As the unwieldy juggernaut of a movie series now known as Marvel: Phase 1 drew to a close with the entertaining and epic The Avengers (a total success thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of director Joss Whedon) , attention has shifted to the comic book-giant’s main competitor, DC.
DC has experienced little in the way of cinematic success beyond the films about billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego, Batman (and the Superman films of the late seventies and early eighties). As Christopher Nolan’s Batman series draws to a close, he has made it clear that The Dark Knight Rises marks the end of his involvement with Batman and the wider DC universe.
Which is perhaps not a bad thing. Nolan’s films certainly deserve a place amongst the pantheon of great superhero cinematic experiences, yet the trilogy is very much a character study. These films are about Bruce Wayne / Batman and, well portrayed as the other characters often are, these movies are a different beast to complex multi-character films like The Avengers.
Now I’m not the biggest comic book superhero geek in the world (my experience of reading such comics stretches no further than Batman and The X-Men), yet I have enjoyed the surge in quality superhero movies we have been treated to over the last few years. Nolan’s Batman aside, I also enjoyed Iron Man (though felt quite let down by it’s sequel), the first two Spiderman films (the second, in particular) and Captain America: The First Avenger.
With the success of The Avengers, it looks like there will be no slowing Marvel down; they plan on releasing numerous films over the next few years (including – most excitingly – an Edgar Wright movie called Ant Man), culminating in in a second Avengers film.
Now that Joss Whedon has agreed to not only to direct the Avengers sequel, but also to oversee all Marvel-universe film efforts, I feel we might be entering a very exciting period. And since it looks like DC is also preparing to up it’s game, it could be doubly-exciting.
Will DC compete?
DC has enjoyed less success with their cinematic canon. Aside from the original Superman movies (Bryan Singer’s recent effort left audiences uninspired) and the steady stream of Batman films, few of their superhero’s have made the leap to big-screen stardom. The Green Lantern made a brief appearance last year. I enjoyed the film, though I may be in a minority there.
DC (and Warner Brothers) hopes to change their fortunes and emulate Marvel’s success with The Justice League, a movie featuring – presumably – Batman, Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern and Superman. Word has it that the movie will try to continue Batman’s gritty, realistic take on superheros, rather than trying to replicate Marvel’s slightly lighter, more comic-booky effort.
But are DC going to attempt to replicate Marvel’s grand phasing strategy (whereby they release a series of individual character-based films, leading up to an ensemble picture)? Variety reports here that plans for several DC character-based movies are in the works. These are largely in the early stages (though a script has been written for The Green Lantern sequel and the new Superman movie Man of Steel is close to being released and is starting to look promising).
Why am I so excited about the prospect of a whole new series of superhero movies? Because I love that rare, rare beast – the good blockbuster. This new trend of putting responsible directors with vision, such as Nolan or Whedon, in charge of big-budget productions is pleasing. These are fun movies and the trend seems to be to look beyond explosions and set-pieces to create well-rounded movies that might just stand the test of time.
The Avengers was on a scale that – when usually attempted in Hollywood – fails to deliver because the special effects smother all the other elements (character, script, art direction, etc.) you might expect from a well-rounded film. The climax of The Avengers provided something that has been lacking from the majority of blockbusters for some time – an over-the-top, effects-driven finale that I managed to engage with and care about.
So let’s see what DC have in store for us. I’m already pretty excited about the new Superman film (unusal in itself since I rarely find myself interested in that particular character) and hope that Warner Brothers will find success for the DC canon that has so far only been intermittently represented on the big screen.