Can Marvel be stopped? Most have already accepted that the answer is no. They got people to see a movie about the Guardians of the Galaxy. They can do whatever they want.
Well, what many people forget in this discussion is that Guardians of the Galaxy was also a very good movie. Movies that don’t have that advantage don’t tend to do as well, like 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.
But still, Marvel has been successful in almost all of their ventures, and if they keep pumping out quality action movies, why would you want to stop them?
Well, there’s the problem. No matter what way you slice it, they’re not going to keep pumping out high quality action movies. The seeds of Marvel’s forthcoming demise have already been planted and soon enough, DC will eclipse them and rule the industry. For a while. And it all started with 2013’s Thor: the Dark World.
Thor 2 marks a few milestones for Marvel. It’s the first objectively bad Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Sure, Hulk was a letdown and Iron Man 2 was disjointed and infuriatingly silly, but on repeat watches neither of them are that bad. Thor 2 is that bad. It’s boring, overly dark, cluttered, practically action-free, and incompetently directed by Alan Taylor. It also marks the first time Marvel has tried to one-up DC. The common perception is that Marvel’s films are on a level above DC, but they’re both in the business of making money, and Man of Steel made a shitload of it. The natural consequence was Marvel’s abysmal rip-off I affectionately call a movie, Thor: the Dark World. Critics panned it and while it did fetch a few hundred mil, it still didn’t see the kind of attendance that Amazing Spider-Man 2 did a year later. I also think more people liked ASM2. At least it was so bad it’s good, at least it had good special effects, good cinematography, good performances. Thor 2 is almost unwatchable.
“But Jeremy,” you say, “Marvel bounced back!” And you’re right. They put out Guardians of the Galaxy, which was great. They put out Winter Soldier, a lot of people liked that. Hell, Age of Ultron wasn’t bad at all. But there’s the problem. No one ever says Age of Ultron is a great movie, as they do with most mediocre Marvel movies. They say it’s not bad. Because we expect a backlash. Because we know it has its fair share of problems. Because we know, even though it’s bigger and faster and funnier than the first one, it still has a lot of fundamental flaws. That’s how the backlash starts.
Do you intend to see Ant-Man this July? Chances are, most of you said no, some of you said yes because you love Adam McKay, and the rest of you didn’t know it was coming out in July. I don’t think the movie is going to be bad at all, but with all the behind the scenes drama and the fact that it’s coming out two months after the last Marvel movie, most of the general public has given up on it. This could go either way. It could serve as a harrowing wake-up call to the folks at Marvel that they can’t just do whatever they want. They’ll start listening to what the fans want, accept that it couldn’t last forever, and have one last hurrah with Infinity War or some similar spectacle.
The other option is much darker. You see, we can’t really guarantee that people won’t see Ant-Man. If it’s a huge hit, then that means that Marvel can do whatever they want and if that happens, then god help us. Because Marvel’s going to start slipping, and we’re going to keep watching, because we watched fucking Ant-Man. If we don’t stop them, they will not stop.
But Marvel doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There is another force that has potential to save the day: DC Comics. Right now, the general public has a pretty negative view of DC, mainly for the slightly underrated, but mediocre at best, Man of Steel. The promotional material for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hasn’t been super promising, which makes matters even more difficult for the brothers Warner. But, here’s a novel statement, I think DC is going to pull it off.
Note how I didn’t say they can pull it off, I said they’re going to. Will BvS be the one to do it? Probably not, but never say never. Chris Terrio is a much better writer than Man of Steel‘s David Goyer, and I still feel like the movie could be redeemed if it’s done well. Now, think about the movie’s release date in context. It comes out about a month before Civil War, and despite its somewhat bad rap, every last one of you is going to see it. Imagine the superhero fatigue coming off of that. A month after Batman v Superman, one of the biggest superhero movies of all time, and two months after the highly anticipated Deadpool. I may be wrong, but it could definitely weaken Marvel’s sales, if not for Civil War, then definitely for November’s Doctor Strange, which may have even less of a hype machine than Ant-Man.
But that’s beside the point. BvS isn’t going to be the movie that saves DC. Suicide Squad is. Coming next August, bridging the six-month gap between Civil War and Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad has it all. A talented director, an awesome cast, great characters, the works. There’s nothing I’ve heard about this movie so far that didn’t excite me. The charisma train of Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Margot Robbie is enough to carry the movie regardless of how good it actually is. Suicide Squad will be a success, I’m sure of it, and Marvel is going to have to start seeing DC as a serious threat. Because or all Feige’s talk, the folks at DC clearly know what their doing more than Marvel does.
According to chief creative director Geoff Johns, DC intends to allow their creators “to make the best possible product, to tell the best story…” You see, one of Marvel’s biggest troubles is that they can’t keep a director for more than two movies. They pissed off Jon Favreau. They pissed off Kenneth Branagh. They pissed off Joe Johnston. They fired Whedon. They fired Edgar Wright. Idris Elba says that working with Marvel was the worst experience of his career, and Chris Evans says he never wants to act again once he’s done with these. DC is giving their talent room to breathe. They’re making the movies they want, and Snyder is just bringing together all the characters.
And look at the talent they’ve got. Furious 7’s James Wan is directing Aquaman, with Jason Momoa in the lead role. The Rock is starring as Black Adam in Shazam. Ezra Miller is starring in Flash, directed by PHIL LORD AND CHRIS MILLER. I haven’t seen Ray Fisher in anything, but his casting indicates that DC is seeking out real talent, as opposed to Marvel, who chooses from the list of five black actors they’ve heard of. We’re lucky DC swooped up Will Smith.
Is any of this definite? No. Maybe Marvel will take DC’s success as a warning sign and start making better movies. Maybe DC won’t succeed. But to me, it seems like the safest bet that DC is going to do better than Marvel within a few years. Hell, I‘d put good money on BvS and Suicide Squad doing better than Civil War and Doctor Strange next year. The times are changing. Be prepared.