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With so many changes coming to DC Studios and the DCU, there are plenty of chances for Warner Bros.’s (WB) super-powered franchise to be better than the MCU going forward.
While not wanting to exactly emulate Marvel Studios, WB’s newly renewed DC strategy offers up the opportunity to redefine what the public thinks about the franchise, especially up against their Marvel counterparts.
From more opportunities across multiple mediums to a willingness to explore a diverse set of maturity ratings, here are the five biggest ways the DCU could beat the MCU at their won game.
While Marvel Studios has dominated the big screen (and more recently the small screen as well), this new push from DC Studios will aim to include inter-connected stories from across mediums, including movies, TV, animation, and games. Including all of these verticals right from the start could prove to be fortuitous for WB, as this is something that Marvel simply doesn’t do.
The MCU really only focuses on TV and movies for the time being. They have a number of video games based on Marvel heroes for gamers to dive into, but none directly connect back to what is happening on the big screen and Disney+.
With the DCU taking more of a Star Wars approach, creating this narrative across a number of creative canvases, the studio can find the perfect medium for each and every story they want to tell.
This plan would take all the pieces of WB’s off-the-page superhero adventures that are already there with sprawling interactive digital epics like Gotham Knights, big-budget blockbusters like The Batman, and bite-sized animated adventures like Harley Quinn, and bring them all under one narrative roof.
Something else that could allow this new take on the DCU to flourish is that the studio already has a running start with some of its biggest heroes. When the MCU kicked off, it had to build from the ground level.
The studio had to establish each and every hero/villain before getting to some of the epic ensemble projects the franchise is known for. Plus, they had to do it without some of their biggest names, as the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man were all tied up with other studios holding their rights.
Seeing as the likes of Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Jason Mamoa as Aquaman are already in place, some of the legwork is seemingly done.
The new-look franchise has the luxury of kicking things off with names fans already know like The Flash, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and (potentially) Man of Steel 2. With this, they can get to the good stuff faster, including more team-ups and event titles earlier on.
Another focus DC Studios has heading into the Gunn/Safran era is on the power of the creator. While Marvel allows their filmmakers and showrunners to play with the formula a bit (with some She-Hulk-sized exceptions), this new DC Studios will supposedly let the creatives define what a DCU movie/show/game can be.
The MCU can make small changes to that Marvel recipe from project to project, but DC isn’t going to put up those walls at all. Just look at what WB is doing outside of their cinematic universe, getting unique takes on characters like Batman (The Batman) and Joker (Joker: Folie à Deux).
Why can’t those creative leaps exist in-universe as well? If a director comes in with a killer Bat-Mite-themed musical that fits the overarching story, James Gunn and co very well may green-light it.
Hollywood’s best and brightest are going to get to experiment in this universe more than they ever could at Marvel, giving creative sovereignty that has not been there in the genre up to this point. If the MCU is varying degrees of vanilla, this new DCU is going to be the whole flippin’ ice cream parlor.
This creative freedom DC Studios is going to afford their creatives could mean more R-rated projects from the series. The MCU is only just now starting to integrate more mature content into its offering, but with the new DC universe, that will be there right from the start.
This openness to the oft-chided R-rating is something that DC has actually embraced in the past, with some of the franchise’s best entries getting that vaunted R (i.e. Birds of Prey, Peacemaker, and The Suicide Squad).
Of course, the franchise has, at times, skirted around that R-rating in the past, but this new regime could embrace it. No longer will there be stories of a Black Adam R-rated cut or The Batman narrowly dodging the MPAA, no, this can be a pillar of WB’s business if they so choose.
If the DCU continues to explore that rating scale a little more, it can offer varied content, for a more diverse audience, something Marvel Studios has not been able to do yet.
It has been noted that James Gunn and Peter Safran already have a “10 year plan” for “one great overarching [DCU] story.” This is something that was simply not there from the beginning of the MCU.
At least, for the first little bit of Marvel’s big-screen franchise, they were making things up as they were going along. It worked out and the studio has since learned to craft these expansive roadmaps before giving the go-ahead, but Gunn and Safran are supposedly going into this with an entire Infinity Saga’s worth of story ready to go.
The creative team is still very much picking up the pieces of a universe gone astray, but by developing a bible, and sticking to it, they can pick and choose the elements that worked from the Zack Snyder era (something Gunn has already done) and bring them along if they so choose.
This planning early on could prove to work wonders at DC Studios. Instead of waywardly drifting in the wind with some nascent idea of where they want to go in the future, the DC brass will know exactly what they are working towards
After what has felt like years of pain being a DCU (formerly DCEU) fan, there is finally some hope. Gunn, Safran, and the Warner Bros. brain trust have made it clear that there is no bad blood with Marvel Studios, however, surely they all want to win this super-powered war.
The MCU has sat atop the genre for more than a decade at this point, and it is time that a challenger actually gives them a fight worth fighting. Competition in a marketplace is good and only makes everyone want to do better.
Because of these five points, do not be surprised if audiences look up in another ten years and DC has taken that MCU crown.