I've waited past last year's Comicon, past the launch of the Avengers DVD (a superb film) and now past the debacle that appears to be the constant shifting PR regarding a Justice League film. I guess that feeling in the pit of my stomach is the need to avert a train wreck with my inimitable 'whiny comicbook fan rant' time again folks!
So, you heard any new Justice League or Avengers film news?
Will a Justice League film be better than Avengers?
When I heard that Warner Brothers was announcing a new Justice League movie (live-action) to go into production for release over the next few years....I thought of how amazing it would be to see my all-time favorite heroes--Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and whatever 7th member they wanted in LIVE ACTION, SIDE BY SIDE! I thought that I had reached Black Man Nirvana.
But then a few key things happened:
1. I rented Green Lantern on Apple TV (GOOD GOD--such a lame film)
2. I read the re-launch of DC's New 52 and immediately knew they had screwed up (a few standouts-- Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark, DC's version of S.H.I.E.L.D).
3. Aaaaaaaaaaand, I saw Avengers in the theatre and all combined I had another thought:
DC is in GIANT $&^# trouble.
I never thought I would say that.
Over the years--Marvel has been the dominant (in monthly sales) comic book company in America but DC just impressed me more. I grew up a fan of Super Friends; collected Justice League/ Teen Titans and Batman during Perez/ Aparo era; loved the Batman/ Timmverse animated series and then became a Vertigo fan as I aged into my late 20's.
While I liked Marvel and their real-problem superheroes (as a black kid growing up in the 80's--X-men was just the bomb), I could never favor them over DC. My reason is simple--DC's characters are literally the definition of superheroes. I think of DC's characters as GODS or FABLES and as a result, their stories feel more epic. Marvel's characters while cool just never rise above soap-opera to me.
But loving DC so much means it hurts to tell them that I think they (the comics themselves) are in trouble and more tragically than that is that A JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIE IS BOUND TO FAIL.
Let's face it: Avengers was a massive hit (and deserved) as well all know but more importantly is the fact that Marvel Studios (the film component from Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics) is really dominating the public consciousness for superheroes right now. Because Marvel's heroes are just regular guys (ego = Thor; moral failings = Iron Man; second chance = Captain America; cursed = Hulk; broke as hell = Spiderman) the average, global recession hit 99% can relate to them. DC's heroes just do not compete with that. Seriously, Superman is a basic God (more so than Thor in many ways which is the height of irony--how that character became a blockbuster film and a damn good one really should have set the alarm bells to Warner Bros./ DC back in 2011). I think Batman only survives this because revenge is the one thing rich and poor agree on and that is Batman.
Marvel is not worried about a Justice League film, in fact they have more to worry about should there be another Disney Jon Carter mess or a screw up of the Star Wars franchise. Hell, if Tyler Perry ever applied his built in audiences to an original sci-fi, superhero or genre film (Ever heard of Forgotten? Call me Mr. Perry!) then he could potentially do it. At this point, only competition from non-superhero films or non-film events (new technology) are realistic obstacles to Marvel's super win streak than whether Warner Bros. ever get their act together.
With 5 films (Iron Man 1 and 2, Incredible Hulk, the surprisingly good Thor and 'meh' Captain America) all having significant box offices ($200M avg) BEFORE the opening of the Marvel's Avengers film ($1B and counting) -- Marvel Studios are now a freight train. The public loves them, they will get free press because the media loves them and the movie studios fear them. They will not lose until they hurt themselves and that's just the reality of business.
Not only that but let's call it, Kevin Feige KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING. I've always wondered about the so-called "SUIT" in GEEK circles. Now, I'm a (or I was) one of those GEEK SUITS so I have some empathy. Fans and creators distrust you while your fellow executives in corporate think you're too sentimental for all of this pop culture stuff. This is exactly why I wonder what's doing on with DC. The Green Lantern movie clearly had Geoff Johns involved and that stunk even though he is a good writer. Likewise, Sam Register has long been one of Warner Bros. go to Producers for animated hits but his lack of power or insight has led to the dismissal of one of the best shows on TV in literally a decade with Young Justice. There seems to be no one at DC who "gets it" and yet, not only did Feige dare to do Marvel Phase 1 but he has Phase 3 planned??? Hell, I'm still tripping that we are getting a Guardians of the Galaxy movie in Phase 2 or in any phase before my LEGION OF SUPERHEROES!!
Not only Phase 3 but I also think that ending Avengers with a lame Darkseid knockoff (I'm sorry but Thanos has always been a cheeseball IMO) was a genius bit of foreshadowing to demo a COSMIC threat long before DC could ever get there.
So let's face it--I love DC but the Executive in me (or the SUIT) has to give Feige his damn props.
And so that's that.
Or is it?
Here's my advice Warner Bros. on how A JUSTICE LEAGUE FILM CAN BEAT MARVEL'S NEXT AVENGERS:
1. YOU'VE LOST THE RACE--SO STOP RUSHING: Green Lantern sucked for many reasons but the biggest was DC rushed this corporate restructure with Geoff Johns and all DC coming under one sort of super brand company--the right move to be sure but the wrong approach. Having Green Lantern played by Ryan Reynolds looked obvious as if the company wanted to ape Iron Man's success with a younger, sarcastic Robert Downey Jr. type and then just got a director who had some recent success but had no real feel for this type of movie or character to direct it and whammo--a hit. But that didn't happen and a film that was not the right character to start with, a actor who is dubious outside of romance roles and a director who clearly had no idea about this type of film were all the disasters they deserved to be.
Wow--all bad decisions--kind of like giving Singer the Superman Returns and reading the script and never saying "hey man you mean Superman never throws a punch the entire film???"
Honestly, how in the world did no Warner Bros. exec ask Singer why the script of Superman Returns had no action scenes of Superman punching someone?
No, this time--take your time. I mean, let's face facts--Avengers 2 will be huge and Captain America 2 and Thor 2 will do atleast as well as the first films although better is the more obvious option. And Iron Man 3 is a no-brainer. So assuming that Sony were not to make another Spiderman (which would be insane) and Fox were not to make additional Fantastic Fours (OOPS!) or X-men (ah!) . The fact of the matter is that you've lost this generation of superhero movie fans for a good ten years--so do Man of Steel and build from there.
2. Start with Man of Steel: For the love of god, stop copying Marvel. Warner Bros you had a damn near 20 year head-start on the House of Ideas and while Batman's 1989 film and Frank Miller/ Alan Moore Graphic Novels--probably saved the entire comicbook industry on several occassions--you have to admit you had your chance and you blew it.
Over the years when no one would touch Marvel's comicbooks as films and DC dominated on TV (and still do--thanks Jeph Loeb) you gave us the lame Batman films by Schumacher, Shaq as Steel(the review scores on Steel are classic) and a Catwoman film with Halle Berry that just erased any doubt as to the ability of the Warner Bros. executives to manage DC's film properties.
That said, WB does not need to copy Marvel (the ending of Green Lantern with Sinestro's yellow ring was just pitiful).
Instead, shed the end credit sequences and take Nolan's view that these big MYTHIC characters can be grand, well-written, REALISTIC epics. The look of Nolan's Batman and of the new Superman is so different from anything that Marvel has or will do that if Warner's plays their cards right they can not only have a financial set of hits but Oscar worthy ones too.
As I stated before, Singer nearly ruined Superman for no good reason (Son?, Christlike figure?? Resurrecting Donner's 25 yr old version for a character who is nearly 100 years old???) but Superman and Batman are DC's two biggest characters. If Superman cannot be trusted to kick off a Justice League film series build up--then you've already lost. Take your time and deliver an epic film and make sure --MAKE DAMN SURE--that it mentions Gotham and Batman!!!
3. Make a Superman/ Batman film (or Batman/ Superman--whatever) followed by a Superman and Wonder Woman film--do not do Justice League immediately.
This is a big one! Rushing a Justice League film just because a Superman film is successful (assuming, no praying that it is!!) is absolute suicide.
And for no good reason. Warner Bros. is in the business of making money. Comicbook fans are in the business of paying for tickets to see ANY of their favorites on screen doing something EPIC and AWESOME. I want to see Flash in film and Green Lantern and Aquaman but not for one second do I believe they can compete in a jaded movie public. They will need to be dragged and convinced after years of Marvel's Avengers burnout. Let's face it--Marvel cannot last on this hit strong forever. One film will eventually fall apart and when that happens the whole thing will begin to unravel just a bit.
So, launch Man of Steel and then let's finally get a Batman Superman movie that by itself could be as big as Avengers. While we comicbook fans take it for granted--there is no way that the average moviegoer has any idea of what those two pairing is like. Furthermore, it's the best way to relaunch Batman after what was an incredible finale with Dark Knight Rises. I mean, a spin-off to Man of Steel with Batman and Lex and Joker has a serious box office smash written on it assuming it's done with the right respect.
Bottom line: a Superman Batman film (especially if with Joker and Lex) is every bit an Avengers 2 size hit.
Afterwards, launch the next holy grail--Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Why? Simple--Wonder Woman has a real chance to be another major film franchise. I mean, Marvel does not have one female character that could sustain a film by herself (sorry Avengers fans but Black Widow was successful there but without Whedon she'd have been in it as much as Hawkeye) but everyone knows Wonder Woman. She deserves a massive launch but given the difficulties you'd had in bringing her to the market
At the end of this film, mention other heroes and then do a full-fledged Justice League. It'll be the best most economical way to do it.
Why? Simple--Flash and Green Lantern deserve to have film franchises but right now Warner has struggled with everything but Batman.
- If they fail at Superman with Man of Steel it's over.
- If they fail with relaunching Batman in a way that fits with Superman it's over.
- If they fail with launching Wonder Woman (the most popular female superhero worldwide) then Justice League fails.
Why launch a film with 7 characters and have them potentially all fail at once??
Dammit! Thinking about a Man of Steel, Superman/ Batman World's Finest and ultimately Justice League film --just takes me to Black Man Heaven!
I don't even expect for Warner Bros. to pay a brother for this sage advice much less follow it but it's got me ......soaring.
Till next time my people's.