Recently, it was announced that Joss Whedon would produce, direct, and write the upcoming Batgirl film. Whedon, of course, is known for cult television series such as Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but he also took part in producing, directing, and writing the first two Avengers movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, due to tragic circumstances, he will also be taking over the upcoming Justice League movie.
There’s no denying that the MCU movies make bank. The films are all insanely popular and the MCU has turned into an incredibly popular saga akin to Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Both Marvel and DC have been putting out movies and television series to varying degrees of success over the past few decades. However, the first Avengers movie was clearly the start of the new era of comic book films.
Whether you like the style or not, The Avengers and subsequent MCU films have set a tone for comic book movies. Each film is sarcastic in a light-hearted way, contains plenty of winks and nudges to the audience (whether this be through Stan Lee cameos or pointing out how silly the whole concept of superheroes is), and each more or less follows a distinct formula: everything is fine (but not really), there is a big fight which brings up a traumatic event from the past, everyone fights about the current conflict (but not really), Stan Lee shows up somewhere, someone sacrifices themselves (sometimes to no consequence), and there is a silly after-credits scene that sets up a following film.
I won’t deny that this is an entertaining formula that works for Marvel. But, my point is that it works for Marvel. While Whedon is one of the best at making super-powered/fantastic films like this, he’s still making the same movie with only marginally different characters. Enjoyment isn’t always sustainable. If two large franchises focused on massive world-building begin to make the same movies, then the genre will die quickly.
While DC’s last few films have been panned as less-than-stellar, the solution is not to become more like Marvel, but rather to refine their own style. Much more than Marvel, DC has depended on the viewer to recognize classic storylines and motifs. It’s not inherently wrong, but it definitely deviates from Marvel’s style of filling in the viewer and creating their own lore.
With the sheer volume of movies coming out of both studios, it will quickly become boring to see the same film repeated with different characters. Marvel has somewhat deviated from this style with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and their television series, but DC cannot afford to let Marvel continue to set the tone for the genre. If DC starts copying Marvel, they will always be a step behind, producing movies that are already generic before they are released.
With the solid reviews for Wonder Woman, perhaps the DCEU has struck this balance already. This and the upcoming Justice League film will let audiences know for sure if DC is going to be a leader in the genre or a follower.