And the Battle of Superhero Movies Begins

marvel-vs-dc-clash-of-cinematics

My oh my is it a great time to be alive. Yesterday, Warner Bros. finally pulled the curtain on the 9 untitled DC films that they announced way back at Comic-Con. Some of these films include Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Green Lantern, to name a few. They even unveiled plans for their very own superhero mash-up: the Justice League – a film that will be split into two parts, both of which will be directed by Zack Snyder. That was yesterday. The day before, as you may recall, Marvel dropped some very interesting news of their own, announcing that Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. had been cast in Captain America 3 to kick off, that’s right, the Civil War storyline. Again, what a great time to be alive.

It seems there’s a bit of a civil war going on in the superhero film-verse. With Marvel unveiling their plans followed by DC a day after, one can’t help but notice a pattern. A response. Like a chess game. Marvel made their play. And DC responded accordingly. Big news for everybody, and a hell of a lot to look forward to.

But let’s take a step back. On Monday, Marvel not only confirmed Robert Downey Jr’s further involvement in their cinematic universe, they also revealed their plans for the foreseeable future. Capitalizing on the success of Winter Soldier, Marvel put Cap 3 on the fast track, placing it ahead of the next Thor movie. Cap 3 is poised to continue the Winter Soldier’s arc, but it will also be used as a vehicle for a storyline that will shake up the Marvel universe as we know it. Those unfamiliar with Civil War should know this: it’s Iron Man vs. Captain America. Lights, camera, action.

Downey deserves some credit here. Both he and Kevin Feige certainly toyed with the idea of Iron Man 4 over the past year. Just last week, movie sites went prematurely bonkers and reported that the film was actually happening. Downey then put those rumors to bed while chatting with David Letterman, but teased that Marvel had big plans up their sleeves.

Marvel made an ambitious move in choosing Civil War. It’s a bold choice, one that introduces a new dynamic to our beloved superheroes. We’ve seen Iron Man, Thor, Cap, and Hulk team-up in the name of the greater good. But what if their ideas of the greater good were suddenly split? What if they had to fight for it, even if it meant fighting each other? That would lead to all-out war, thus blurring the lines between hero and villain, good and bad. Chills, anyone?

Iron Man vs. Captain America. Sound familiar? You might have noticed that Warner Bros.’ upcoming DC movie is titled Batman V. Superman. The similarities just keep coming. Nevermind the fact that both Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are billionaires who use the technology at their disposal to deliver their hand of swift justice. Or the fact that Captain America and Superman have virtually the same color scheme and the same idealist nature. It’s tough to give credit to one particular studio for making the first move. Then again, DC has been trying to get a Batman & Superman film off the ground for years now. In the movie I Am Legend, you can actually see a poster of their logos mashed together amidst the ruins of New York – an unintended metaphor for how their attempt at a Bat & Supes film fell apart years before.

When director Christopher Nolan launched his defining Batman trilogy in 2005, Warner Bros. had plans to get the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel to join forces. It all rested on the success of Superman Returns. Despite getting solid reviews and earning hundreds of millions at the box office, the film didn’t quite get the towering response that the studio wanted. That, plus Nolan wanted his iteration of Batman to be completely separate from a unified superhero universe – an artistic choice on his part to maintain the reality and unpredictability of a world he created. He had a point. After all, it’s hard to feel the suspense when you know Superman can swoop in and lend a helping hand. Keeping Batman apart from his DC comrades was a sacrifice that Nolan had to make in order to fulfill the gritty, realistic take that Warner Bros.’ insisted on in the first place. So, the studio decided to abandon the project for the time being.

With a renewed interest in DC, thanks in large part to The Dark Knight and Man of Steel, Warner Bros. wasted no time in reviving their plans. It certainly made sense, to bank on their two most profitable icons. But they had a few surprises of their own. Realizing the payoff of a massive superhero team-up, Warner Bros. quickly jumped on the idea of bringing the Justice League to the big screen. However, unlike Marvel, they were way behind in terms of introducing characters crucial to said mash-up.

2011’s Green Lantern was a risk that Warner Bros. had to pay for in more ways than one. Doing away with that film completely, the studio seems determined to get things right this time around. But to throw in a mash-up like the Justice League without first building relationships, character dynamics, or continuity; that in itself presents a new risk entirely. Almost all of their standalone character films are set for after the first-planned Justice League film. But keep in mind that that film is going to be split into two parts. It could give Warner Bros. the time to introduce a small, temporary team in part one. Then, while waiting for part two, they could spend more time building their universe with new characters who could potentially join the team in part two – something not unlike Marvel’s film phase structure.

The odds may be against DC right now, since they’re sitting in the daunting shadow of Marvel’s success, but they could prove themselves worthy in time. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting time for superhero movies in general. Warner Bros. is hard at work constructing their very own superhero franchise. Marvel, on the other hand, is deconstructing their universe with Civil War on the horizon. And why not? They’ve spent the better part of a decade getting the likes of Iron Man and Captain America together, a dynamic that will resume in Age of Ultron. But to then tear that relationship apart and test the very fabric of their moral being; I can’t think of anything more thrilling.

We haven’t even made it to 2015 yet, and 2016 is looking like a damn fine year for movies. Marvel is continuing their hot streak and undoubtedly basking in it, but DC is gaining some traction of their own. Don’t count them out just yet. In a few years’ time, we may very well be in the middle of two reigning superhero juggernauts. Does it matter who ends up winning? It’s a ton of more movies for everybody. I’d say we’re the real winners here, wouldn’t you?

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