Editorial: Warner Bros. Needs to Follow the Marvel/Disney Formula to Make DC Films Relevant

Stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

By Robert Marrujo:: Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara recently spoke with The Wrap and, in reference to Marvel's cinematic universe and its roaring success, said "we can't do what Disney's done." He went on to say that while Disney's methodology has worked for them, for Warner Bros. to imitate that company's success wouldn't be true to their own ideals. Tsujihara said that Warner Bros. must "continue to create a balanced slate of all types of movies and all genres."

Contrary to what Tsujihara said, for Warner Bros. to make DC's cinematic adventures relevant again, mimicking Disney is exactly what they need to do.

If someone opens a coffee shop, they don't say, "well, Starbucks, that whole coffee thing has really worked for them. But that's just not how we are. We have to stay true to ourselves. So our coffee shop isn't going to sell coffee!" That wouldn't make sense. People show up to a coffee shop to get (wait for it) coffee. Just because Big O is really good at selling tires doesn't mean that in order to compete with them your own tire shop should switch to selling bicycles, instead.

Marvel, meanwhile, makes superhero movies. They're so good, that they've come to define the sub genre of film to the point that anything that doesn't adhere to the basic tenets of the studio's efforts pales in comparison. Film goers anticipate a shared universe, pathos, humor, adventure, and a sense of awe when they watch a Marvel superhero movie. Rather than embrace this and build upon it, Warner Bros. is pretending that to mirror this methodology goes against some nonexistent set of principles it supposedly adheres to. "We're different!" No, you're not: you're obstinate.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Marvel mold is the only way to make a superhero movie. What I'm saying is that like Starbucks and coffee, at this point in time Marvel is the standard bearer for superhero flicks. Marvel has found the formula that resonates with fans. So what in the world is Warner Bros. trying to prove by not giving its viewers the basic standard they've come to expect? Dour heroes, macabre adventures, and no real sense of growth. That's been the DC way since Man of Steel and, frankly, it's a flop.

What's particularly frustrating is that the comic book industry, the place from which Batman, Wonder Woman, and all these other DC characters sprang, is rife with parity. Every month or two weeks, a comic book comes out. Marvel and DC have been going tit for tat this way for decades. They do this because it's a delivery mechanism that fans understand. Imagine a publisher starting up today telling consumers that it's going to release new comics every three months, or every half year. No one would want that. It's a pointless complication. Fans want superhero books and any publisher worth its salt follows the established release formula.

It's what's in those comics, however, that makes them special, makes them stand out from each other. Marvel isn't a lesser company because it puts out full-color comics with an endless running story, interconnected universe, and a bunch of people in tights kicking the living daylights out of each other. Is Batman diminished because every six or seven issues his comics are collected into a trade paperback just like Daredevil? The answer is no, because the publishers are different where it counts: their stories.

Imagine if DC started following the Marvel cinematic formula but then began injecting what makes its stories unique into the movies. Warner Bros. wants to dabble in "different types of movies and genres?" Cool! DC has its Multiverse for that. An enormous, rich tapestry with decades of stories to pull from and offer movie fans something different. Brand these movies as "Earth Two" or "Elseworlds" and go to town. It's not like fans aren't savvy enough to follow along, as Marvel has demonstrated for over a decade now.

If Warner Bros. prefers, however, it can continue to buck convention simply for the sake of doing so, but it's going to receive the same apathy that it has been getting ever since Man of Steel rammed itself down the throats of fans. DC diehards do their best to act like there's nothing wrong, claim they like the way DC's movie are different, etc., but let's be real—if the DC cinematic universe had the same rich, interwoven feeling of history that the Marvel cinematic universe does, they sure wouldn't be complaining.

At this point, Disney is like the god of movie studios, so it's not easy for any company to try to follow in its footsteps. Warner Bros. is no slouch, though, and even if its production can't be as prolific as Marvel's to start, it's not the end of the world. I'd have much rather spent all these years leading up to Justice League with dedicated films for each hero that gradually introduced them along with planting the seeds for a common threat. Instead, we've had a smattering of disjointed gloom fests that randomly coalesced into Justice League and it was a weaker movie, as a result. I actually enjoyed Justice League for the most part, but its flaws were too great to ignore, flaws that grew from the lackluster movies that fed into it.

It's not too late, though. Wonder Woman is the closest DC has ever come in recent years to matching the quality of Marvel's films. Justice League, warts and all, has glimpses of just how awesome it can be to see DC's pantheon of heroes band together. If Warner Bros. really wants to take things seriously, though, it needs to stop this laughable pretense that it's not going to do the same thing Disney is. Superhero movies have expectations: meet them and the fans will respond in kind. Go above and beyond those expectations with things that make your movies distinctly DC? Then maybe Disney is the one peering over yonder and looking forlorn, and not the other way around.

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