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The Marvel/DC Comic Book Movie War Intensifies

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Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Warner Bros. studio recently announced that it was delaying the release of the Man of Steel sequel, tentatively known as "Batman vs. Superman," by 10 months. I recently discussed some of the possible reasons for this, including the film's rivalry with the Marvel universe films being released by Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel Studios. The film's new release date schedules it on the same day as an as-yet-undisclosed Marvel release, setting up a game of cinematic chicken to see which studio will blink first.

Though Marvel's cinematic universe remains a dominant force in the summer blockbuster season, Warner's move was a smart one if it wanted to challenge the rival franchise head on. "Batman vs. Superman" will set the stage for an eventual "Justice League" film and will contain three of DC Comics' biggest characters: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The mystery Marvel film won't be an "Avengers" team-up or part of the blockbuster "Iron Man" franchise, so it's possible that Warner actually has Marvel outclassed this time when it comes to the draw of the film. This left some wondering whether Warner might actually win this duel, causing Marvel to change its release date to something a bit safer.

Meeting the challenge
Though victory for Warner Bros. wasn't a sure thing, it seemed as though the strength of the "Batman vs. Superman" lineup might at least give Marvel Studios a moment of pause. Marvel's reaction to the change makes the possibility of the studio shifting its release date suddenly seems a bit more unlikely, however.

With "Batman vs. Superman" delayed until May 6, 2016, Warner moved another film up into the now-vacant July 17, 2015, release date: director Joe Wright's as-yet-untitled "Peter Pan" film. Hugh Jackman recently signed on to the film as Blackbeard the pirate, acting as an antagonist in the film, which serves as a prequel to J.M. Barrie's story (and presumably a corrupting influence on Garrett Hedlund's James Hook.) This seems like a solid choice for a mid-summer release, as it will likely be an effects-heavy fantasy pirate story akin to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.

It didn't take long for Marvel to respond to the release date shuffle, and the studio did so wordlessly. Marvel's Ant-Man, previously scheduled for release on July 31, 2015, was moved up two weeks to release alongside the "Peter Pan" film.

Cold war in the heat of summer
The move to July 17 makes sense for both Ant-Man and the "Peter Pan" film, as that release date puts both films in the middle of a summer filled with potential blockbusters such as the upcoming Terminator: Genesis franchise reboot and 21st Century Fox's (NASDAQ: FOX  ) Fantastic Four (a reboot of the licensed Marvel Comics franchise.) It is possible, of course, that the move by Marvel was simply the studio taking advantage of a better release date... but given Warner's move to place "Batman vs. Superman" against one of Marvel's summer openers, it doesn't seem likely.

Given how crowded the summer of 2015 is, "Peter Pan" and Ant-Man will likely have a fairly limited window to come out on top at the box office. Given how Ant-Man ties in with the larger (and insanely popular) Marvel film universe and is directed by Edgar Wright (who carries with him dedicated fans), the film's move has likely put a serious damper on any shot that the "Pan" film might have had at the no. 1 slot.

This could in turn put more pressure on Warner Bros. when it comes to promoting the film, which is being released in the middle of a blockbuster-filled summer. In addition to the aforementioned "Terminator" and "Fantastic Four" films, the July 17 release date follows the release of Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Despicable Me Minions, Disney's Star Wars Episode VII and Marvel's own Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Who will win?
Both Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios seem unwilling to budge in their standoff, but there's still a lot of time between now and the summer of 2016. If Warner was hoping for an easy victory over Marvel, the shift of Ant-Man to potentially upset the studio's "Peter Pan" release serves as a strong hint that Marvel isn't going to back down.

The summer of 2016 still has a number of empty weeks -- so far, Fox's X-Men: Apocalypse and Disney's Alice in Wonderland 2 are confirmed as slated for May 27 releases). Given the likelihood that Marvel's unannounced project is part of a major franchise like the "Captain America" or "Thor" films, it isn't likely to be as much of a pushover as Warner might hope either. Though anything could happen, I personally would expect Warner to shift "Batman vs. Superman" slightly to a week with less direct competition.

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Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 11:58 AM, hertensteine wrote:

    Star Wars Episode VII would not precede the July 17th date. Star Wars is not coming out until December 18th, 2015. Even though we all know it should come out in May... though I do prefer they take the time to get it right.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 12:00 PM, clerk82 wrote:

    If this is a war, it's a very one sided one with Marvel winning at every turn. The two biggest problems over at DC is that first, they don't have any organization and no one clear guy to run the projects and build the universe like Marvel does in Kevin Feige. Also, they don't have a plan at all. DC is shooting from the hip while Marvel is executing a plan that was laid out with the first Iron Man movie and continues to be executed. If DC wants to actually win a battle in this so called war, they need a plan and they need one fast.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 12:44 PM, greenhornet wrote:

    Where's our daily dose of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. article?

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 2:08 PM, M616 wrote:

    If by war, you mean one side getting steamrolled (DC), then sure. Marvel has so many movies coming out, it has to be organized into Phases. Also, Marvel will release a movie with a space raccoon that shoots laser guns before DC releases its top 3 characters. Lets have DC catch up first before even talks of it winning anything.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 2:41 PM, ElliotTeitelbaum wrote:

    I have just two things to say about DC films.

    Green Lantern and Jonah Hex.

    'nuff said.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 4:18 PM, firstlensman wrote:

    Let's not forget Supergirl, Steel and Catwoman before stating 'nuff said!

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 4:21 PM, firstlensman wrote:

    DC is better off when they make movies of their Imprints: V for Vendetta, The Road To Perdition, A History Of Violence, Constantine, and A League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the last two I really like!).

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 4:24 PM, firstlensman wrote:

    DC should do an Astro City movie. That way there are no hang ups on characters!

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 6:22 PM, tslghtr wrote:

    If Batman/Superman isn't The "Dark Knight Returns", I will not go see this movie !!! As far as it goes with the DC VS Marvel war, Marvel wins hands down. I watched Super Friends and other DC titles growing up, to me these were stories and characters, franchised to younger audiences. I didn't start reading comic books until high school, I read X-men, a book that dealt with racism and other social issues, and Spider Man a loner and a bit of a loser... real, relatable emotions. I never could take DC seriously, Marvel has a plethora of great characters and villains, DC has a hero who has to charge his ring to be a "Super Hero" , and a villain that is basically a friggin' star fish!!!!

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 7:56 PM, jjdjdj wrote:

    IMHO, DC for the most part doesn't translate on Flim as well as Marvel..They do well with the Batman Series but to me Batman/Superman just won't work on screen. Superman is practically a god and Batman is a guy in a suit..

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 8:21 PM, scrumb42 wrote:

    To add to clerk's words, yes, at first, SW7 was by first blush inference slated for a May 2015 release. Since then, it has (reasonably) been changed to December 2015. Are you saying that Disney has changed the SW release date *Again*, or are you just out of the loop?

    As for a DC Marvel comic movie war, there is none. Perhaps the executives of each studio might like to think that is the case, but it's not. All the competitive scheduling and stunt titles / concepts are for naught if they are not actually very good movies / stories, although hordes of obsessive fanboys and brain-dead summer eye-candy consumers who actually think their home theatres aren't (good) enough will come in droves anyway.

    While Marvel (after various middling efforts and false starts) has found their cinematic groove, DC's new movie smacks of three-way desperation. We can't seem to get Supes quite right these days, let's pair him up. We don't want to say we're done with our beloved Dark $$$$ Knight; let's put him in it. For years, we've had no freaking idea what to do with the ever-"tricky" (as they so respectfully call her) WW; let's just slap her in as a third wheel to make an automatic tease and set-up for a future JLA movie!

    "Avengers" benefitted from a slow build-up of movies that at least tried to get many characters right. "S & B" doesn't have that kind of foundation.....

    I don't know -- to me, single heroes are better served by movie series -- teams really need TV series to truly tell their stories. (hint, hint....)

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 8:41 PM, Aona wrote:

    Hopefully they can find a better choice for Batman during the delay. As a girl raised by a comic fan, knowing the likes of Xmen, Superman, & of course dreamy Batman was normal. Its annoying how you will never see an ugly woman play a female superhero. I bet they get someone attractive in a fat suit to play Amanda Waller. Was disappointed that Wolverine was so...tall lol. Just hate to see the Batman role go back to the less attractive Michael Keaton days.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 10:18 PM, Croaxleigh wrote:

    Scrumb42: They haven't changed it again; I made a mistake on that one and forgot about the shift to December.

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2014, at 10:56 AM, M1725 wrote:

    As far as the delay, I figured it was because since Gal Godot is in Fast and Furiouss 7, and the filming was delayed and the schedule of that movie was moved, it interfered with the original scheduling with her role as Wonder Woman. And Warners didn't want to replace her. So the move to 2016. Didn't know the new date coincided with an untitled Marvels film. I'll see both. But if the studios want to maximize their box office take, someone will move.

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2014, at 11:57 AM, Mantronix72 wrote:

    DC Warner keep doing the same old stuff from over and over although better, there is nothing new Batman reboot good grief. DC have yet to do other characters in animation sure they did the short Green Arrow, Captain Marvel, Jonah Hex and the Spectre.

    Failed on Green Lantern, no Teen Titans, Black Lightning, no news of full length animation unless it involves Batman or Superman.

    Marvel/Lionsgate need to do more animation the new Black Widow & Punisher soon to be released since Ironman Technovore, ROM Space Knight X Factor, Black Panther Luke Cage, Daredevil alike.

    Marvel need to sort out their Universal property i.e. The Incredible Hulk sequel, Lionsgate needs to do a sequel to The Punisher 2004, XMEN Origins Storm, Nightcrawler, Angel, Colussus, and New Mutants.

    Both companies need to listen to the fans more, each company need to develop cartoons to coincide with the movie.

    Nick Fury agents of shield needs to be developed, Marvel needs to promote women more as well. Also Lionsgate have to realise its no point, in developing a script if they aren't willing to invest a descent budget in the property.

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John Casteele

John Casteele is a freelance writer, editor, and occasional web cartoonist. He prefers long-term investments, largely in retail, medical, and tech.

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