If the rumors are true, then Marvel and DC's long-established comic book rivalry might soon translate to a number of big box office brawls. Earlier this week, Nikki Finke revealed Warner Bros.' possible film slate for their presently expanding DC Cinematic Universe. If Batman v Superman is just the dawn of justice, then this list encompasses justice's afternoon, evening, and night.
The films included on the possible schedule are Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (May 2016); Shazam (July 2016); The Sandman (Christmas 2016); Justice League (May 2017); Wonder Woman (July 2017); a Flash and Green Lantern team-up (Christmas 2017); and Man of Steel 2 (May 2018).
While this is of course big news to longtime DC Comics fans, this reveal – if true – could have a great impact on Marvel Studios' still-developing Phase Three slate of films. We know the two companies have a competitive history; earlier this year, Warner's pushed Batman v Superman to May 6, 2016, a release date already occupied by a Marvel film – one we now know is Captain America 3. If there's truth to this leak, then DC plans to release films in months that Marvel's already claimed. Things could get very interesting, and here are five things we think could happen.
Marvel cranks up production
Warner Bros. is being awfully ambitious following Man of Steel's success. They're possibly jumping right in the deep end by planning to release three movies a year. So far Marvel has limited themselves to just two films a year, although Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has hinted that they might need to expand to three films a year, just to accommodate all the characters they want to introduce and only if the change would come about naturally. Seeing your competition throwing down the three-films-a-year gauntlet might just be the kind of "natural" development Marvel needs to crank up production.
Marvel pits Captain Marvel vs. Captain Marvel
The biggest surprise on the slate has to be Shazam, especially considering that character's history and past legal contentions with Marvel Comics. What beef could Marvel possibly have with a big red guy called Shazam? Well, he used to be called Captain Marvel – and that's a name he will always have to large portion of longtime comic book fans. To summarize, Captain Marvel was originally published by Fawcett comics until DC Comics sued Fawcett for copyright infringement, stating that Marv bore too strong a resemblance to Superman. DC acquired the rights to Captain Marvel in 1972 – but not before Marvel Comics snatched up the trademark for the name Captain Marvel. Marvel Comics introduced their first Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell of the Kree, in 1967. So DC Comics had the rights to publish the old Fawcett Captain Marvel, but they could never actually call the character Captain Marvel in a comic book's title. This led to the character appearing in comics using some variation of the word Shazam. DC recently used the New 52 continuity wipe to rebrand the character as Shazam.
So what does any of this have to do with a possible Shazam film and Marvel's current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers? As previously mentioned, a lot of comic book fans still default to DC's Billy Batson when they hear the name "Captain Marvel," even if Marvel's had a version of the character around for almost 50 years. Batson was even appearing as Captain Marvel in DC cartoons as recently as 2013 while Carol's been in the "Ms." Marvel role in all of her television appearances. Warner's most likely can't call Shazam by his Marvel-ous moniker in the film, but getting the character to the big screen first could be seen as victory in the ongoing Captain Marvel war. If Marvel gets there first and cements Carol Danvers as the Captain Marvel to a massive movie-going audience, they could really stick it to DC and demonstrate their commitment to Carol Danvers as their new – and permanent – Captain Marvel.
Marvel fast tracks Black Widow
Comic book fans have had their eye on another race, even if it feels like the film studios themselves aren't paying much attention to it. We've been waiting for a while to find out which company would try their hand at a solo heroine movie, and with a 2017 Wonder Woman film on this rumored lineup, we might just have to declare WB as the winner. Or… maybe not. Marvel still has two release dates locked down before Wonder Woman's rumored July 2017 debut that they've yet to fill with a movie: July 8th, 2016 and May 5th, 2017. Either of those dates could be filled with a Black Widow or Captain Marvel movie. Of course that would mean the character would have to go up against either Shazam or Justice League. Placing any solo Marvel movie up against the team-up spectacle-fest of Justice League seems like a risky move, but Black Widow might just work. It stars a recognizable character with an even more recognizable leading actress, and given the character's very human ass-kicking abilities, it could be produced on a much tighter budget than a Thor or Captain Marvel. No, Black Widow would not outgross Justice League, but it would also cost a quarter as much to make and could therefore make Marvel Studios a lot more money.
Strange V Sandman: Dawn Of Dreamscapes
Seeing The Sandman on that list is kinda peculiar, especially considering the fact that Morpheus hasn't really been a part of the proper DC Comics super hero universe since the start of Neil Gaiman's opus in the late '80s. Whether or not The Sandman ties into the larger DC Cinematic Universe remains to be seen, but Marvel could steal attention from the sure to be weird film by unleashing their own master of weirdness, Doctor Strange, on movie going audiences in late October or early November 2016. Doctor Strange already has a director in Stephen Derrickson, and it needs a release date next. If Marvel gets to Doctor Strange first, they might be able to claim the off-kilter supernatural dreamscape comic book film genre for themselves, causing The Sandman to look like just a Marvel imitator to the uninitiated. If they don't go for the early November weekend that Thor: The Dark World dominated in 2013, then Doctor Strange might be the film Marvel puts in the July 8, 2016 date.
Thor vs. Justice League
A Marvel movie has to go up against Justice League. Marvel's already roped off the May 5, 2017 release date, and they are not the kind of company to back away just because the WB might release their Trinity and pals sometime that month. All conjecture aside, the truth of the matter is that Marvel only has five films in Phase Two. Unless they do up production, we'll probably only get five films in Phase Three. So far, we know what three of them are: Ant-Man, Captain America 3, and Avengers 3. That leaves two left, and Marvel's already got people working on them. Stephen Derrickson's been hired to direct Doctor Strange and Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost have started work on the script for Thor 3. Unless Marvel does up production or push Avengers 3 back from its assumed May 2018 release date, we've got our Phase Three already. Between Strange and Thor, we'd put our money on the God of Lightning to throw down with Superman and company at the box office. Thor: The Dark World grossed $200 million more at the box office than 2011's Thor, and the character's exposure and popularity will probably only grow after his involvement in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron. Unless Marvel Studios starts to stumble and backs away from May 2017, this seems like a sure thing.