DC vs. Marvel: Battle at the Box Office

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By: Jimmy Ji

Marvel and DC Comics, the two largest publishers of graphic novels, have long fought a fierce and competitive crusade for the loyalty of fans. Their legendary rivalry dates back to the Great Depression era – spanning decades, throughout the gold, silver, and bronze age of comics. Their rivalry has transcended far beyond the panels and speech boxes of comic books with television shows, video games, short films, web series, and of course, movie blockbusters. Over the years, their battle at the box office has intensified with the advancement of CGI, special effects, and 3D film technology. Gone are the days of basic superhero film trilogies; it is now the age of multi-film franchises. Recently, both Marvel and DC revealed their film slates for each of their cinematic universes. Comic book fanatics can expect a whole wave of superhero films flooding into cinemas from now until 2020. This article will serve as a helpful guide for what is to come for the next five years.

DC Cinematic Universe 

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The DC Cinematic Universe initiated upon the release of Man of Steel in 2013. However, no subsequent films have been released since then. Despite its delay, DC has managed to garner more attention with its plans for upcoming films. Case in point, DC’s upcoming film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the most talked about topic at San Diego Comic-Con – beating out Avengers: Age of Ultron. Renowned director, Zack Snyder, has also signed on to direct several films in the upcoming franchise. His involvement is sure to propel the franchise to the top spot with his notable involvement in 300, Watchmen, and Dawn of the Dead. One of the biggest challenges that DC will face is successfully developing its vast number of characters in a short amount of time. Instead of following Marvel, DC will release its Justice League film first, followed by solo spin-off films in the years following. A risk like that could prove to be catastrophic. Films with too many characters and little to no background development are almost destined to fail. Movies like Batman & Robin, X-Men: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 3 are all unfortunate reminders of that fact.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – 2016 Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman and unites with his Gotham-counterpart, Batman. With Ben Affleck cast as the Caped Crusader, the Oscar-winning actor will have a chance at redemption after his critically-panned performance in Daredevil. In the film, the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight join forces to battle Superman’s arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. The Social Network star, Jesse Eisenberg has been confirmed to portray Luthor, a casting choice which has left many fans wary. However, because of director Zack Snyder’s former successes, many are holding their criticism for the time being. The film will also feature Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg in cameo appearances – this will segue into DC’s main event, The Justice League.
Suicide Squad – 2016 The Suicide Squad remains one of the most unique team-ups in comic book history. Unlike the Justice League, the Suicide Squad is comprised of former DC supervillains. Members of Squad use their skill and expertise to fight crime in exchange for reduced prison sentences. Notable members include: Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Deathstroke. It is also important to note that 20th Century Fox is set to release a Deadpool film in 2016. For those unaware, Deadpool is notorious for his uncanny resemblance to Deathstroke. Fans will be in for a treat as both Wade and Slade Wilson hit the big-screen in the same year.
Wonder Woman – 2017 At long last, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman will make her live-action film debut in 2016. Portrayed by actress, Gal Gadot, the warrior princess and feminist icon will appear in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice before starring in her own solo film in 2017. Fans first got a glimpse of Gadot’s Wonder Woman at San Diego Comic Con; however, fans were largely disappointed that the classic tri-color costume and lasso of truth were abandoned. Nevertheless, Princess Diana will bring new voice to a seemingly male-centered superhero universe.
Justice League Parts I & II – 2017, 2018 The Justice League is finally set to make it’s on-screen debut after several failed attempts in the past. With the success of Marvel’s Avengers, DC Comics is set to give the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes a run for their money with its own lineup of superhumans. The film is set to feature fan-favorites such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman. Little details have been released but rumours suggest they could go up against Brainiac, Darkseid, or Doomsday. Similar to Avengers: Infinity War, the Justice League will be a back-to-back two-part film spectacle.
The Flash – 2018 With a Flash television series already airing on the CW, many have speculated that the film will focus on the Wally West version of the Flash, instead of Barry Allen. Warner Bros. has confirmed that Ezra Miller, better known as Patrick from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, will play the fast-talking hero with super-human speed.
Aquaman – 2018 Aquaman has often been stuck playing second fiddle to the other DC superheroes. He is commonly ridiculed for his superpowers (or lack thereof). However, with Game of Thrones star, Jason Momoa cast as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, people may soon look at the mighty Atlantean in a different light. Fans will first see Momoa’s portrayal of Aquaman in his on-screen debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as well as the widely-anticipated Justice League. Aquaman has the potential to be one of DC’s greatest successes as the underwater-superhero niche has yet to be filled.
Shazam – 2019 DC is commonly known for dark and mature themes in its films. Shazam however will be an exception to the ongoing trend. Unlike other superheroes in the DC universe, the film tells the story of Billy Batson, a 7-year-old boy with the ability to transform into an adult superhero. Few details have been released at the moment but Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has agreed to play Black Adam, Shazam’s nemesis. Because of its lighter and more family-friendly premise, Shazam will be a film marketable to comic book fans of all ages.
Cyborg – 2020 Once a member of the Teen Titans, Cyborg will star in a solo feature film after appearing in Dawn of Justice. Actor Ray Fisher is set to portray Victor Stone/Cyborg, an adolescent with cybernetic limbs fused to his body after a tragic accident. Cyborg will break new ground by being the first film in the franchise to feature an African-American in a lead role.
Green Lantern – 2020 After the abominable film starring Ryan Reynolds, Warner Bros. has announced it will reboot the Green Lantern in 2020. This will give fans ample time to forget the 2011 failure, infamous for its boring plot, overuse of CGI, and wooden acting. Rumours have suggested the reboot will no longer follow the life of Hal Jordan, rather, John Stewart (not to be confused with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show). The reboot will be the final film of the DC Cinematic Universe’s first phase.

Marvel Cinematic Universe 

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began with the release of Iron Man in 2008. Since then, nine other films have been released within the franchise, each being set in the same timeline and having inter-connecting plots. The MCU has generated more than $7 billion at the box office and is currently the second-highest grossing film franchise, only behind Harry Potter. The franchise has also explored other forms of media with short films, television shows and web series. Despite Marvel’s success and head start against its rival, DC, its greatest drawback is the distribution of its film rights. Marvel’s film rights are divided between three separate studios: Marvel, 20th Century Fox, and Sony Pictures. Marvel Studios has several restrictions regarding film crossovers – a problem its rival, DC Comics, does not have as all its film rights belong to Warner Bros.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – 2015 After the success of the first Avengers film, the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes reassemble to fend off the threat of Hydra and the super-intelligent android, Ultron. Along with the original group of six, the Avengers are set to welcome three new members to the team. Among the newest members are the mutant twins, Pietro (Quicksilver) and Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch); as well as the amnesiac synthezoid, the Vision. The film will also provide a nice segue into Ant-Man as Hank Pym was the scientist who gave birth to Ultron.
Ant-Man – 2015 The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s phase three, Ant-Man will follow Hank Pym and his successor, Scott Lang. Despite being a founding member of the Avengers, Ant-Man was not featured in the 2012 film, much to the disappointment of fans. Producer and Marvel CEO, Kevin Feige, stated that the film will take a campier, more comedic approach to the superhero, as they did with Guardians of the Galaxy. The film is set to give fans what they have been longing for as well as adding a few laughs throughout.
Captain America: Civil War – 2016 Based on the best-selling 2007 comic miniseries of the same name, Civil War sees the Marvel Universe split into two opposing forces as Captain America and Iron Man clash over their differing ideals. Aside from being a thrilling action, the war between Marvel’s greatest relates to the struggle to find a balance between civil liberties and national security. Unlike other films in the MCU, Civil War will include many themes and motifs that pertain to war, slavery, and morality.
Doctor Strange – 2016 After being name-dropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Sorcerer Supreme is set to star in his own solo film. While it has yet to be officially announced by Marvel, Benedict Cumberbatch is believed to portray Doctor Stephen Strange. Cumberbatch has starred in critically-acclaimed films such as 12 Years a Slave and The Imitation Game. However he is best known for his role in Sherlock. His expertise in the industry will bring the Master of Black Magic to new heights while adding a hint of mysticism to the Universe.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – 2017 Marvel Studios took a leap of faith this August with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, a relatively unknown superhero group in the Marvel Universe. Their risk paid off as it was one of Marvel’s greatest successes to date. It only seemed right that a sequel would be under production. No details about the film have been released yet. However, it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce heroes such as the cosmic avenger, Quasar; or Adam Warlock, the holder of the soul gem. Villains such as Annihilus, Phalanx and Super Skrull are all potential candidates as the main adversary.
Thor: Ragnarok – 2017 In the third installment of the Thor series, the God of Thunder meets his most challenging foe: himself. Based on the storyline which unfolded in Marvel’s Civil War saga, Tony Stark creates Ragnarok, a cyborg clone of Thor, after the Asgardian warrior was presumed dead. The film is believed to build off the events of the third Captain America film, providing a look at the aftermath of Marvel’s biggest bloodshed.
Black Panther – 2017 Up until now, films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have only starred white males in their lead roles. Although the franchise has been lacking in diversity, films such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel will help change that. Like Cyborg, Black Panther will be the first film in the shared universe to have an African-American in a lead role. Chadwick Boseman has been cast as T’Challa/Black Panther, ruler of the African nation of Wakanda. Fans will first get to see T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War before he stars in his own solo feature.
Captain Marvel – 2018 Although Kree native, Mar-Vell is regarded as the original Captain Marvel, the film is said to center around the life Carol Danvers. Danvers, who was formally known as the superhero, Miss Marvel, assumed the Captain Marvel title in the 2012 comic book series of the same name. Captain Marvel will be the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a female lead role and it will compete with DC’s Wonder Woman. Since Captain Marvel is closely associated with both the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, there is good chance she will be the golden thread that bands the two greatest superhero teams together.
Inhumans – 2018 A heavily under-utilized team in comics, Marvel Studios takes its second biggest risk with the Inhumans. Once an experiment carried out by the Kree empire, the Inhumans are a band of genetically-enhanced Cro-Magnons, designed to defeat Skrull forces. This team of superhumans has to the potential to be Marvel Studios’ own spin off of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men.
Avengers: Infinity War Parts I & II – 2018, 2019 The Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to arrive at its epic climax as the Avengers face off their greatest adversary, Thanos, The Mad Titan. Thanos first appeared in the end-credits scene of The Avengers and later played a larger role in Guardians of the Galaxy, as the father of Gamora and Nebula. Keen and observant fans will have noticed the sacred Infinity Gems: The Tesseract from Captain America: The First Avenger; Loki’s sceptre from The Avengers; the Aether from Thor: The Dark World; and the orb from Guardians of the Galaxy. The gems play an important role as Thanos uses them to construct the Infinity Gauntlet, a talisman that grants the user omnipotence and the power to rule (or destroy) the universe. The film will be divided into two parts and will feature Marvel’s all-star lineup.

Regardless of who comes out on top, in the end, it will be the fans that will benefit the most from the superhero film arms race. The Marvel/DC rivalry has ushered in a new age of film franchises and has raised the standards for superhero blockbusters. It is safe to say that it has never been a better time to be fan of superhero comics.

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