Last December Zack Snyder cast Gal Gadot to play Wonder Woman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. The announcement was met with equal parts joy (Wonder Woman has never been on the big-screen, ever) and trepidation (Wonder Woman’s first appearance on the big-screen will be by the same guy that made Sucker Punch). But it also created another question: will Man of Steel 2 be the vehicle that sets the stage for a full-fledged Wonder Woman film?
Wall Street Journal reports that after Man of Steel 2 (unofficially called Batman v. Superman), the next film in the DC Universe will be Justice League. And Justice League will, yet again, be directed by Zack Snyder.
While unfortunate–I too hoped to see a Wonder Woman film–the news that DC is not moving directly to a dedicated Wonder Woman film is not a complete shock. Man of Steel 2 will also feature Batman and Cyborg, and if DC really wants to compete with Marvel, making a Justice League film early in the franchise will short-cut the path to additional hero titles. The Justice League is a league, after all. Along with a rebooted Batman, a newly introduced Wonder Woman, one can imagine Snyder introducing Green Lantern (rebooted, too remember), Aquaman, Flash, and any number of better-known DC Universe characters who can then spin off into their own films should audiences clamor for them.
The announcement for Justice League highlights how intent DC is to catch-up to Marvel, who far out-paces their rivals in the franchise building world. Marvel built their mega-franchise slowly, on the backs of four individual hero franchises before Joss Whedon’s Marvel’s The Avengers. The expansion continues on TV with ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD*, and Netflix, and at the movies with Phase 2 underway and Phase 3 already in the works.
Another critical difference to note: the six films involved Marvel’s Phase One (Iron Man, Iron Man, 2, Thor, Captain America 1, Hulk, The Avengers) were made by five different directors. That directorial variety allowed Marvel to appeal to wide swath of the fans for superhero movies. If you don’t like Jon Favreau and his seriously modern Iron Man, you might be interested in seeing what the Shakespearian Kenneth Brannagh does with the inter-galactic formality of Thor. And if you don’t like anything about comic books or Marvel, you still might want to see what the Buffy guy did before Much Ado About Nothing.
Not so for DC, however. Man of Steel, Man of Steel 2, and Justice League are all to be directed by Zack Snyder. While I may argue that Zack Snyder is mediocre film-maker (being gracious), he does have his fans. But no matter his level of popularity, if DC wants to create a cinematic universe to rival Marvel, they’d do well to find a varied team of film-makers to tell these stories. That DC is hitching their wagon to Snyder only demonstrates the short-sightedness of their demographic vision. Snyder appeals to a specific slice of film audiences: young men who like their violence incomprehensible, misogynistic, or boring. Man of Steel was a hit, but he has not proven to have much range or box-office bankability.
The past 15 years have proven a wide audience is ready to pay big bucks for superhero films. And, like Marvel, DC Comics is a fertile landscape for stories that come with a massive built-in fan base. Zack Snyder certainly appeals to a significant portion of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that Man of Steel was dreary and unemotional, and worst of all for a superhero film, no fun.
The good news in this announcement, however, is that the first Wonder Woman film remains as of yet outside Snyder’s grasp. Though no plans for a WW film are in the works, it’d be preposterous to think DC isn’t interested in developing one. Said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing, of a WW movie: “With the right script, that could be viable. The world is ready for her.”
*the trend to include the possessive in titles is getting ridiculous, according to the internet’s TheStake.org’s Christopher ZF.