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How Can Warners Build A DC Movie Universe?

by  in Comic News, Movie News Comment

Next year’s Man of Steel offers Warner Bros. a chance for a do-over – Not just on its Superman franchise, but its DC Comics movie franchises in general, following the disappointing box office performance of Green Lantern. But, assuming that the movie will be a success, it raises a difficult question for the studio: What do they do next?

It’s assumed that Warners will want to emulate Marvel Studios’ model of releasing solo movies for its main characters before combining them in a Justice League team movie at some point down the line, so the next step would likely be a movie featuring another member of DC’s core seven heroes – likely the Flash, who’s been rumored to have a movie in production for some time now. But… is that necessarily a good idea?

In a recent Word Balloon interview, Mark Millar – who’s now acting as creative consultant for Fox’s Marvel movies – suggested that Warners faces a difficult path trying to make the Marvel model work, if only because it’s already been done; simply doing the same thing would make the studio seem like it was a copycat, he said, and runs the risk of allowing the superhero movie genre to fade from popularity before any Justice League movie is even released. But, at the same time, not trying to compete with Marvel in terms of scope or output seems like the very opposite of what Warners would want to do with the DC properties. Is this a case of damned if they do, damned if they don’t?

An alternative suggestion is, of course, to start with the Justice League movie, and then spin characters out from there. Admittedly, it’s not a perfect plan – Man of Steel is already in the middle of production and therefore would come first, after all – and would require a lot of any JL movie (Introducing all of the team and the villain is a lot to handle for anyone, especially if you also want to have some level of plot and mindless action in there), and as such may be entirely unworkable. But there’s a third possibility, and it’s one that lifts format and structure from the comic books as much as Marvel have, but not simply following what’s been done before. Namely, have a movie crossover series.

As an audience, we’re used to having movies be part of a series, instead of one complete stories in and of themselves; think of the Lord of The Rings movies, or The Matrix trilogy. But what if Warners made the DC movies into a series of trilogy – or quadrology, or tetrology, or however many – movie series featuring different leads, but all dealing with the same threat? Essentially, using either today’s comic book crossovers, or the old Justice League of America comics where the team split up to deal with a threat – as the model, allowing for the construction of a coherent movie universe without having to follow Marvel’s lead in terms of format. It’s something that would require a little bit more confidence from the studio – Instead of committing to one movie at a time, they’d have to commit to the series – and the audience, who’d have to do the same thing, but it’s definitely doing something other than pulling a Marvel.

Would you sign on to a series of superhero movies following this scheme? Or is the Avengers model a tried-and-proven way to go for all superhero universes on the big screen from now on? Use the comments to explain how you’d like to see Warners handle the Justice League…