While there’s a constant back and forth in the comics world, Marvel seems to pretty firmly be beating out arch rivals DC Comics in the movie world. For much of the history of the superhero movie, it was DC (who’ve long been part of Warner Bros.) who dominated, thanks to the success of the ‘Superman‘ and ‘Batman‘ franchises, while Marvel lagged behind. But since 1998’s “Blade,” Marvel has been on the resurgence, eventually producing their own films, culminating in this year’s “The Avengers,” the most successful superhero film in history. Meanwhile, DC has had success with the Batman movies, but not much else; “Superman Returns” disappointed, while things like “Green Lantern” and “Jonah Hex” tanked outright.
DC are hoping that next week’s “The Dark Knight Rises” can reclaim the crown from “The Avengers,” and have brought that film’s director Christopher Nolan on to produce next year’s Superman reboot “Man of Steel,” but firm plans beyond that are thin on the ground. The LA Times reported a few days back that “it will likely be at least three years before a new DC title hits the big screen, according to several knowledgeable people close to Warner Bros,” meaning that we’re unlikely to see “The Flash,” “Wonder Woman” or even “Justice League” on screen until 2015 at the earliest, leaving DC fans surprised and disappointed.
We’re not quite sure why they’d be surprised, or disappointed, though, because it’s nothing new. To be frank, DC — or at least Warner Bros. executives in charge of getting these superhero movies made — haven’t really had a plan for what to do with these characters, despite the studio pinning their post-‘Harry Potter‘ tentpole hopes on their stable of costumed heroes. To be more accurate, they have had some plans, which didn’t work out. Back in the early ’00s, a Batman Vs. Superman” team-up movie was close to production, potentially with Josh Hartnett as Superman and Colin Farrell as Batman, with Wolfgang Petersen directing, with the hope that it would launch both franchises simultaneously. Later, “Superman Returns” proved to be too in thrall to Richard Donner’s film to revive the franchise, while “Green Lantern,” which hoped to be an “Iron Man“-style harbinger of more characters to come, was a critical and commercial disaster. And a George Miller-helmed “Justice League” movie with a young cast was pulled at the last minute.
Slowly and steadily, they are starting to try and come up with a more coherent plan. Time Warner reorganized DC into DC Entertainment in 2009, in the hope of maximizing the brands and helping to facilitate things like movies, under comic book veteran Geoff Johns, the company’s chief creative officer. But plans have been thwarted both by “Green Lantern” flopping, but also, and ironically, by their golden goose: Christopher Nolan has refused to entertain the possibility of his Batman crossing over or helping to launch other characters, and according to the LA Times, pretty much shut himself off from any input from Johns and DC, even for “Man Of Steel.” Which presumably makes it tricky for them to plan for a wider future, especially as Nolan has officially ruled himself out of any plans for a “Justice League” movie or “Batman” reboot.
So what we’re left with is plenty of projects in development: a “Wonder Woman” film by ‘Harry Potter’ and “Green Lantern” writer Michael Goldenberg; the long-gestating “The Flash“; a possible “Green Lantern” reboot (yes, already…); and “Justice League,” which “Gangster Squad” scribe Will Beall was hired last year to write. But there’s no apparent Marvel-style gameplan, and no filmmakers or cast on board. There’s no word on whether these scripts have actually panned out or need more work. So why are people surprised that they won’t be seeing a new DC Comics movie before 2015?
Of course, there’s Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s “Lego,” which will see Batman and Superman appear in cameo style toy form, voiced by Will Arnett and Channing Tatum, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see that move from February 2014 to the summer, considering how promising it is. And if we were DC, we’d be happy with that. Hopefully “Man of Steel” and “Lego” will keep up the love for their biggest characters and give WB and DC the time to work out how to do the rest properly. Whether it means taking the Marvel approach of a drip-feed of new characters, plus a “Batman” reboot, or whether it means going straight out of the gates with “Justice League” in 2015 (probably the likely move, given a script’s already been written) is probably what they should be spending the next year or so figuring out.
It is, of course, possible that secret plans have been set in stone and that some kind of show-stealing announcement will be made during the Warner Bros. panel at Comic-Con on Saturday. But we wouldn’t hold our breath, and nor would we want Warners to rush into some decision based on a snap reaction to the success of “The Avengers.” We’ll see how it all plays out sometime in the next few years.