The upcoming March release of DC’s Batman vs. Superman is one of the year’s most highly anticipated movies. DC Films, which is owned by Time Warner (TWX), will follow that movie with another fan favorite, Suicide Squad, in August of 2016. While Marvel Studios and Disney (DIS) have clearly owned DC and Time Warner for years, it appears that DC has finally gotten its comic universe together, and are now making a legitimate play to compete with Disney at the box office.
In the trailers for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC looks to continue its portrayal of a darker, grittier universe. The director Zach Snyder shows scenes covered in roiling gray clouds and tarnished heroes. Even Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is very much about the complex internal battle that men and women face in modern times when they try to do good. This contrasts sharply with the Marvel universe and its pantheon of superheroes: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Ant Man, and the Hulk. Most of the characters are witty, egotistical, or just flat out brave. It is rare that any of these characters wrestle with their settings and powers like the DC duo of Superman and Batman (the exception here might be Captain America: the Winter Soldier). In addition, the recently released Suicide Squad trailer is unlike anything in the Marvel cinematic universe. The assembled villains of the Suicide Squad are nothing but raunchy, violent, unpredictable, and, often, unlikable. The premise of the Suicide Squad is a villain’s quest to reduce jail time. Guardians of the Galaxy is the only film comparable, but its characters are all made to be likable, charming, or acceptably weird. The Marvel Universe is always within the Disney eye of censorship. Time Warner does not seem to be putting family-friendly restrictions on its writers and directors. This level of raw entertainment could appeal to audience members who are tired of the Marvel films and starting to find them a little saccharine.
DC Films has also pushed forward the first female-led film, Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, will have a film all to herself in the summer of 2017. Wonder Woman will appear in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice to continue to pin the stars together for DC’s character constellation. Aqua Man will also have his own film in 2018 carried by Jason Momoa, from Game of Thrones fame.
Comic book vehicles are huge dollars at the box office. The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises both averaged $1 billion each worldwide. While Marvel’s total cinematic exploits are worth around $9 billion total. Not to mention, these are just cinematic vehicles. There are animated series, TV spin-off series like Gotham and S.H.I.E.L.D., video games, and the corresponding comics that always accompany the release of any film. DC Films and Marvel Studios are big dollars for Disney and Time Warner, and I think DC Films might just have the upper hand for 2016.
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