Now we come to Round Two and the WB is not doing nearly as well this time. Warner Bros actually had the early head start in the superhero film genre when it began making the Superman movies with Christopher Reeve in the late 70s-early 80s, and the Batman movies with Michal Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney in the late 80s-early 90s. However, the WB hit a snag when both those franchises fizzled out due to bad sequels (Superman 4: The Quest for Peace and Batman & Robin). They took a pause in their comic adaptions.
This left the door open for another studio to muscle in and become the new king of comic book adaptations. Fox and Sony both tried to fill the gap but it was when Disney bought Marvel and began the ambitious MCU that they became the reigning lords of super hero cinema. The WB has been playing catch-up ever since. Their recent efforts to catch up have not been overly successful.
Why is the formula that helped the WB defeat Disney in years past failing them now? Why are they getting bad reviews? Why did Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice underperform? Why is the ‘dark and edgy’ strategy backfiring on WB? Why can’t Superman and Batman do what Bugs and Daffy did?
Possibly it’s because Bugs Bunny, Tasmanian Devil and the rest of the Looney Tunes weren’t made to be nice. They were created to be “Looney” anarchists who cause hilarious mayhem wherever they go. The same can’t be said for Superman. Although the “Dark and Edgy” style worked in the Christopher Nolan solo Batman films, it misfires badly every time they to pull Superman into shadowy territory. Superman should just not be dark! Bugs Bunny can blow up Elmer Fudd with dynamite and we love him for it. When Superman breaks Zod’s neck, fans just howl in protest. Maybe this is why Suicide Squad is making a good profit…because these characters were meant to be dark.
There’s another aspect of WB’s problem that should be addressed. Some would argue that the WB are in too much of a hurry to catch up to Marvel/Disney’s 10-year run of success, which is why Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was so cluttered and unfocused—they were trying to cram 10 years into one film. Instead of a slow build, they wanted to rocket to victory but they were too ambitious and the tactic failed. Back when they were doing their cartoons, they took 10 years from the time they began “Merry Melodies” until their efforts culminated in the creation of Bugs Bunny, who was their main weapon in defeating Disney. The WB today should have taken this lesson to heart and used some patience. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson now.
So the WB won Round One while Disney is far ahead during Round Two, but it’s not over yet. Suicide Squad is doing well financially (if not critically) and many have high hopes for Wonder Woman. Can the WB once again do what they did all those years ago and topple Disney to become the king of the genre?