I’m going to drop movies this week and instead turn my attention to the war between DC and Marvel. It goes without saying that, despite the powerful punch of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, DC is currently losing the box office battle against Marvel. As much as I love the past decade or so of Marvel movies (with the exception of Fantastic Four) I have always been a DC guy, I guess the comic books just appealed to me a bit more as a kid.
So, DC it seems have expanded their arsenal to try and corner the TV market, following Smallville with the increasingly excellent Arrow and expanding this Autumn with The Flash and another separate universe in the experimental Gotham. Marvel, meanwhile has only given us Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (so far at least – that will all change in the next year or so) and so far, DC seems to be leading the way.
Now Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was highly anticipated, mainly because it brought back the much-loved Agent Coulson and despite starting with a bang, it soon became a very tame, plodding series, with no real development or ongoing thread. Yes, the final half of the series was a big improvement, nicely tying into the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the aftermath dictating the story development. However, the whole thing just felt a bit improvised and pulled out of the hat. I think another reason the show disappointed was it looked like a TV show, with a standard tv budget that really didnt match up with the epic scale of the movies. Now I’m not saying that they should have pumped tens of millions of dollars into each episode, but I think the show would have worked much better by doing its own thing, ditching the 20-something episode season and condensing it into a dozen big episodes. This would allow for the fat to be trimmed in throwaway episodes and to condense it into a tight, compelling story arc, not to mention that budget would have gone much farther that way, allowing more spectacle, better action and bigger scale.
In the end, the whole thing had a very strong Whedon smell about it. Please don’t take that as a bad thing, but the show’s cast, characters, script, direction, everything really, just felt like Buffy, Angel or Firefly. Those shows were amazing – in their time, but that format just doesn’t fly (ahem) anymore. TV is going through a golden age, where quality is sky-high, the writing talent, production values, casting, have never been better, yet Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like it was made 10 years ago but with better special effects (mostly). Let’s hope season 2 is a big improvement, as I am all for second chances as too many shows are not given the chance to develop and find their feet *cough* Firefly *cough*, and many successful shows had some very bad patches early on.
Moving on to DC, it’s scary to think that Smallville ended three years ago, it had powerful beginnings when it first aired shortly after the tragedy of 9/11. At a time when the world looked to its heroes, Warner Bros gave us a new take on Superman. Yes, it was very much aimed at a teen market, trying to capture as many female viewers as male, with high-school romance featured heavily amongst a villain of the week, but as the show grew, it started to whet our appetite with great character development from fantastic actors – Rosenbaum’s Lex and Durance’s Lois are by far my favourite versions of those characters. It also started to widen the universe by including well known villains and heroes with varying degrees of success (I won’t mention Doomsday, its just too painful), along with some silly choices and plenty of lows, but generally it got better year on year, to a point when the anticipation for Season 10 and the love/hate/indifference of the series finale was at a geek high.
Still, it paved the way for Arrow, which was a bit of a sleeper hit to me. Seeing as though Smallville was originally pitched as a young Bruce Wayne show, Arrow initially sounded to me like a mix of the two, Smallville 2.0 with less super powers. How wrong I was. Arrow hit me head on and shocked me as to how damn good it was! Everything was just a big step up from Smallville, with vastly improved production quality, it feels like a mini-movie each week. It’s daring, mature, and has created a universe of its own, and with the first spin-off The Flash coming in a few months, who knows where this could go? Although I don’t think we will ever see Supes or Bats on the show, as it will conflict with the ongoing movie plans leading up to the inevitable Justice League movie, it seems like the powers-that-be aren’t afraid to push the show and be adventurous as to where it can go.
As for Gotham, the jury is still out. I think the show could go either way, but a Batman show without Batman and just focusing on Jim Gordon against pseudo bat-villains? …I just don’t know. Personally, I think all viewers will be interested in is seeing the young Bruce and young villains hurry the hell up and grow into the characters we all know and love. I’m more than happy to be proven wrong, but this is yet another universe seperate to Arrow or the Snyder movies. it’s daring to say the least, but I just don’t know if it’s too much, if people are being saturated with too many versions of Batman too soon. Personally, I would have liked a few more years until Affleck-Bats, but it seems DC are desperate to keep up with Marvel and throw everything at them. Who wins? Stay tuned, saaammme Bat-time, saammmee bat-channel!