Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.
This week’s heresy:
“Any pretence that there is any meaningful contest between Marvel and DC in the film arena has been surely been ended by Guardians of the Galaxy. Cancel all future matches, and crown Stan Lee with the tattered remnants of Batman’s cowl and Superman’s cape — this race is run.
This weekend I’ve been effectively housebound, due to a pan of boiling water unceremoniously being sloshed over my foot. Whilst I could have used the time to do something constructive, I have instead been playing far too much Batman: Arkham Asylum. For the uninitiated, it’s great. Dark, moody, with a comic sense of fun and irreverence. So basically everything we don’t expect from a Batman film made by DC’s current cinema team.
I know I’ve done a lot of attacking DC on this blog (well, they did hand over the reins to Zack Snyder…) but Arkham Asylum reminds me that I can and do like DC. In all other media they excel or match Marvel, but for some reason when it comes to film, they have been comprehensively outclassed for some reason.
And the defining proof of that is the newly-released Guardians of the Galaxy film. Most people hadn’t heard of GotG until recently. It isn’t a franchise with the fame of Iron Man or Captain America, or the mythological omni-significance of Thor. It isn’t even, really, a superhero film. And yet it still made an ungodly $94m in the US alone on its opening weekend.
So Marvel can basically make any film they want at the moment, and it will sell out.
How they’ve done it is simple and impressive; they have consistently made good films. Back when all of this started with Iron Man, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but would not have imagined that they could have kept it up for nine films over six years. Far less, that it could have created an interwoven tapestry of grand storytelling, linking it all together.
Whereas, as I’ve mentioned previously, DC seem to completely lack a plan.
As an example: 29 April 2016 is the projected release date for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Meanwhile, almost a year previously, Marvel are releasing Ant-Man. Ant-Man. A year before DC’s next film. Marvel are just mocking them now.
It is a mark of confidence that Marvel think they can make successes of films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man (and Doctor Strange a few months after B/S). They’ve made a success of their flagship franchises, and now they are opening up some of the more obscure properties to the wider, mainstream, cinema-going public. Which is something DC can only dream of.
These things are cyclical. I have no doubt that the day will come that Marvel’s star will wane, and Batman will stand triumphant. But for now, Marvel are king, so let’s let them enjoy it.