It’s that time again, sports fans! It all comes down to this: Two titans of the game now face their biggest challenge on the grandest stage. One is a highly decorated team that has displayed over a decade of continued dominance, the other a previously downtrodden upstart that suddenly has its sights set on dethroning the kings. Yes, I’m a huge NFL fan, and no, this is not about the Patriots or the Rams. This is all about Marvel vs. DC.
Meanwhile, Kevin Feige has been the Bill Belichick of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, engineering an unprecedented run of success that has earned a combined $17.5 billion at the worldwide box office. Like the Pats, they’ve achieved this with a mix of stars (Chris Evans would love the Tom Brady comparison), uber-talented outcasts (Robert Downey Jr. = Randy Moss) and characters many of us weren’t all that familiar with: My brother and I knew who Black Widow and Black Panther were, while the rest of my family thought Iron Man was based on the Black Sabbath song. Did anyone bother to make a scouting report on Julian Edelman or Wes Welker?
Am I guaranteeing that will happen? To quote Judge Judy: “Ah, na, na-no no!” But for the first time since Batman Begun anew in 2006, DC is starting to build some serious momentum. Let’s refer to that Nolan trilogy as the Rams of the early 2000s—it was indeed the Greatest Show on Turf. It galvanized a fan base, evolved the sport and ended with some questionable calls (use more Marshall Faulk! Ra’s al Ghul had a daughter?). Since then, for every quality move DC has made (Man of Steel, Wonder Woman), there’s been over-calculated missteps that are glaringly obvious swings to compete with the MCU’s shared-universe sensibility (Batman v Superman! Suicide Squad! Justice League!). DC had become a house torn against itself; it lacked vision and a sense of how to adjust to a modern climate (hmmm … sounds an awful lot like Jeff Fisher as a head coach).
The year 2020 could be when we start to see the tide shift, where the upstarts become the favorites and the cracks in the previous regime become notable. Birds of Prey kicks off early that year, followed by Wonder Woman 1984; the next year is Matt Reeves’ untitled Batman film and The Suicide Squad, directed by—wait for it—James Gunn! Nothing in sports makes for a better story line than an athlete seeking revenge on a team that did them wrong. I can’t speak for Gunn’s mindset after his unceremonious firing due to tweets from six years ago (which equals five lifetimes in social-media years), but I don’t think he’ll suffer from a lack of motivation working on this project. DC has also made it clear that they’ll trade universe continuity for intriguing story—this stand-alone The Joker film set for release this October could be just the palate cleanser our superhero team-up taste buds require.
Once upon a time, Christian Bale was DC's Peyton Manning (George Clooney was Ryan Leaf)—can they strike it rich again?
As a movie fan, I’m approaching this battle much like I do any Super Bowl that doesn’t involve my beloved Washington Redskins (look for my article that will compare Dan Snyder to Michael Bay). I want to see a well-played game that features the best in the business firing on all cylinders: spectacular plays, dramatic story lines and a bit of trash talk. Whoever loses, we win! So pile your friends on the couch, grab some brews and make your world-famous onion dip: The Big Game is finally here, and it’s about to get good.