Why is James Gunn convinced that DC must have a shared universe?
It’s been a chaotic week for Warner Bros. This extends to the company’s subsidiaries. James Gunn and Peter Safran’s management of the DC brand has hit a number of potholes.
Patty Jenkins parted ways with the company over the planned third Wonder Woman film. Initial reports suggested that jenkins walked awaybut Jenkins itself has he later denied these claims. Dwayne Johnson has been accused of leak internal documents to the media in an effort to prove that black adam it was actually marginally profitable. Apparently Jason Momoa is I don’t play aquaman anymoredespite headlining a billion dollar solo film.
This uncertainty extends to the two most popular characters on the company’s roster. There were reports that Gunn and Safran were planning incorporate Matt Reeves’ the batman in a shared universewhich gunn denied. Also, just a few weeks after appearing in the post-credits scene of black adam, leave the fourth season of The Wizard apparently to clear his schedule Y announcing his triumphant returnapparently Henry Cavill will will no longer play Superman in the shared universe.
This behind-the-scenes confusion is enough to make a casual observer wonder if any of this is even worth it. Of course, there are bigger problems at Warner Bros., as a result of biggest industry trends. These decisions are not entirely the result of internal soap operas and clashing egos. They owe at least as much to phenomenally bad business decisions as “popcorn project.” Gunn and Safran’s approach feels like a complete reboot for the company, a ground-up rebuild of one of its core brands.
However, there is concern that everyone has lost the forest for the trees. Gunn and Safran appear to be tearing down the haphazardly constructed and internally contradictory shared universe that DC has created over the last decade, in the hope of assembling a new, cohesive continuity from the ground up. Gunn has explicitly promised that future projects “will connect through film and television.” This sidesteps an obvious question: Why is DC so sure they want a shared universe?
On the surface, the answer is obvious. DC is pursuing the success that Marvel Studios has enjoyed. By putting all of their movies together, Marvel has created the most successful film franchise of all time. By locking all of these characters within the same sandbox, the studio has managed to use blockbuster hits like The Avengers either The Avengers: Age of Ultron to push features built around previously C list properties like Ant Man either strange doctor.
Other studios have spent the better part of the last decade eagerly pursuing that model. Universal bragged about its plans for a “dark universe”, while Paramount hoped to build a shared universe from Hasbro. Hell, Hyde Park Entertainment and Endeavor Content shamelessly promised a shared universe rubik’s cube of classes To date, the only franchise that has come close to building a comparable shared universe is The spellsupervised by director James Wan, who has just had his aquaman sunk franchise.
However, just because no one else has matched Marvel Studios doesn’t mean it’s impossible. That said, it’s also worth acknowledging that there are signs that even Marvel might be struggling with their shared universe model. However, it is important not to overdo or exaggerate this. the company continues enormously profitable. It remains a cultural giant. It’s highly unlikely that Kevin Feige will find himself looking for a new job any time soon. Still, there are rumors of problems developing.
this year has been a good year at the box officebut Marvel doesn’t dominate like it has since The Avengers It came out in 2012. It’s working fine, to be clear; its three theatrical releases are among top 10 movies of the year so far. However, none of those films have broke the billion dollar threshold. Of course, these are turbulent times; audiences may be reluctant to return to theaters after the pandemic.
However, this defense is not pretty Convincing. So far this year, both Top Gun: Maverick Y Jurassic World Dominion have grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. james cameron Avatar: The Path of Water it seems almost certain that it will coincide with them. It’s particularly surprising that a cameo-laden movie like Doctor strange in the multiverse of madness or a sequel to a historical cultural event such as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever he failed to cross that particular finish line.
There are other indicators that the glitter could be coming out of the Marvel Studios machine. Both of them rotten tomatoes Y Metacritic suggest that the company’s recent films received a cooler reception from critics. Both of them Doctor strange in the multiverse of madness Y Thor: Love and Thunder it received a low CinemaScore for the universe of “B+”. Recent Marvel movies have also had second weekend biggest dropswhich suggests fresher word of mouth and a dwindling audience outside of the hardcore fandom.
Surveys conducted by Morning Consult suggest that even the company’s stalwarts are feeling a little frazzled. In July 2022, a survey of self-identified fans reported that nearly a third of them (31%) were exhausted from the volume of movies and shows linked in the shared universe, “getting a little tired of so many of them.” While previous reports of “superhero fatigue” have been somewhat exaggerated, this is a survey conducted using scientific methodology.
The most successful film of recent years associated with the Marvel Studios brand was Spider-Man: No Way Homea film produced by Sony Pictures to celebrate its own Spiderman franchise. no way home often feels like a “divorce movie”, which relegates crossover character Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to another dimension for most of the second and third acts. It ends with Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) memory wiped from everyone in the shared universe.
Maybe there’s some indication that audiences might be gravitating towards movies that stray away from modern shared universes. Outside no way homethe most successful superhero movie of 2021 was throwback Venom: Let There Be Carnagethat exceeded all Marvel Studios offers for that year. This year, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World DominionY Avatar: The Path of Water they’re all more mainstream sequels than shared universe movies.
Again, to be clear, this is not to suggest that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in trouble or anything that melodramatic. Instead, taken together, these trends suggest that these movies are less “special” than they once were. This is one more franchise, like any other. The shared universe isn’t necessarily something that improves the performance of these individual movies. In fact, there are some suggestions that it might even hinder them.
After all, forcing these films to conform to a standardized model, visually Y aurally, limits the way stories can be told. It prevents innovation and experimentation and traps these stories in familiar holding patterns. That makes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings offer that other previous Marvel Studios origin stories like Ant Man either captain marvel not? There is little room for these films to be personalized or personal in the way that Dissident or even the path of water is.
On some level, DC needs to be aware of this. Many of the brand’s greatest successes have existed on the fringes of any attempt to build a shared universe. by Richard Donner Superman and Tim Burton’s bat Man they did not need to cross over to become cultural and commercial phenomena. Most recently, Todd Phillips’ jester was an R-rated film that grossed over a billion dollars with a budget of $55 millionearned a Best Picture nomination Y saw Joaquin Phoenix take home the Best Actor statue.
matt reeves’ the batman received rave reviews, ranking it as “among the best of the genre.” exceeded black adam, a film that was more openly tied to the idea of a shared DC universe. by Joss Whedon League of Justice It was a tailor-made critical and commercial bombshell a shared universe ordered by studybut Zack Snyder’s four-hour restoration of (or elaboration of) his version was praised by Matt Zoller Seitz as “the kind of unabashed authorist vision that Martin Scorsese was calling for.”
This has been one of the big differences between DC and Marvel. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko designed the Marvel Universe as a single cohesive entity. By contrast, the DC universe evolved in fits and starts. It was never designed to be a single shared continuity. Characters were often shoehorned into after corporate acquisitions, creating all kinds of layoffs. In the comics, DC has had to reboot repeatedly to get your shared universe to alignand it has never worked consistently.
Even in the world of comics, it can be argued that many of the most iconic comic book stories were published by DC, but occurred outside of the continuity of their shared universe: watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, kingdom come, new frontier, superman all star, The Sandman. Marvel doesn’t really have runs that are widely accepted to measure up in terms of quality and impact; the exception might be Alan Moore’s tenure in miracle manwhich is also out of continuity.
With all this in mind, it’s ludicrous that Warner seems intent on releasing a model that worked fairly consistently. patty jenkins’ Wonder Woman collected more than $800 million Y got great reviews. Time wonder woman 1984 underperforming, it seems unfair to blame Jenkins’ movie for being a sacrificial lamb and a canary in the coal mine for the doomed “Project Popcorn.” James Wan and Jason Momoa took on Aquaman, a pop culture jokeand done more than a billion dollars.
Gunn and Safran have found themselves in the unenviable position of trying to put a house in order while the house is also on fire. However, there is also a feeling that the couple might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater as they plan for the future of this gigantic company. Given the company’s track record and the current state of the industry, why are you so sure the future of the brand lies with the hottest idea of 2012?