The Next Cinematic Universe: Batman, Comic-Con and Beyond

superman-vs-batman-movie-2016

Comic-Con San Diego is next month, and even though I’m not attending (since I live on the other side of the world…) the inner nerd in me is going mental with excitement. Warner Bros. and DC are expected to make the biggest announcement in superhero cinema history since the reveal of the Avengers film.

Shooting for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is currently underway, and there are rumors abound of a possible clip from what’s been shot that might be shown at the Warner Bros. panel. This would be the first time we see Superman, Ben Affleck’s Batman, and possibly Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman sharing screen space.

The other major rumoured reveal will be a staggering three-film-a-year announcement, stretching from 2016-2018, including the fabled Justice League ensemble film, as DC plays catch-up to Marvel’s spectacularly successful cinematic universe.

For us cinema fans, this is welcome news. It means we’ll get more superhero movies released, and a wider variety of heroes, settings and story lines. For Marvel, it will finally be serious competition, and they will be forced to up their game as we enter Phase 3 of their Cinematic Universe, helmed by Lord of the Nerds Mr Joss Whedon.

DC’s possible cinematic universe will not be the first time that a studio other than Marvel attempts to craft a successful, shared-story arc that binds multiple films, characters and creative talent. Fox has attempted this with the X-Men franchise to a large degree of success, and there’s talk of Sony expanding the Spider-Man world. However, whilst Marvel has split licensing agreements across various studios, only being able to craft their Cinematic Universe with Avengers heroes (and why we won’t see any X-Men or even Spidey show up in a MCU film), DC has the advantage of owning some heavyweight titles – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman – that, if put together thoughtfully in a shared story world could be potentially amazing.

What’s remarkable, if the rumour is true, is the incredibly tight time frame that DC plans to unleash this plethora of films chronicling the adventures of some beloved heroes and villains. They’re not doing a slow-burn build-up to an ensemble film. Batman v Superman, the next outing with our new Henry Cavill Superman, already has the three heavyweights sharing screen space. Dawn of Justice will undoubtedly build to the next possible film, Justice League. This is unlike Marvel’s process with Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America preceding Avengers. I guess Warner Bros. is feeling the heat, and needs to get their “DCCU” up to speed as soon as possible. I just hope they don’t rush things – the last thing we want is for the highly-anticipated Justice League to be a total let down.

It will also be intriguing to see whether they choose to integrate their existing television shows into the new universe. Arrow and Flash will be sharing a common universe next season, and there’s the premiere of Gotham that could provide a back story to the events of the DCCU.

Other rumoured films to round-out this other Cinematic Universe will be a standalone Aquaman film… and the film many have been waiting for for a long time: Wonder Woman. It is said that the Dawn of Justice release date was pushed back to 2016 to allow for script adjustments to accommodate a proper cinematic universe that would see this Wonder Woman film delve deeper into Diana Prince’s backstory and build-up to her famous super-guise. This, along with the Justice League ensemble feature are what I’m looking forward to most in the new DC Cinematic Universe.

We’ll have to wait until San Diego Comic Con next month to truly find out what Warner Brothers and DC Comics have up their sleeves. One thing’s for sure: it will be super.

Advertisement

Let’s Talk About S.H.I.E.L.D.

WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS POST.

shield_post

I wasn’t an ardent fan of Marvel movies. I preferred the dramatic “seriousness” of the Nolan-era DC films and actually enjoyed Man of Steel. Iron Man and Avengers were O.K. when it came to Marvel, but Captain America: The First Avenger remained my favourite Marvel film of the MCU – probably because I liked the setting; that was an interesting era to have a superhero film set in.

When it came to television, again I preferred DC’s Arrow to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Like many, I thought that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lacked the gravitas or substance that would afford it continued watchability. Those “missions a week” setups became tired after the third episode, and the fact that the creators were not drawing from such a wealth of material that is the extended MCU made me lose interest in this series.

That was until I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier. My entire conception of the MCU changed.

I have recently become a big fan of Marvel, and of the direction the MCU is headed in. Marvel has been known as the studio with the massive special-effects laden films with little story, but right now, they are doing things with the art of storytelling that have perhaps never been done before. Things that are innovative and extremely compelling.

I, along with many others, was very wrong in dismissing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a show that wasn’t connecting well with the extended MCU. Because all along, Marvel was playing us, subtly having the entire universe linked, setting up events for a massive reveal in Winter Soldier and the subsequent episode Turn, Turn, Turn from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Dissolving S.H.I.E.L.D. is probably the best thing Marvel could do to ensure their universe moves forward. Now we have some serious disarray that can really disorient our characters, leading to infinite possibilities of where things could go. Proper conflict. We, just like the characters on the show, don’t know who to trust. Having Hydra infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. at its inception means that there are some deep questions about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s actions of the past, and the justification thereof.

Having a tentpole movie introducing the Hydra threat shows the large-scale catastrophe caused, and then the following episode on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings things into perspective on a smaller, more intimate scale – of just how these events have impacted the unassuming operatives of S.H.I.E.L.D. – ordinary humans without superpowers to defend themselves (albeit badass fighting skills). This is truly innovative storytelling, where we get to experience a major event from different angles on different formats so close to each other.

This is what I think many fans expected going in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s this specific move that has made the slow-burn of the first half of Season 1 worth the arduous watch,

The way I see this, S.H.I.E.L.D. is central to everything that is currently happening in the MCU. This entity is the pivot point upon which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the extended MCU have been held precariously, and with Hydra’s re-emergence, that balance has been broken and the two have cascaded into each other – just the thing us viewers have been aching to see for so long now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally the Marvel show I want to watch – it doesn’t just have flash-bang-action, but a genuine storyline that is compelling and that makes it a strong force within the broader arc, actually able to hold its weight with the larger films that surround it.

Agent Ward’s actions in the cliffhanger at the end of Turn, Turn, Turn, and the use of the Hydra logo instead of the S.H.I.E.L.D. one to end-off the episode, leave so many questions that, coupled with the conclusion in Winter Soldier, makes us as the audience actually feel like a character in the MCU.

I can’t wait to see what they’re up to next.

Well played, Marvel. Well played indeed.