Marvel vs. DC and the Amalgam Universe: The Logical Next Evolution in Superhero Cinema
We keep hearing rumor after rumor about this supposed Justice League movie from DC and Warner Bros., but so far nothing tangible has really emerged. I think Jodi's almost definitely right that the studio is probably the source of all these "leaks" purely to keep interest in the as-yet only-imagined production, in an awkward attempt to show everyone (but especially Marvel and all those studios who own Marvel's characters) how they, too, can hang with the big boys and girls. The latest "news" that Christopher Nolan will be overseeing all of WB's superhero movies -- while an excellent idea -- is almost laughable in its desperation. I say almost because that's also the basic plot outline for The Incredibles, and we all know how dangerous cornered children can be.
But there's a point to all this possibly self-imposed rumor mongering, and it's quite simple: Warner Bros. wants to make some damn money and superheroes are the closest thing to a sure thing at the box office right now. But while a JLA movie and the new Dark Knight ought to be relatively easy things to pull off, Warners has so far only proved they're the NBC of movie studios in the business of making blockbusters. There's every chance that Justice League won't premiere in 2015, as scheduled, but will be shelved again or pushed back to infinity (but not beyond, because there's nothing beyond infinity, you stupid toy spaceman). Whether this endeavor is any kind of failure or not, it won't sate the thirst for more money, so it's only a matter of time before both Marvel and Warners decide that rather than competing, they could possibly take over the world by joining forces and making movies together. (Which is the basic plot outline to my alternate reality Star Wars fanfic.)
True to form, the comic book industry has already done exactly this on multiple occasions, but most notably in the 1996 battle royale miniseries Marvel vs. DC that culminated in a week wherein both publishers released mashed-up characters from both fictional universe under a new banner called Amalgam Comics. I was 14 when this happened and it was just about the greatest thing I could ever imagine. Unfortunately, because Warner Bros. and DC are generally so bad at live action movies, it means that most of their roster for the amalgamated characters don't even exist on celluloid. Not to mention the Marvel characters owned by Fox or Sony right now. If getting two competing studios to work together is hard, getting four involved on an untested idea would be Sisyphean. But that doesn't mean the concept is moot, and, in fact, could be done in place of a Justice League film now for a Justice League film several years from now. It's going to take a little creativity and ingenuity -- some definite suspension of disbelief -- but we've come too far as a moviegoing culture not to see Batman square off against Superman or the Hulk bodyslam Superman. On Imax and in 3D.
Can't you just smell the ill-gotten profits, already? (Smell-O-Vision optional.)
Marvel vs. DC
General Zod and Sinestro open a portal from the Negative Zone into the Marvel Movie Universe and then team up with Loki and the Red Skull to open a portal to the DC Film Universe (or, DCFU). Their goal? To turn their greatest enemies against each other, in order to free the villains to conquer both worlds. Simple as that. The first three heroes to cross over from DC into NYC are Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, and Batman, all members of the Justice League, and they immediately encounter Hawkeye, Captain America, and Iron Man from the Avengers. The film would no doubt have some story-based scenes, but it would hinge dramatically on the totes epic battles that ensue. So as not to alienate fans, the outcome of each hangs in the balance when all six fighters mysteriously disappear.
Stephen Amell and Jeremy Renner as Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye
Yes, we're already dipping into the TV barrel for DC characters, but at least Amell's "Arrow" is far more respectable than at least half of the movie adaptations. Renner reprises his role as the fellow archers, getting the amount of screen time not-Jason Bourne and not-Ethan Hunt deserves.
Chris Evans and Cobie Smulders as Captain America vs. Wonder Woman
And, lookit that, we're already dipping into the fan art community for a DC character, created by a dear friend of the site. (Seriously, get on the ball, WB.) Since neither Wonder Woman nor Justice League are cast, much less ensured to appear onscreen, this movie will most likely have to be the character's coming out party. To make matters more confusing Smulders has already been in The Avengers, but she'd make a great Diana Themyscira and there would be no need for a new casting call. As well, Jaimie Alexander is another fan fave who could work, but she's already in Thor, and we'll get to her. Regardless, Chris Evans will continue to knock it out of the damn park as Cap, if not Wonder Woman herself.
Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale as Iron Man vs. Batman
There's every chance that Avengers 2 will be Downey's last outing as Tony Stark, and we've presumably seen the last of Bale as Bruce Wayne. But for the right price, they could probably both be convinced to appear in this with featured roles as the film's biggest and baddest battle. They wouldn't even have to appear in the sequels save for a small cameo at the end of this trilogy. Everybody wins!
DC vs. Marvel
Investigating the missing Avengers, Black Widow, Thor, and Bruce Banner discover the portal to the DCFU and determine that they must cross over to find their suddenly disappeared friends and team members. When they do so, they stumble into a great facsimile of Nolan's Gotham; only to find Catwoman, Green Lantern, and Superman, who have all come to look for their own lost friends, practically waiting for them to arrive. Before either side can figure out that neither is at fault, the Hulk appears as, apparently, a self-defense mechanism, and another major round of fisticuffs sprays out all over the screen. Again, the victors of the showdown are undetermined as they, too, a disappeared before the end. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is none too pleased, nor is Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon.
Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johansson as Catwoman vs. Black Widow
This is probably the most evenly matched pair of fighters we have, save for the two archers above, and should therefore be one of the most exciting. ScarJo returns as Black Widow, because if she can't have her own movie, she may as well be in all the others. And Hathaway uses her newfound golden strength to fuel Catwoman's newfound intensity at her lover gone missing. It's the first billed because it's the first in our hearts.
Ryan Reynolds and Chris Hemsworth as Green Lantern vs. Thor
(Full disclosure: this image was pilfered but the rest are mine, unless otherwise linked). Whereas here, it will just be exciting to watch Hemsworth repeatedly attempt to bash Reynold's CGI head in with the trusty Mjolnir. No doubt Green Lantern could put up a good fight against the Norse god of thunder, he just needs writers that have more original ideas than BIG GREEN FIST and BIG GREEN TOY CAR RACETRACK. But who wouldn't love to watch Thor smashing all those pretty constructs, each time with an eyebrow arching up to suggest, "Really? REALLY?!"
Henry Cavill and Mark Ruffalo as Superman vs. The Hulk
People have disliked Superman movies for decades because he doesn't solve enough problems by punching his way out. Why have all that strength if he's just going to throw an island into outer space? Cavill's Superman may or may not be too emo for his own good (we'll have to wait and see), but when the Hulk is roaring 'til his throat is raw and repeatedly throwing tanker trucks at his face, the Kryptonian won't have time to be pensive about it. He'll have to fight back, and that fight should trump pretty much any action sequence we've ever seen on film. Unfortunately, Ruffalo will only amount to a cameo here, but he'll get a chance to shine in the final chapter...
The Amalgam Universe: The Movie
In the final chapter of this trilogy, Marvel and DC have combined into a single, amalgamated cinematic Universe, but agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Nick Fury (Laurence Fishburne) sense that something is amiss. They soon discover a mysterious energy source, a portal that seems to randomly open into two different parallel universes. Meanwhile, General Loki (Michael Shannon) and his Asgardian army begin an invasion of Earth and infamous super villain Colossus Crimson (Hugo Weaving) leads the entire Red Hulk Corps. on a coup against the royalty of Asgard itself in a coordinated attack to confuse and discombobulate their enemies. S.H.I.E.L.D. must join forces with the League of Avengers to thwart the bad guys and close the chaos portal. Little do they know that doing so will revert everything back to the two appropriate worlds. And we end with a montage of every major character from both movie universes waking up with no memory of the past three movies. Or, do they?
Thor + Wonder Woman = Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) was the Asgardian heir apparent and commander of the all-female warrior class, the Amazons -- after defeating their former leader, her own mother, in one-on-one combat. In her new role, Sif is sent to the Earth Man's World by her royal parents, Odin-El (Russell Crowe) and Queen Friggalyta (Rene Russo), to serve as an envoy and advanced the cause of world (and worlds) peace. She always suspected her half brother Loki chafed at being second in line to the throne.
Green Lantern + Hulk = Goliath Green, Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), was a highly respected Air Force psychiatrist, specializing in the treatment of suffering test pilots, until one day his patient Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) committed suicide and left behind a mysterious green ring. The ring fuses itself to Banner, suddenly finding himself a member of the space cop coalition, The Hulk Corps. Only he can't control his Hulk identity, the Big Green Alien Monster that at first only emerges from the ring when he gets... angry. Johann Sinestro, leader of the space terrorist cell the Red Hulks, is his archenemy.
Captain America + Superman = Super Soldier, Roger Kent (Chris Evans), always wanted to join the Army but could never pass muster and not for lack of courage, but for being too physically weak and sickly. Until one day he was recruited by a burgeoning S.H.I.E.L.D. for a top secret experiment -- injecting a serum derived from Asgardite into his bloodstream -- that turned him into the nation's biggest war asset and first superhero. This is really only a modified version of what they did in the comics.
Hawkeye + Green Arrow = Arrowhawk, Clinton Queen (Jeremy Renner), was a trust fund playboy before he was recruited to join S.H.I.E.L.D. as it's most unlikely assassin, with a cover in more than plain sight, but actual celebrity.
Catwoman + Black Widow = Cat Widow , Selina Romanov (Anne Hathaway), was Russia's most notorious cat burglar before she was swayed by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s offer of a "clean slate," and all the pleather jumpsuits she can ever hope to wear.
Batman + Iron Man = The Iron-Bat, Wayne Stark (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who will be covered head-to-toe so inaccurately arguing that he's too much of a "little boy" won't work this time), was the boy genius son of a brilliant scientist before his parents were killed in a bout of corporate espionage gone too far. He dedicated his life to waging a one-man war on crime and capitalist malfeasance, using his own skills in detecting and technological wizardry to achieve this goal. His enemies will learn to share the terror of his own chiropteraic nightmares, so long as he doesn't lose himself to women and the bottle first. Spoiler Alert: Like all good tales, the Batman stand-in does get over those demons in the bottle and effectively saves the day.
And there you have it, a brand spanking new trilogy where monetary concerns and cool visuals trump everything else, but somehow still ends up being a fun diversion in the dog days of summer three years in a row. Story and character don't have to lose out, of course, but c'mon. Maybe if they're super successful, Fox and Sony will stop making movies just to retain ownership of X-Men and Spider-Man and we'll finally get to see a live action Dark Claw, which is all I've ever really wanted. I don't know if these movies could actually be any good, but they could be movies.
Rob Payne also writes The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He wasn't too surprised to find he was far from the first to think of mashing up Hulk and Green Lantern.