So Marvel have announced their Phase Three line-up – a mix of sequels, oddities and a selection of new films anybody could have seen coming (was there ever any doubt they were going to hire Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Strange?). It’s interesting to see all the genre fans claim that Marvel have delivered DC a “killer blow” or something similar, as if these were young guns with something to prove and not multi-billion dollar dragons simply puffing out their 401ks. It all translates to the same sense of misplaced smugness the Internet does so well, like when a sports fan claimed “they” won a game, and it’s getting annoying, frankly.
I’m going to sound like a crotchety old man here, but I think it needs to be said: DC might have made some pretty bad decisions recently with their films and, personally speaking, appear to be making a fair few more, but let’s please stop pretending that everything Marvel spits out is gold either. There might be hints of more intricate storytelling beneath the glossy, studio-structured veneer but it all boils down to the same orgy of explosions and punching in the end. To an extent that’s fine, by the way: Marvel has a formula and it’s working for them – great. But don’t try and fool me into thinking it’s anything more than that. Looking at it in terms of musical history, Marvel haven’t “killed” DC any more or less than punk supposedly “wiped out” progressive rock or grunge “ended” hair metal.
(Funnily enough with that last example, most of the old glam metal bands actually came back around the turn of the century at a time when the grunge champions had all but faded away completely. A false equivalency with the Marvel/DC debate, perhaps, but still a lesson in hindsight worth considering.)
Besides, from what I gather DC are actually doing pretty well with their TV ventures: Arrow and Gotham seem to be getting a warm reception, even if the latter appears to be little more than CSI: Batman’s Not in This But Pretend He Might Be Eventually (much like Ripper Street does all it can to distance itself from the legendary killer despite putting him in their title and setting the show in the same area he murdered five women a mere year after he was active). Meanwhile, the only reaction I ever seem to get from anyone about Agents of Shield is bafflement as to why this show continues to exist. Television is slowly becoming the prime visual medium for richer, more complex and worthwhile storytelling (something that doesn’t quite translate to a set of two-hour-plus blockbusters staggered across several years) which makes me wonder if DC shouldn’t focus on this area instead of playing a hopeless game of catch-up with Marvel. Then again, what do I know?
Also, this had better be the last time anyone pumps millions of dollars into a freaking Thor film. The only thing of value I got out of that first one was an excellent RiffTrax.