2008. Doesn’t seem that long ago, but in some ways, it feels like it has been quite some time. And for the movie making arms of Marvel and DC, the road to 2012 could not have been different.
First, there was Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. The first two salvos in Marvel Studios' pet project, of crafting a set of films that were interconnected and a shared universe, much in the same way comic books are.
Oh sure there were missteps along the way, Iron Man 2 was not the critical darling and fan favorite that its successor was, and Edward Norton’s clash with the studio put the idea of franchising this latest version of The Hulk (the less said about Ang Lee’s Hulk, the better) was scrapped. Also scrapped as well were plans for stuff like a movie that was centered on Ant Man, Hank Pym. But the focus was clear, make a bunch of movies that would all lead to The Avengers where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would join together to face a common enemy. That mission was very much accomplished.
DC and Warner Brothers that year simply countered Marvel’s one-two punch with The Dark Knight. Whatever one wants to say about how it happened; be it morbid curiosity surrounding the role that may have led to the way of life that claimed the life of Heath Ledger, or buying into the over hype that sadly does enter into the last finished work of an actor taken far too soon, or any of the other reasons you might think as to why it happened, but it did, and The Dark Knight wound up, at the time, the second highest domestic grossing film of all time, and roughly fifth all time, again at the time, on the world wide chart. To say Batman was hot again would require, well, this response “HOLY UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE DECADE BATMAN!”
However, the capitalization on this by DC and Warner Bros. was not what anyone was hoping for. In the ensuing years, the feature live action mainstream superhero properties movies produced; Watchmen, Jonah Hex and Green Lantern can be seen with diminishing returns. Watchmen garnered critical success, but didn’t quite grab the audience, and the fact that the movie didn’t lend itself to franchising (although, it wouldn’t shock anyone if down the line someone did make live action versions of the Before Watchmen comic book stories that DC is producing). The less said about the Jonah Hex debacle, the better.
And then there was the one movie that DC put all their chips on in terms of hopefully doing what Marvel had done. Had it succeeded, not only could it be a long running franchise, but perhaps lead into a series of DC properties going to the big screen and finally get the Justice League project back into production. It, Green Lantern, failed. Back to the drawing board, and the hopes that the Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel and Superman can do exactly what Green Lantern did not.
Now, going back to 2008, one wondered what was going to be the fate of the Bat-Franchise. Oh the movie was a big hit, but now what? Would Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale return for the follow up? What would be the storyline, whom would be the villains, and what would be the future afterwards? Well we know that the director/actor combo are returning for their third Batman film, there have been storyline elements revealed and of course Bane and Catwoman will be the known villains in the story. The future though?
Well, it does seem a bit like it was after the bomb that was Batman & Robin. A very unknown future. The Dark Knight Rises will be Nolan’s final film, and it shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler to say that he’ll have a very definite ending to this story he’s been crafting since Batman Begins. In other words, Nolan has been telling a story he wants to tell, not adding to the Never Ending adventures and leaving threads for the next guy to pick up. No one has been tabbed to replace Nolan, well it hasn’t been announced anyway, so there really is no way of knowing what is to be of Batman’s live action film career after The Dark Knight Rises finishes it’s run.
This completely unknown future contrasts starkly with Marvel’s future. Iron Man 3 is heading into production, the sequels to Thor and Captain America are also in the planning stages, and Marvel has also signed Mark Ruffalo to a multi-picture contract, and it seems full steam ahead, based on public reaction to his Bruce Banner/Hulk, to produce another solo Hulk film. Rumors still swirl about an Ant Man project, as well as projects for Black Widow and Hawkeye, as well as a Nick Fury solo film. All to, again, lead into the sequel to The Avengers, which as of 5/28 is sitting fourth in all-time domestic take, and fourth in worldwide gross. To say Marvel’s movie future looks bright, would again be a huge understatement!
And so, this does make one wonder, as a DC fan, and a Batman fan specifically, why can’t we have what they are having? Is it talent? Is it direction or focus of what exactly should be accomplished and by when? Questions that are hard to ask by fans removed from the studios, but it is something that DC and Warner Bros. do need to address if they really do want what Marvel has done with it’s Marvel Studios set of now 5 films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Posted by Steve J. Rogers