In the midst of the pop culture tornado that is San Diego Comic Con, Warner Bros. released footage from two big upcoming releases. Wonder Woman, which looks pretty solid, and Justice League, which should make fans feel excited, but seems to be underwhelming.
This is not about Marvel versus DC. This is more about the tone that DC & Warner Bros. are striking with these movies. When Man Of Steel was released in 2013 it was intended to reinvigorate Superman on film and hopefully kick off DC’s extended movie universe. A box office success, Man Of Steel received a lukewarm reception from critics. A dour Superman, lackluster characterizations of Jonathan and Martha Kent, and a third act that becomes disaster porn left a bad taste in the mouths of fans and critics. The release of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice was more of the same on a larger scale, a financial success but still poorly received by a large part of the audience and critics. It seemed to take the formula from Man Of Steel. Showcasing a dour Superman, a darker than usual Batman, and the fleeting presence of Wonder Woman was essentially a test ad for the upcoming Justice League.
These recent releases are not bad movies by any means, but they seem to not be fun or all that engaging. They lack a certain excitement of their Marvel Studios counterparts and that doesn’t lend itself to much confidence going forward. Marvel’s ‘Phase One’ was five films leading into The Avengers with a focused narrative and smart marketing. Warner Bros. is attempting to replicate that success in three films and half the critical reception, and that is a shaky bet to be making. Warner Bros. seems to be pushing all their chips into the middle of the table on Wonder Woman and Justice League, but they seem to not be playing the same game that Marvel Studios & Disney have been winning for the past few years. There is also something to be said when a film like Suicide Squad seems to have better marketing, positive buzz, and a better tone than the ‘flagship’ characters of Batman and Superman. This also places pressure on Wonder Woman to be a success, as it looks to be one of maybe two DC films, the other being the announced Batman solo movie, prior to the release of Justice League.
The advantage that DC Comics has is name recognition. Superman is easily the most recognizable super hero on the planet, with Batman not far behind. If Suicide Squad (which will have an appearance by the Dark Knight) does well, along with Wonder Woman, which looks to be the best film of the bunch, than Justice League can be a bigger hit than The Avengers, but it’s not a bet most fans would make with any confidence.
Wonder Woman is set to release on June 2, 2017
Justice League is set to release on June 14, 2019