backed off that plan and said, “Well, let’s just see how Man of Steel goes…” Not great planning.

Marvel has had a plan for years now. The article confirms that Feige had a plan since 2006 for what he wanted to happen. The goal was to make Iron Man an awesome movie that could stand on its own, but also add details that could point the way forward towards a larger world. Nick Fury appearing at the end of the credits is the biggest “detail,” of course, but Agent Coulson carries the larger SHIELD story forward throughout the “stand alone” narrative. Tony Stark and some “blink and you’ll miss them” visual Easter eggs carry the torch forward in The Incredible Hulk.

Furthermore, Feige executes the plan like a manager overseeing departments. Each department (movie) does its job and stands on its own, but works towards a unified purpose. Kenneth Branagh made Thor and it told the story of the titular hero and his nefarious brother, but it also planted major seeds for The Avengers. If you only watched Thor, that would be OK because the movie stands on its own story, but elements of that story serve a larger narrative because Feige is managing those macro details.

The only thing Man of Steel did was insert some easter eggs about Batman and Lex Luthor. It stands as a movie on its own, but it’s not clear to me how it supports a larger universe other than to say, “Oh, hey, Wayne Corp exists.” In fact, I would argue that it presents a challenge for the makers of Batman vs. Superman since it had such wanton, extravagant destruction. How do you top that? It will be hard. And choosing Ben Affleck as Batman smacks of stunt casting to me. I’m not hyper-critical about him as Batman like some are, but it’s fair to say I didn’t jump for joy when I heard. It sounds like yet another half-cocked idea from Warner Brothers and DC without much of thought behind it.

The real tragedy here is that Warner Brothers and DC have a lock on all of their properties, but aren’t doing anything with them. I am not a lawyer with inside knowledge on that , but from what I’ve seen, it looks like they have everything they need to build a shared cinematic universe in-house. Marvel only has some of their properties. Fox has X-Men and Fantastic Four. Sony has Spider-Man. In fact, Spider-Man had been Marvel’s most lucrative property once upon a time, but The Avengers and Iron Man changed that 2 billion dollars later. Now, Marvel has thrown in with Disney (who now owns Star Wars, too…) and has earned enough capital to get a little bit more experimental — next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy is somewhat of a risk, but I believe it will be worthwhile. DC can’t even make a good Green Lantern movie or even get Wonder Woman* and The Flash off the ground. At this rate, we won’t be seeing a Booster Gold or Cyborg movie any time soon.

My question for DC is: who is your Kevin Feige? Doesn’t look like they have one. If they asked me (and they haven’t), I’d nominate Bruce Timm or Paul Dini. These guys made Batman: The Animated Series and crafted a compelling cartoon universe that eventually grew into the Justice League containing just about every conceivable hero and villain in DC comics. The Question was a character, for goodness sake.

Your move, DC.

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