DC has been playing catch-up to Marvel in the movie game for over a decade. While DC was releasing Halle Berry’s Catwoman and a false-start of a Superman reboot, Marvel was raking in fat stacks of cash and critical acclaim with X-Men and Spider-Man franchises. Thanks to Christopher Nowlan and company, DC was able to string together a stellar Batman trilogy, but in the meantime, Marvel has been building an entire universe on the big screen and making money hand over fist.
Iron Man was really the cornerstone of this whole enterprise. And what Marvel accomplished there was nothing short of astonishing. I’ve always been fond of Iron Man, but let’s be honest: he’s B-list. 10 years ago your mom didn’t know who Iron Man was. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, sure. Iron Man? He was just some random robot. With a good script and brilliant casting, Marvel was able to move Iron Man into the big leagues. This was a big deal; by scoring a home run with Iron Man Marvel built up a lot of good faith in the movie-going public. People who wouldn’t normally have gone to see a Thor movie were willing to take a chance on Marvel. The more consistently good films Marvel put out the more the company strengthened its brand. (Marvel is about to put the audience’s faith to the test with upcoming Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy films.)
The rest is history, of course: Thor, Captain America, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, billions of dollars.
DC clearly wanted to mimic this model. They tried hard with Green Lantern and ultimately failed. The question now is where do they go from here? Clearly with the announcement of the Batman / Superman movie they’ve signalled their intention to start expanding the DC universe at the multiplex. But some fans wonder if they’re jumping the gun. Marvel spent five years methodically putting pieces in place for Avengers. At times it seems DC wants to compete with Marvel without laying the groundwork.
They’ve had some success with Arrow; now they’re planning a Flash television show.
For my money, Flash is DC’s next, best shot at expanding their universe beyond the big two. Whatever they choose to do with the character, they should exercise caution. Green Lantern failed. Wonder Woman got canned almost instantly. DC’s benches are only so deep.
You’re not going to draw moviegoers to the theatres with Zatanna and Booster Gold.
Perhaps Batman / Superman is going to be the first in a series of fantastic and profitable World’s Finest cross-overs, and DC will just sit on a possible Justice League movie for a decade or so until they can reboot their whole universe again.
But if they have any hope of copying the Marvel model in the near future, a lot is riding on the Flash.