So, buried in a Variety article about the shifting power of various Warner Bros execs is this little gem:
“Stakes are high for Man Of Steel . Other than Nolan’s Batpics, Warners has not been able to effectively exploit the DC library. Its 2011 Green Lantern underperformed, and a Justice League film wouldn't likely be in theatres before 2015, as Warner's top brass have indicated that they are awaiting the results of Man Of Steel – which opens June 14 – before moving further ahead.”
Superficially, this looks like exactly the sort of havering and indecision that’s blighted DC’s movie projects for years now. I’m not even talking about the old, “The last two Batman movies and Catwoman were rubbish” chestnut but rather the never-ending stream of vapourware DC has announced over the last few years: Flash movies being linked to both Ryan Reynolds and Bradley Cooper; Supermax, a supervillain prison movie that would have opened up a Green Arrow series; the cancelled Joss Whedon-scripted Wonder Woman movie (you know that has to sting these days); and, most recently, the George Miller-directed Justice League movie that had got to costume fittings for the cast before the plug was pulled.
DC is the Could-Have-Been King, buried beneath failed projects, while Marvel has multiple, successful, inter-related franchises. Of course, DC does have the Nolan Batman movies, Green Lantern and Man Of Steel to point to, but even those have got caught up in the endless second guessing. Green Lantern took a critical and commercial drubbing, and there have been countless contradictory rumours about whether both that and the Nolan Batman movies are going to be incorporated into the larger movie universe or stand alone. They’ve not even been able to give a definitive or coherent answer about whether Henry Cavil’s Superman will be in Justice League , when (if) it finally happens. So, when you look at all that, it’s easy to view this latest piece of news as yet another disappointment. Marvel has a massively successful franchise made out of successful franchises. DC is watching Chris Nolan’s limousine drive off, trying not to cry…
Or is it?
There’s another way of looking at it. What if Man Of Steel is being used as the cornerstone for all future movies? Just like Marvel introduced concepts and ideas in the original Iron Man that would run through to Marvel Phase 2 and the imminent SHIELD TV show, what if Man Of Steel introduces the basis of a shared DC movie universe?
Look at the evidence. We know Zod is involved and some reports suggest he has a force of Kryptonians with him. We know the scale of destruction in what I assume is Metropolis is almost inconceivable. We know that after this, Superman will be in the public eye. Just like Tony Stark at the end of Iron Man , but with way more capes and property damage. The battle in (probably) Metropolis is a world shaking, epochal event which is why it’s a perfect on ramp for a DC movie universe.
Think about it – you could build an entire raft of other characters’ movies from their reactions to that fight, and to Superman’s appearance, What if the events in Metropolis make the Amazons of Themyscira realise that they need to send an ambassador to the world of men? What if some of the citizens of Metropolis are helped by an unusually stern police detective called John Jones? Or saved by something impossibly fast, a red and yellow blur of heroism that’s gone in a flash? What if, as has been rumoured, the last thing we see in Man Of Steel is the Nolan movies Batman, watching him from a distance? Why not go the whole hog and have the events in Metropolis be mentioned in Arrow , setting up an appearance for that character? It’s a massively successful show and it’d be nice to see DC reward that for once.
Of course it’s all guess work, but, right now, I’m choosing to assume the best rather than the worst. DC has some magnificent characters in its roster and I’d love to see DC get the Avengers -treatment. Plus, whilst it’s a lot to put on the shoulders of one movie, and one character, I’m confident. After all, if Superman can’t pull DC’s movies out of the doldrums? Who can?