Now that the San Diego Comic-Con 2022 is over and that our retinas have rested enough after the barrage of trailers and commercials that have bombarded us during the last days, it is time to sit down, take a deep breath and take a look at the bets the two big companies have made in terms of its film and television divisions.
On this occasion, Marvel and DC’s approaches to their panels have been almost antagonistic and invite you to think of two faces within the same industry. But, to what can the modus operandi of La casa de las ideas and the Distinguished Competition be due? Are we near the end of the hegemony of superheroes in the big studios? We are going to scrutinize the available data and try to reach conclusions about it.
Since the closure of the Saga of Infinity last 2019, there have been many of us who have expressed our disenchantment and saturation in the face of a more disjointed MCU than ever at the narrative level and increasingly brimming with new faces in his superhero repertoire. What has been Kevin Feige’s solution at Comic-Con? Give us one of lime and one of sand.
On the one hand, Marvel Studios has been completely successful when it comes to clear doubtslay all his cards on the table and present his brand new Saga of the Multiverse to the gallery, which will culminate with a pair of titles from ‘The Avengers’ with subtitles as suggestive as ‘The Kang Dynasty’ and ‘Secret Wars’. Enough to make the fandom salivate and reconcile -fairly- with curmudgeonly skeptics like a server.
The plan is clear, there is a marked direction to follow and the destination seems most appetizing, but —there is always a but— the road is tremendously short for the amount of productions and hours of content that it will host; something that raises the levels of superheroic empacho again.
In the absence of completing a Phase 6 that, for the moment, only has three pitches, Marvel has announced a whopping nine feature films and six series —one of them, ‘Daredevil: Born Again’, with 18 episodes— spread over a space of only three years. Astronomical figures if we take into account that Phase 3 consisted of only 11 features —and much fewer hours of content— in more or less the same time.
The reason for this aggressive plan of attack is unknown, but it invites us to theorize and point to various options, one of them being the need to make up for lost time and box office during the height of the pandemic; an idea that is reinforced when we take a look at the collection data from Phase 3 and compare it with that of Phase 4.
Of the 11 films released between 2016 and 2019, six exceeded the barrier of 1,000 million dollars —some of them, like ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Endgame’ reaching 2,000 and 2,800 million respectively—. This milestone, for the moment, has only been reached by ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ in a Phase 4 whose collection average —about 777 million— is well below that of its two predecessors —of about 1,191 and 877 million—, and not far from that of Phase 1 —of about 634 million—.
If we exclude the pandemic letter from the equation, these numbers could invite thinking about a fear of Marvel to burst a bubble that will end up bursting sooner or later. A disastrous idea that could have prompted the heads of the study to burn all the possible cartridges before it is too late; which loses relevance when we set our sights on what is potentially the differentiating factor: streaming.
With the drastic change in consumption habits, the sofa at home has gained weight compared to the seat at the cinema, and at Marvel Studios they are very aware of this. The fact that many viewers choose to wait patiently for their theatrical releases to land on Disney+ — with the consequent negative impact on the box office— must be added the need to keep updating the platform catalog to keep the subscriber paying religiously month after month; something that could explain the barrage of productions announced at Comic-Con.
In the antipodes of what has been exposed so far we find DC, whose participation in the San Diego convention was limited to its imminent premieres; these being ‘Black Adam’ and ‘Shazam! The fury of the gods’, whose premieres are scheduled for December 21 and October 21, 2022 respectively.
In the inkwell, inexplicably, projects such as ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ —scheduled for March 17, 2023—, ‘Batgirl’‘Wonder Woman 3′, ‘Blue Beetle’ and of course a ‘The Flash’ which continues to chain delays and whose release date is currently set for June 23, 2023.
The first thing that comes to mind in the face of DC’s silence is named after Ezra Miller, whose Flash was to be the cornerstone of the future Extended Universe after Zack Snyder’s project came to an end on HBO Max with his extraordinary version of ‘The Justice League’. And if I speak in the past tense it is because the scandals that the actor has been chaining —and whose turbidity continues in crescendo— point to a drastic change of plans.
However, in this case there is much less room for speculation than in Marvel Studios. Of the ten feature films released to date in the DCEU, only ‘Aquaman’ managed to surpass the barrier of 1,000 million dollars at the box office; and titles outside the shared narrative such as ‘Joker’ and ‘The Batman’ have obtained the favor of critics and the public with collections of 1,074 million and 770 million respectively, and with very positive reactions in general terms.
Under this panorama, it remains to consider the possibility that Warner and DC Films direct their future to bet on more individual feature films with a strong auteur aspectdistancing itself from the competition’s mega-industrial franchise aura —without, ironically, ceasing to be serious— and dosed sparingly in search of “prestige” and a personal brand.
What will happen to him boom of superheroes for years to come? For now, there is only sit, wait and enjoy what is offered to us as best we can without losing the critical spirit and, above all, with moderation. Because my grandmother used to say that little pleases and much annoys…