What Marvel Studios did was simply brilliant. There are always critical moments in a generation where people ask, “Where were you when that happened?” For modern comic book fans, it’s safe to say a lot of us have a very vivid memory of Iron Man’s post-credits scene. Witnessing Nick Fury waiting for Stark was enough to make any Marvel fan giddy, but then we heard him say that one magical line: “I’m here to talk to you about The Avenger Initiative.”
I don’t know about you, but this absolutely blew me away. Something like this was totally unheard of. Iron Man was just the start of something so much bigger… and little did we know at the time, it would be well worth the wait (thanks for that, Whedon). We had something to look forward to as Marvel Studios hit us with a slew of movies, all working towards an inevitable team-up. Many people now believe Warner Bros. should duplicate this strategy with their big characters before releasing Justice League.
Despite this being an amazing tactic to build interest in the core characters and create a mountain of anticipation, it’s not what I think Warner Bros. should do. Keep in mind, this is operating under the assumption they'd bring their A game to the film – AKA they focus on the quality of the movie instead of rushing matters because of the amount of cash it can reel in for them.
First and foremost, everyone might know the key basics of Batman and Superman's story, but what about the rest of the roster? Yes, the general audience knows of Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman -- how they look and probably a fair understanding of their abilities -- but I'd be willing to bet a vast majority are clueless about the characters beyond that (real names, origin story, etc.) and therefore there might not be a strong desire to see a film solely about one of them. Now, the argument could be made that the same would apply to Tony Stark and that certainly is a valid point. However, 2008's Iron Man was a massive success because it was a breath of fresh air at the time and positive word-of-mouth helped lure even more viewers in. It was a legitimately hilarious and wildly fun experience that moviegoers of any age could watch. Even my father, a man with little to no interest in the genre, asked me about it after being bombarded with so many positive reviews on various media outlets. At that time, a comic book movie appealing to such a wide audience because of its comedic value and high level of popcorn entertainment wasn't common at all. They then stuck with Marvel Studios (for the most part) because they soon figured out that this amazing beginning was building up to The Avengers. In capable hands, a Justice League movie could offer that degree of humor and entertainment as this varied cast joins forces for the first time.
Additionally, they've already had this experience of solo movies building up to something bigger, so tell me, where's the incentive for them to now dive into a The Flash film? Sure, there's a chance it could be exceptional, but to establish these lesser known characters with their solo films first is likely too big of a gamble for the studio. That's a lot of money they're going to risk in hoping the audience will eat up these characters and grow anxious to see them in a team-up movie. After all, Green Lantern barely made a profit. We could cite numerous reasons for that (in fact, I imagine we could go on for hours about that one), but at the end of the day, the film was indeed sporting a very popular actor and still, it was quite a financial letdown for the studio. While it wasn't a DC movie, Dredd 3D is another example. It was a top-notch film all around, but despite this, it was completely obliterated at the box office. You can blame that on marketing, but ultimately it was indeed a very well reviewed comic book movie that got demolished at the box office.
Why would they risk the same with other less famous characters, such as Diana or Arthur? Having a solo movie for Batman and Superman first is at least understandable. After all, they're household names. Thankfully, we've had a solid creative team put in place for them (fingers crossed Man of Steel lives up to the epic trailer and I really hope this is a fresh start for Batman), but the general audience has experienced a flood of comic book movies (both good and bad), so Warner Bros. trying to pop out a film for Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and potentially Martian Manhunter/Cyborg first doesn't seem like a wise decision on their end. Instead, they need to give the people a reason to invest their interest in these characters, and, if done properly, that's exactly what Justice League will accomplish.
Seeing these heroes work together and interact for the first time could definitely prove to be a solid dose of fun (writer Geoff Johns proved this with his hilarious banter in his New 52 series). And, if handled well, it could also provide the mandatory exposition for each character without feeling overwhelming (assuming it has a decent run time). This experience would give everyone a taste of the characters and provide interest in potential solo films down the road. They'd see Aquaman isn't lame or limited to talking to goldfish. They'd see The Flash can do more than simply run fast. So on and so on. Do a superb job with these characters and not only will people want to see more of them, but I'd like to believe some would even venture into our massive world of comics to learn more about them. Without having that experience first, I see no reason why my non-comic book reading friends would shell out at least $13 to see a movie about the Flash or any of the other JL members (you know, the ones that aren't The Dark Knight or Kal-El).
In a perfect world, Warner Bros. wouldn't worry about profit and focus on crafting an excellent solo film for each character first. But this isn't a perfect world, and right now I just don't see any outstanding reasons why Warner Bros. would want to take that kind of risk. For me, having a Justice League movie come before the onslaught of solo features makes sense... let's just hope they give us a movie we can be proud of.
We all want phenomenal movies, but if we're being realistic about it, do you think they should release a bunch of solo films leading up to Justice League... or should they try to come out swinging with their team movie first?
Gregg Katzman is a freelance writer for Comic Vine and IGN Entertainment. When he's not logged into Comic Vine (which is rare), odds are you can find him over at Twitter.