Connecting universes is cool these days, but only insofar as that a billion dollars is cooler than a million dollars. Proof in the pudding? With the release of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the highest grossing franchise of all time domestically, beating both the "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" series.
Marvel Studios only broke the record this week, but studios have been paying attention and trying their best to copy their strategy. 20th Century Fox has hired Simon Kinberg and Mark Millar to expand and connect their universes (X-Men and Fantastic Four), Sony is doing the same with the Spider-Man milieu (see the “Sinister Six” movie which focuses on Spider-Man's most famous villains), Disney will follow suit with their "Star Wars" galaxy and Marvel is even pushing it all to a new level with TV and Netflix.
So what about Warner Bros. and their comparatively untapped D.C. universe? Well, the studio has fallen greatly behind in the connected universe stratagem. Part of this was due to “Green Lantern” being a non-starter (that franchise fizzled before it began) and part of it was because of Christopher Nolan. He wanted Batman to remain singular and we'll bet you all the money in the world the reason "The Dark Knight" filmmaker is no longer part of the “Man of Steel” world (outside of a token exec producer credit) is because WB wanted to go interconnected and his interests lie in places outside of superhero team-up films. This leaves David S. Goyer—who Warner Bros. recently signed for a three year, first look deal—to figure it out and act as a Joss Whedon-like shepherd.
“You have to admire what Marvel's done. It's really hard to create a brand, I mean, where people will follow your brand,” Goyer told IGN recently. "Pixar's done it, and now Marvel has done it. It's really, really hard to do, because there's not a lot of brand loyalty anymore. They've created a cohesive universe, so I really admire what they've done.”
So what of D.C.’s interconnected worlds? “I know that Warner Bros. would love to make their universe more cohesive," Goyer said “There have been a lot of general conversations about that, but it’s really, really early. I’m not sure. Marvel has had enormous success, but I’m not sure that everybody should try to emulate them either. It’s just been vague conversations so far.”
Strange to believe conversations at this point are “vague.” WB seems to be going the alternate route: instead of one superhero film leading up to the big all-star team-up, their next move is “Batman Vs. Superman,” which will also introduce Wonder Woman. One can’t help but think in order not to exactly emulate Marvel they’ll go straight to "Justice League" next and then launch solo films for all their heroes. Perhaps it’s anyone’s guess at this point, but the last we heard, rumor-wise, was a “Flash” movie for 2016 and a “Justice League” movie for 2017. One has to wonder how that CW show is going to hurt or help that plan, but as Goyer reminds, “ ‘Smallville’ was running while Bryan Singer's Superman came out, and no one had a heart attack over that.”
As for his “Sandman” project with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, don’t expect that to be connected to the aforementioned D.C. world. "I'm trying to branch off with ‘Sandman,’ ” he said.
“Batman Vs. Superman” lands in theaters on May 5, 2016, the date that Marvel has controversially slotted “Captain America 3.” Most people expect WB will “chicken out” and move to later in the summer, but that’s just good business sense.