Despite smashing box office records, Batman vs. Superman is not the biggest blockbuster battle of the summer. Team Iron Man vs. Team Cap won’t be either. The major battle this summer is Marvel vs. DC; fighting it out for your dollars to claim box office supremacy.
The way the companies are laying out their movie-verses are about as different as Rocky and Drago’s training regimens. Their business plans, on the other hand, appear to be as similar as their movies are different.
For this write-up, I’m only going to count movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC Cinematic Universe (DCU), so that means no Deadpool, no X-men and no DC animated movies. That leaves us Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange.
SLOW BURN VS QUICK FIX
You could easily make a case that Marvel has been setting up Captain America: Civil War since the Tony Stark first put on his iron armor. I seriously doubt they had plotted out the MCU that far back then, but I’m sure Marvel and Kevin Feige have had this course set since at least Winter Soldier and even maybe before that.
This super-sweet super-cut from Charles Villanueva over at MCU Exchange makes a pretty compelling case that all the movies and TV shows have been leading up to this point.
Marvel’s strategy has been pretty straight forward: introduce each individual hero, team them up in one blockbuster, and then tear them apart in another. Marvel may not have had a choice. Outside of Spider-Man, Marvel’s cast of characters wasn’t exactly chock-full of household names. It’s why making Iron Man was considered such a big risk. In order to make MCU work, Marvel needed you to know its heroes and villains.
DC doesn’t have the problem. Everyone knows Superman. Batman has been on the air and big screen since the 60s. And Wonder Woman has been the go-to female superhero forever.
Sure, DC made Man of Steel first, but it only really serves now to set up Batman and Wonder Woman in this one. Throw in a few superhero cameos in Dawn of Justice and the Justice League is all set. DC seems to be going Reverse-Feige: team-up first, solo movies later.
KNOWN VS UNKNOWN
What both studios are doing the same is using their big names to mitigate the risk that comes with the lesser knowns. Marvel has been doing this for years. In 2014: Captain America: Winter Soldier was followed by Guardians of the Galaxy. 2015: The Avengers: Age of Ultron was followed by Ant-Man. And in 2016, Civil War will be followed by Doctor Strange. In each case, they knew the first movie would be a huge hit, so if the second didn’t do as well, the movie studio still made money for the year.
Now DC is following the same business plan. It has two of its biggest names fighting on-screen right now then later this year will roll out the Suicide Squad of relative unknowns. If Suicide Squad flops, DC will just have to dry its tears with its BvS money.
So who wins this comic-movie clash? Everyone does. Marvel and DC cash in, you get to see fun movies and more will keep being made as long as you are willing to pay to see them.