Marvel has really taken the lead in producing top grossing superhero movies for Disney. Bringing in an average of $110M in gross revenue, just on the opening weekend. Warner Brothers on the other hand, is struggling to find the right formula to produce consistent block busters. Why is Marvel consistently producing great superhero movies? It’ not like DC does not have similar or even more iconic characters, they have Superman and Batman! So why can’t they get it right? I believe this comes down to leadership, vision and execution.
Disney bought Marvel in 2011 for $4 billion, their investment is now paying off, big time! One of the main reasons for their success is originality. They kept the Marvels original comic book creative team intact, which didn’t flee the scene after Disney acquired them. Disney applied the same strategy when they acquired Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion, they kept them independent and didn’t move Pixar under their movie production organization. This team understands the superhero genre, their character profiles, their vulnerabilities, and their powers. This is how they make characters that are lovable and relatable. This team knows how to connect with their audience. Now that Disney has a profit sharing partnership with Sony, Spiderman is back in action, and is now part of the Avengers team, not to mention the lucrative Star Wars franchise which Disney bought for $4 billion. There is no stopping this block buster machine. They have plans to release superhero movies till 2025, in addition to Star Wars saga. This is what we call world domination! Just to put things in perspective, Disney revenue on merchandising alone was $56.6 billion in 2016. Yes, you read it right, think about this number the next time you go your local toy store and see all the Disney merchandise.
Warner Bros are in a corporate mess. After Christopher Nolan's successful Batman trilogy ($1 billion global revenue), somehow, they are finding it hard to make a comeback. In this competitive market, there is room for only one category king, and that’s Marvel Studios. Warner Bros have tried to mimic Marvel, by releasing solo superhero hero movies like Man of Steel, Superman vs Batman, but they have not been big block busters. Their production budget was out of control, averaging up to $200 million. By the time profits trickle down, they would make $600 million net, and that’s not measured as a success in this industry. The only exception was Wonder Woman, which was a surprise hit for the studios, they were not expecting to be one. To add salt to the wounds, their latest venture with Justice League was a big fiasco, bringing in only $98 million at the opening weekend, compared to Thor –Rangarok that brought in $116 million on its opening weekend. This is proof that Warner Bros had no clue how to make it work. I believe Zack Synder (Director for “300” and “Watchmen”) was a bad choice as a director, his vision for ionic characters like Superman and Batman was completely off base. Now, we have news that there is shuffling taking place in upper management and a new head for DC movies is being considered, I think this is a welcome move. With movies like Wonder Woman 2, Aquaman and Flashpoint in the pipeline, they need new leadership and director that can turn the ship around.
For me, the biggest disappointment over the years has been the failed attempt to reboot Superman. They attempted a reboot with “Superman Returns” in 2006, with Kevin Spacey and Brandan Routh, which was a good attempt, but lacked originality and story. Then Zack Snyder’s failed reboot with “Man of Steel” with Henry Cavaill (who has no facial expressions), was even worse than “Superman Returns”. Zack tried to carry over Christopher Nolan’s dark theme from Batman, thinking that this would be attract the same audience, and a will provide a smooth transition to upcoming Batman vs Superman movie. He made the movie dark and boring. The most amazing thing about Superman has been his flying powers. Everyone loved the feeling of flying with Superman, the experience and it’s grace. That's what made him Superman. Man of Steel tried to bring in realism with super-fast flying, where you cant even track where Superman is going, which killed the whole expericence.
We can only hope that one day a talented director can bring back the glory of the original superman. Warner Bros. need to step up their game if they want to be category kings. This will be an uphill battle with Disney always one step ahead. Only another block buster like the Batman trilogy would bring them back on the map. Lets hope our beloved superhero characters like Superman and Batman get better treatment in the future, without Zack Synder on the drivers seat.
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