Establishing a consistent universe across all of their cinematic properties paid off in a huge way for Marvel Studios when The Avengers skyrocketed to the top of the box office charts, grossing over $200 million in its opening weekend and cementing the superhero genre as a spectacular box office draw. It’s a strategy that Fox and Sony quickly moved to adopt, with Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man relaunching the franchise in preparation for a trilogy and eventual spinoffs, while Fox is currently in the process of rebooting Fantastic Four to cross over into their existing X-Men universe.
Warner Bros., on the other hand, has been a bit slow out of the gate. Plans for a Justice League film were scrapped in favor of a Man of Steel sequel that would also feature Batman as a major character (and a potential adversary), and in recent months Wonder Woman has also been confirmed to appear in the follow-up. Rumors abound that the studio is secretly planning to film a Justice League movie directly on the heels of Batman vs. Superman, but nothing official has been announced.
In the meantime, the home video division of Warner Bros. is working on setting up their own consistent universe, with this week’s Justice League: War serving as the foundation (although an argument can be made that last year’s Flashpoint Paradox actually started the ball rolling, especially with that post-credits teaser). Comic Book Resources spoke to producer Justin Tucker about the new direction for the studio:
“This will definitely be the first salvo in doing new movies that are in continuity with each other. Our next movie’s going to be ‘Son of Batman,’ and that Batman will be the same Batman that you see in ‘Justice League: War.’ Basically, we’ll have two concurrent series of Justice League movies and Batman movies, and they’ll be in continuity with each other. So it’s kind of world-building.”
Tucker says the plan is to release three animated DC films per year, with two films taking place in the overall continuity and the third being a standalone tale. This year’s third film, Batman: Assault on Arkham, will be set in the same world as the Batman: Arkham video game series, with Justice League: War director Jay Oliva helming the feature.
While Justice League: War is based on the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee story arc that kicked off the launch of The New 52 at DC, Oliva says the studio doesn’t plan to limit themselves to other New 52 stories. “We can do original content, we can do New 52 stuff,” Oliva told CBR. “I still want to do Gotham by Gaslight. Red Son would be a great one to do as a one-off.”
In fact, Son of Batman will be based on a 2006 story by Grant Morrison, but will be tweaked to fit into the continuity established by Justice League: War, with Jason O’Mara reprising his role as the voice of Batman. Other voice actors are expected to return to their roles for future projects, as well.
This strategy should serve Warner Bros. well as they continue to release new animated films, allowing the audience to connect more strongly with the characters. It’ll be interesting to see if this same strategy will be employed on the big screen, and whether or not it works as well for Warner Bros. as it has for Marvel.