By LAURA HUMBLE – STAFF WRITER
Warner Bros. Studios recently announced the release of ten new films from the DC comic book universe by 2020. These films will feature a range of superheroes from the ubiquitous Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to the lesser known Shazam and Cyborg. DC appears to be trying to compete with the success of Marvel’s superhero collaboration blockbuster, The Avengers, by releasing two Justice League films, putting multiple DC superheroes into one action-packed film.
Here is a full rundown of what movies to expect in the next five years: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Wonder Woman (2017), Justice League Part One (2017), The Flash (2018), Aquaman (2019), Shazam (2019), Justice League Part Two (2019), Cyborg (2020), and Green Lantern (2020).
This onslaught of superhero movies is DC’s response to Marvel’s “Phase 3” announcement that they would be releasing nine films by 2019, not including Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, which come to theaters next July.
“Marvel’s movies are brilliantly marketed,” Assistant Professor of English and Director of Film Studies program chair Dr. Stacey Peebles said. “With something like The Avengers, it’s a brilliant franchise. How many spinoffs can you do with that? The franchise could exponentially go on forever.”
Marvel’s Phase 3 includes: Captain America: Civil War (2016), Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2017), Avengers: Infinity War Part One (2018), Captain Marvel (2018), Inhumans (2018), and Avengers: Infinity War Part Two (2019).
“[Marvel’s] success with the Avengers movie has opened a huge market for superhero movies through crossovers and is what sparked Batman v. Superman and the Justice League movie in my opinion,” junior and comic book enthusiast Drew Patterson said.
Even so, Dr. Peebles questioned the need for so many superhero films in next five years.
“We’ve had superhero movie after superhero movie. I wonder, is this bubble about to burst? But everyone in my [Introduction to Film] class shook their heads and said ‘no way.’ Particularly with superhero movies, the fan base is so strong that it is sustaining this genre cycle even past the point that you would expect to see it start to flag,” Dr. Peebles said. “Nobody’s worried that this is a genre that’s going to go away. That almost seems like a historical exception to me.”
Part of the fan base’s devotion stems from a strong sentiments of nostalgia. Visiting professor of Creative Writing and English Dr. Christian Moody relates his experience with comics to his childhood.
“I grew up with DC comics, Marvel, and others,” Dr. Moody said. “My favorite comic in elementary school and junior high was The Sandman, which is DC. Older kids liked it, especially the angsty goth-ish kids who listened to The Cure. They were pretentious, and I wanted them to like me so I was pretentious too. The Sandman was considered a little more literary than other comics. I tried to go back and read them a few years ago, but my taste has changed a lot. For nostalgia’s sake, though, I’d go see a Sandman movie. My other favorite character was Gambit, from the Xmen. He was played by the extremely handsome Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights. I’d go see a Gambit movie, too.”
Patterson, for one, is excited at the prospect of so many superhero movies, though he prefers Marvel to DC.
“I’ve always preferred mainstream Marvel characters over their DC counterparts because I related to them as a kid,” Patterson said.
His preference for Marvel carries over into the films they put out.
“Current Marvel movies are more refined than those made by DC and complement one another nicely,” Patterson said. “I feel as though I can go into a movie by Marvel and know what I’m in for. This cohesiveness between films started after Marvel bought back the film licenses to most of their characters to make The Avengers. I will be interested to see how DC handles their upcoming films since they are using an extremely similar approach via The Justice League. If they do undergo a similar transition then I could see myself enjoying their movies more than I do now, but I’m not holding my breath.”
Not much of comic book superhero fan herself, Dr. Peebles still has an interest in the movies.
“I wonder if any of them are doing anything interesting with the concept of the superhero,” Dr. Peebles said. “That’s what Christopher Nolan did with The Dark Knight stuff. He took familiar material with a heightened enough vision to do something different. The one with the most potential would probably be Wonder Woman just from a feminist perspective. Will she be a strong female presence or just scantily clad and disappointing in that sense?”
A few director and casting choices have been made public regarding these movies. Henry Cavill (Stardust, The Tudors) will return as Superman, and Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Girl) will play Batman in Batman v. Superman. Israeli actress Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious, Entourage) has been cast as Wonder Woman. Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) has been cast as The Flash. Aquaman will be played by Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones). Both the Justice League films will be directed by Zack Snyder.
Marvel’s proposed lineup of actors includes Chris Evans who will continue portraying Captain America, Chris Hemsworth who will return to play Thor, and Robert Downey, Jr. who will play Iron Man.
Dr. Peebles asked, with 21 superhero films being released in the next five years, will the general public ever grow weary of movies about truth, justice, and the American way?
“I wonder when—at what point—it will become impossible to make a straight superhero movie,” Dr. Peebles said. She cited Westerns as an example. Gone are the days where classic, John Wayne-style Westerns will draw audiences into theatres. The closest modern equivalent to these are the Coen brothers’ Western-thriller, No Country for Old Men (2007) and the recent box office flop, Cowboys & Aliens (2011).
Both of these offered interesting twists on the original genre.
“When genres are so big for so long, you can’t make a straight movie anymore. That’s when things get kind of interesting. Will [filmmakers] turn it inside out, be revisionist? Do the superheroes become bad guys? That’s innovation worth seeing,” Dr. Peebles said.
Another controversial aspect of transcribing comic books into movies is loyalty to the original document.
“Here’s one idea though: when books are adapted into film, I usually want them to be good stories in their own medium, rather than overly loyal to the original,” Dr. Moody said. “They need to be works of art in their own right. I doubt the movies will be works of art—big budget movies often aren’t—but I might be pleasantly surprised. In any case, I’ll go see The Sandman.”
Regardless, there’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that the upcoming 21 movies produced by DC and Marvel will continue to draw in the crowds, whether film-goers are seeking innovation, or simply seeking super-powered escape.