Can Marvel Studios Succeed Using the DC Formula?

WandaVision is now out on Disney+, marking the first Marvel Cinematic universe content that we've had in over a year. However, WandaVision is a project that Marvel Studios warned fans would be different than anything they've seen before - and so far it isn't the instant hit with fans that most MCU projects are. Kevin Feige and other Marvel Studios' creators have teased that Phase 4 will offer some of the most diverse content ideas the franchise has put together - an approach that Warner Bros. and DC Films have wholeheartedly embraced with their cinematic multiverse approach.

But after so many years running (and winning with) the same formulaic playbook for years, can Marvel Studios succeed using the DC formula?

First: that's not an antagonistic question to ask. Ironically enough, it's a direct reversal of the question the industry was asking a decade ago. At the time, the MCU had just unveiled its Avengers stars and was rolling out solo films like Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, leading up to the much-anticipated (and ultimately game-changing) Marvel's The Avengers team-up film in 2012.

Over at DC/Warner Bros., Chris Nolan had just taken superhero movies to the heights of billion-dollar box office and major awards considerations, with the release of The Dark Knight. However, Nolan's success also left DC/WB in an obvious bind: what to do about the larger cinematic universe franchise that Marvel was building? Nolan was committed to making his Batman trilogy an isolated story; yet in 2011, Henry Cavill's Superman was announced for Zack Snyder's reboot (Man of Steel), Nolan was announced as part of that film's creative team. That sent fans into rampant speculation that Nolan would be the Kevin Feige of the DC movie universe, and that eventually, Christian Bale's Batman would unite with Cavill's Superman to form a Nolenverse Justice League, which would be very different in tone than Marvel's MCU offerings. When it later became clear that Nolan was done, and Snyder was taking the reigns of the DCEU, the debate moved to whether Snyder would be looking to imitate Marvel's PG-13 action/comedy tone.

For better or worse, the DC "Snyderverse" films went a very different way than the MCU. And yet, the chaos and confusion that's arisen from Snyder's incomplete vision have forced DC/WB to adapt its thinking in how to build a franchise. New leadership at Warner's has resulted in a "Multiverse" content approach to the DC brand, where there will now be any and all sorts of films and TV tie-ins. Films like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Shazam, offer something more Marvel-Esque, while Joker was R-rated awards-bait; the upcoming The Batman will offer a darker blockbuster vision of the Dark Knight than Nolan did, while The Flash movie's alt-reality story will officially establish a DC cinematic multiverse. DC also has streaming series tie-ins of equally wide variety to go with their diverse film content - be it a gritty crime procedural (Gotham P.D.), dark adult comedy (Peacemaker), or sci-fi anthology (Green Lantern).

Can Marvel Studios Succeed Using DC Multiverse Formula

Marvel Studios is clearly veering closer to DC in terms of content strategy: Phase 4 of the MCU will bring diverse film content, in terms of both concepts, genre influences, and casting (Eternals, Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Black Panther II, Thor: Love and Thunder). The Marvel Disney+ series will take even bigger chances giving fans unique genre approaches to Marvel material: WandaVision is doing a riff on the evolution of TV sitcoms (and their social significance); Falcon and the Winter Soldier will get socio-political in between big action/espionage moments; even Loki is doing a fun heist/comedy riff on Marvel's cosmic multiverse madness.

But will it work for Marvel?

The Disney+ Marvel series are especially concerning. Marvel Studios has never had to score big wins in a week-to-week episodic format before, and the franchise has had to lure fans into a high-concept premise since 2008 when Iron Man established the blueprint for Marvel movies, or 2012 when Avengers established what Marvel event films are all about. It's no surprise then that WandaVision's slow-burn ode to classic TV tropes is leaving the fanbase more split than usual.


In our opinion (see: WandaVision official review) Marvel Studios is off to a good start with WandaVision; fans may just need more time to adjust to the idea of getting unexpected or surprising types of content from the MCU. If all goes to Kevin Feige's plan, the massive multiverse-spanning story we'll see in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man 3 will send fans scrambling back to content like WandaVision all over again, to see what that genre weirdness was really all about.

Do you think Marvel can take the same multiverse content approach as DC right now? Or are you hungry for that familiar Marvel flavor? Let us know in the comments.