If you’re reading this then the likelihood is that you’ve seen at least a portion of the movies on offer from Marvel and DC. If that is the case then you’ll be very aware of the disparity in quality that exists between the two cinematic universes. DC have been lagging behind for some time now with stale offering after stale offering and seemingly no idea how to break out of their tailspin. These are just a few suggestions of how to fix things.
The main problem that DC has found itself facing is that they’ve been behind the eight-ball the entire time with their universe booting up at a time where Marvel’s is already a fully established juggernaut. Due to this they have rushed to catch up and put the cart before the horse by charging into a group movie, Justice League, to counter the immensely successful Avengers franchise. This clearly hasn’t worked and the fix is quite clear.
Firstly, the idea that any comic universe has to lead into a film where everyone bands together is simply nonsense. Yes, it is working wonders for Marvel and there is certainly nothing wrong with a good team-up film but the focus should be more on the individual offerings focusing on solo characters instead of trying to jam too many people into one plot. Just look at Wonder Woman, a film that will be discussed more soon; it’s greatest asset is that it is singularly focused which allows it to dedicate the proper time to each character involved. It is undoubtedly because of that fact that Wonder Woman is the best DCEU film thus far by quite a long way.
So, should they then simply switch their attention to solo adventures from now on? No, not at all. The trick here is to perfect the slow build, just as Marvel did, and to recognise that having films that don’t fit into that puzzle is absolutely fine. For instance, the DCEU has an older, more grizzled, disillusioned Batman and so therein lies the potential for a new standalone trilogy. Perhaps they could make it a redemption tale with Batman coming to terms with the death of Jason Todd, something that is hinted at in Batman v Superman. Or it could further chart his devolution into being no better than the men he is hunting. Whatever direction was chosen it’d be infinitely more satisfying than the current plan of shoehorning other characters in to further the Justice League plot line.
Leave the group stuff to less individually interesting characters, such as Superman, Cyborg, and Aquaman. Although that last one is actually quite a rich character that deserves more attention than he usually gets but that’s another issue for another day.
Marvel has found great success in bringing some of their lesser known entities to the big screen. Just one look at the box office takings for Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man will show you that just because a character isn’t the typical poster boy, it doesn’t mean that they can’t attract a wide audience and make for some entertaining viewing. In fact, it could easily be argued these those are two of the best movies in Marvel’s catalogue.
The question then becomes, who should these lesser characters be? Who holds the most potential? You don’t have to look too far for the answers.
Lobo is a guaranteed money maker. Now obviously he isn’t a hero, he’s a psychotic bounty hunter who bathes the galaxy in blood but that is a small hurdle to get over. The fact is that Lobo has natural charisma and an odd likeability that, with the right actor in the role, would endear him to a potentially huge audience. Take a look at Deadpool and how well his brand of no-kids-allowed ultraviolence has gone down with fans. There is a clear market for this type of comic book movie and DC has the perfect character to work with in this motorbike riding monster.
If it is indeed DC’s intention to differentiate themselves from Marvel’s product with a darker tone then they should really consider giving a movie to The Spectre. He would work best in his own one-off movie but DC’s Spirit of Vengeance would give writers the chance to explore so many philosophical ponderings whilst also getting to unleash a character with almost limitless power who could do all sorts of ridiculous and stunningly inventive things to the sinners he encounters.
Sticking with that darker tone for a moment, there has to be plenty of thought put into movies centring on both John Constantine and Swamp Thing. Whilst two rather different characters who would require unique approaches to storytelling to bring to the screen, they are also both fully capable of capturing the minds of audiences and, if group movies are the order of the day, leading into a much requested Justice League Dark live action movie.
Should they want to give audiences a lighter experience then they could also look to the Teen Titans. In them they have a team that is capable of bringing the action and dealing with some serious enemies, such as Deathstroke, but also they can bring the laughs too and engage the teenage demographic to boot. It seems like a no brainer to green light this particular project for production asap.
Ultimately, DC need to figure out where they want to go in this journey and adjust the tone of their movies accordingly. Wonder Woman was a good start and the strong female lead was long overdue but really, it’s just a worse version of Captain America, though no one seems to want to admit it. Be more inventive, take some risks, and for god's sake, don’t ever say Martha again.