Forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Old news. In fact, forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice v Captain America: Civil War. Soon to be old news. Those films are just the surrogates fighting when the real war is something much larger. We’re talking about universes in collision. This is really the one for the ages, “Marvel v DC.”
It was really the comic books that introduced the world to the concept of the mulitiverse, that wacky idea cooked up by physics experts that we not only live in an infinite universe but our universe is but one in an infinite multiverse. This, of course, is worth its weight in gold at the academic level, spawning all manner of thesis papers, but’s been worth its weight in platinum to the world of superheroes as they fight each other in an endless variation of alliances and grudge matches.
This means that readers and viewers can accept that the Earth we live on is one reality, and there is another reality where Kennedy lived, or the Nazis won the war and on and on. But it also encouraged fans to believe that there was one world where Clark Kent grew up in Kansas and moved to Metropolis before becoming Superman and another where he put on the costume while he was a teenager, and so on. Earth One and Two and Three… to Infinity and Beyond!
In films, we have watched as, first, the Marvel Universe took shape in an intricately plotted unveiling of superheroes, building up to The Avengers. Only recently has the DC Universe begun a similar advance. After preferring films in stand-alone realities where Superman lived in one world and Batman another, the owners of DC at Warner Brothers have begun their own march that will culminate in the Justice League.
Along the way, however, we have seen that there is an almost existential pull to put more superheroes into the same movie. While The Avengers and Justice League are the current destinations of that trend, both Dawn of Justice and Civil War speak to another reality — the idea that single character films aren’t always enough any more for fans who love to see cross-overs between characters in comics and want them on screen.
So we get Batman taking on Superman and Captain America taking on Iron Man. When these beloved characters get a chance to slug it out against each other, we can appreciate that it means a bit more in the stakes and surprise departments. After all, when Batman takes on the Joker and Iron Man takes on Mandarin, it’s a pretty good bet that the heroes will win the battle so they can fight on against other villains in other movies to come.
The contenders here both bring some real heat to the battle for supremacy in the multiverse. Vote for your favorite universe in the poll to your right.
In the DC Universe, the energy has always come from the big two of Superman and Batman, but has included the less-than-stellar Swamp Thing, Catwoman, Steel, Constantine, and The Green Lantern, but holds promise of righting the ship soon with Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam, Cyborg and, not too long from now, Justice League. New versions of Superman and Batman, independent of the group films, must be in the offing but aren’t being publicly discussed just yet.
Where does this all lead? I think the comics provide the answer, in the same way they have given such guidance to the Marvel Universe and DC Universe so far.
For the next few years, we’ll see more crossovers between characters in the individual universes, like we just saw in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. We’ll see a run of films that continue The Avengers brand for Marvel and the Justice League brand for DC.
Both Warner Bros. and Disney will exploit the hell out of their existing characters in a growing web of action and re-action. And while that sounds super-exciting now, even that is going to feel been there/done that some day.
Sometime in the next ten years and maybe sooner, we’ll see a crossover film that pits Batman against Captain America, Superman against Thor, and/or Aquaman against Sub-Mariner. While I wouldn’t bet my house on that, I’d bet yours.
Then, when that hero against hero from the competing universes has become the norm, it’ll be time to step the game up once again.
Personally, I can’t wait to see the Warner Brothers/Disney film of “Justice League v The Avengers.” The only thing I can’t figure out now is who is going to get top billing. Still, with all the universes out there in the multiverse, I’m sure they’ll be able to figure something out.