Do you remember when Marvel movies were a joke? (In fact, do you remember when superhero movies were a joke? George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell as Batman and Robin where the cherry on top of that sundae.) When Daredevil (2003) and Elektra (2005) came out, Marvel was just getting into the movie business. Those movies were not successes, with critics or at the box office. Poor Ben Affleck was scorned as Matthew Murdock. And Elektra, although it starred the gorgeous Jennifer Garner, just didn’t draw audiences.
[one_third][/one_third]But during this time there was also X-Men (2000), starring Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Marvel Studios realized that having a comic book enthusiast, Bryan Singer, direct movies was a smart idea. Sure, there were complaints from the fans, like how Storm was horrible and Halle Berry was horrible. But overall, the movie was engrossing, and very well done, and certainly true to the characters. (We won’t discuss the X-Men: The Last Stand, because it will ruin the point I’m trying to make.)
Then came Spider-Man (2002), Tobey Maguire was cast perfectly as Peter Parker. Spider-Man was directed by Sam Raimi, who had been a huge Spider-Man comic book fan. He understood what was needed to make a good story and stage the action, all while staying true to Marvel’s superhero.
Now Marvel is clearly on top of their game. X-Men: First Class; The Wolverine; Thor; Thor: The Dark World; Captain America; Iron Man 1, 2, and 3; and Avengers have all been enormous successes. You can nitpick details about the movies, or possibly say that the Thor movies are still difficult to relate to, but otherwise the Marvel movies are bringing their comic books to life in accurate and exciting ways.
[one_third][/one_third]With all this movie success, the trickle-down effect has been that children are becoming more interested in Marvel comic book characters. I have watched my own children get excited about Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America just from the seeing movie posters and hearing me talk about the films. The LEGO Marvel Superheroes game has gone even further to invite children into the world of Marvel comic book characters. My children are asking about comic book character origins, the characters’ releationships, about the different worlds in the Marvel universe. Heck, we even watched The Fantastic Four (2005) as a family. Thanks to these movies and videogames, Marvel is raking it in because merchandising opportunities include kids’ Halloween costumes, bedroom decorations, and of course, toys.
[one_third][/one_third]But while kids are discovering Marvel characters as obscure as Rocket Raccoon (Guardians of the Galaxy), DC hasn’t dug deep enough to bring in children. Yes, there are DC LEGO videogames, too, but they weren’t tied into any of the movies. The Dark Knight movies were wonderful, but they were too grown-up for children to watch. Although kids may recognize Christian Bale as Batman, they don’t know much more about Batman and his foes. Man of Steel was such a terrible disappointment, that, again, children weren’t drawn into Superman’s universe. And those are arguably DC’s best-known sueprheroes. The more obscure DC characters are still unknown to our youngest generation.
The tables have certainly turned, and now it is DC that should look to Mavel as to how they should proceed with their overall strategy. The successful movie franchises and a successful video games that are targeted towards the youngest generation are building an audience early that will last a long time.