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 411mania » Movies » Columns

Why DC Comics Are Doomed at the Box Office
Posted by Steve Gustafson on 09.01.2014

My name is Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by! It's Labor Day so hopefully you're doing something fun. Let's jump right into it!

You can't look at Marvel's success at the box office without thinking, "How is DC going to top this?" That's the problem. They can't. In fact, they shouldn't even be trying.

Years from now, we'll look back and everything we feared that Warner Bros and DC Entertainment were doing will be proven to be correct. Being too ambitious? Check. Not having a well thought out plan? Check. Trying to copy Marvel's success on a shallow level? Check. The signs of failure are all over.

Before I go further, I'd like to state for the record that I would love to be proven wrong. I want to see some of my favorite characters on the big screen, most notably the Legion of Superheroes. What's frustrating to me is they don't have to cram so much down audiences throat. They own some of the most recognizable characters on the planet but treat them like they're leftover meat bound for the hot dog factory. I truly believe they could have gone a different way with their heroes and have been just as successful, if not more so. Right now they have no problem rebooting and recasting anything they want to.

I'm a huge fan of Arrow. It shows me that someone gets it. The action, humor, and spirit of the show are a perfect balance. The Flash looks to be just as well made. But we're not talking about television. Let's take a look at just 5 reasons why things look bleak for the Warner Bros and DC Entertainment movie universe.

It seems like Warner Bros and DC Entertainment enjoy making announcements. When you look closer, those announcements are designed to create headlines, not providing anything of substance. No word on scripts, actors, directors for these upcoming projects. Think about it. A large studio is blindly greenlighting movies without knowing anything about the movie. It feels like they are taking a "Wait-and-See" approach with their properties. Look at how Marvel has done things. Full of confidence and enthusiasm. Two things you don't see over at Warner and DC. Marvel has the momentum and DC knows this. And it shows. Someone made a point to say, "Why is DC doing this? Marvel already beat them to the punch." It's a valid comment. Unless they are going to do things BETTER, why try? Oh wait. Money.

They've unveiled release dates for nine untitled movies to follow 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with dates reaching all the way into 2020. 2020! We're looking at Justice League, Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. That's an absurd schedule, especially when you consider that this is all based off Man of Steel. While Marvel has taken a deliberate approach, layering their universe, DC feels like this is a race and need to show everyone they're in the game. With all these players in the mix, audiences will suffer. While most of us keep up-to-date on the latest rumors, the average mainstream person does not. The 2020 announcement was for the comic book movie fan. Everyone else will be asking questions on how Ben Affleck's relates to Christian Bale's, who's Wonder Woman, and why is Lex Luthor the kid from that Facebook movie? Like I mentioned, too many rebootings and recastings will leave audiences confused. If DC doesn't care about their product, why should the people paying to watch it? Before you mention that Marvel is just as guilty, this isn't the same thing. Marvel already has their universe mapped out and introduced. Baby steps.

"No jokes"
Rumors have been swirling the last couple of weeks about a mandate at Warner Bros. regarding any of the DC superhero films in development. No jokes. Looks like the grim and gritty era is coming to theaters and that's not a good thing for DC. Some are saying the poor perfomring Green Lantern is to blame. While a darker edge is fine for Batman, some of the criticism leveled at Man of Steel was its lack of fun. Which I agree with. Who exactly was the target demographic for that movie? While I see little kids dressing like Superman at playgrounds, playing with his toys, the movie in theaters was not geared toward kids.

I'm not asking for a joke-a-minute and I'm not asking they copy Marvel's style to writing. What I am asking is they remember their demographic. Even if this is a false piece of news, the fact that so many people believe it tells you something about their brand image.

Domino Effect
Do you know that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has had its release date changed three times? For a massive, tentpole movie, that's almost unheard of. That's also one of the trappings of putting too much on your plate. How will moving release dates hurt? With Zack Snyder focused on Batman v Superman and helming Justice League, any delay will touch the other projects. If you're foundation movie is having issues and delays, it's a good bet that it will trickle down to the rest. If things get too backed up, how will Warner Bros and DC respond? Not well. You can expect budgets to balloon, recastings, hiring of surprise directors, and a number of other factors that don't bode well. With so many movies and projects interrelated, any bump can be a precursor to bad things. Like my next point.

The Flop
This has been a hot topic. What happens WHEN one of their movies flops? By going straight from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice into Justice League, without any other solo movies to introduce the team properly, is backwards and a risk that will most likely alienate mainstream audiences. As I mentioned above, so far, their "defined universe" consists of Man of Steel. What we know so far is they're packing a LOT of roles into this movie. Besides Superman and Batman we have Lois Lane, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Martha Kent, Alfred, Perry White, and Cyborg/Victor Stone. Rumors of The Flash and a number of other unconfirmed cameos fill headlines weekly. Audiences need a reason to care about these characters, backgrounds, development, how they interact as individuals and as a team. By rushing all that, a flop is inevitable and where does that leave them? How will that change their "plans"? Superman and Batman will be fine. Audiences know and love them. It's the follow up, secondary characters that we should worry about.


So we have DC's schedule till 2020. Sony Pictures has confirmed that four Spider-Man related films are in the works. Marvel Studios has about 11 upcoming films. Fox has X-Men and Fantastic Four movies coming out way. Add in a bunch of random superhero flicks and what do we have? A whole lotta superhero movies. Not all of them will be successful. We live in a time where they are announcing sequels to movies that haven't even come out yet, where you can turn on the TV and watch GREAT comic book based shows. I can't imagine a better time to be a comic book fan. But everything has a tipping point. Especially when money is involved.

Like I said, I hope that I'm wrong. I hope Warner Bros and DC pull off a stunning display of entertainment, blowing us away, and giving us a proper version of their superheroes.

I hope.

Before I say GOODBYE!
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That's all the time I have. See you next week!


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