About Superman Man of Steel
Nearly two and a half years ago I wrote an article called “The Green Lantern Franchise Isn’t About Green Lantern.” I made several assertions in the article, and while I may have been a bit ahead of myself, I still maintain that the core idea is true. However, with the financial and critical failing of that film forced WB to try again with the plan. Since it seems like they are more organized this time around, I thought I would revisit the idea of my original article and apply it to the latest contender. You see, I don’t think that last summer’s “Man of Steel” is about Superman at all.
I’ve seen a sentiment come up quite frequently since the announcement of Ben Affleck as the new Batman. The idea is that Superman deserves a “proper” sequel, rather than a team-up film with Batman. As a Superman fan, it’s a sentiment that I can surely get behind. However, it’s also a scenario that limits the DC Universe on film in the worst possible way. Let’s talk about how 2015’s tentatively titled “Batman vs Superman” opens up a world of possibility for Warner Brothers and fans of DC heroes.
We can’t have this discussion without first examining why Marvel has been so prolific with their film universe. When Marvel began making films, they started by licensing out their properties to existing film studios. This is how Fox has the rights to Fantastic Four and X-Men, while Sony retains the rights to Spiderman. It was the success of those early licensed films that gave Marvel the leg up they needed. Marvel Studios, the division that now oversees all of Marvel’s film production, wasn’t even officially credited as a production company on a Marvel film until Sam Raimi’s third Spiderman installment. And that’s when things took off for them. By that point, Marvel had their own cash to put behind “Iron Man” development. Marvel Studios was finally at a stage where they had the two most important elements of making a film – the licenses and the money for development. In other words, they had all the power. They were in a position, as a well-funded independent entity that owned valuable intellectual property, to make decisions about their own future and take risks that most companies would never take. That open door is what gave us films like Thor, a World War II Captain America, and ultimately the Avengers. The idea of building several franchises that shared a single universe was virtually unheard of prior to Marvel’s big splash in the industry, and no cross-over has ever been done as well as Avengers.
The importance of Marvel’s early licensed films cannot be overstated. That independent success is the big advantage that Marvel has had over DC Comics in the film arena. DC Comics was purchased by Warner Brothers in 1969. For the entire modern cinematic era, the cinematic fate of DC Comics’ properties were decided by their parent company, Warner Brothers. At a glance, this looks like it should be a very welcome greasing of the wheels for DC properties on film. Shouldn’t it be incredibly beneficial to be owned by a company with a ton of experience making films? Actually, quite the opposite is true.