Some question if the Marvel vs. DC war is really a thing. Todd Phillips, director of this year’s Joker movie, isn’t one of them.
In an interview with Empire Magazine, Phillips discussed the DC film, Warner Bros.’ production strategy, and declared the war is real and they can do better than Marvel with less.
Film writer Johnny Sobczak revealed in a tweet (with a hat tip to Empire) Joker was a Todd Phillips pitch he sold Warner Bros. on. Phillips did so at the after party for the premiere of War Dogs, a film he directed that starred Miles Teller and Jonah Hill. It came out in 2016.
Sobczak added there was a push for a division, DC Black, that would be distinct cinematically from Marvel.
Todd Phillips pitched JOKER to WB executives at the after party of the WAR DOGS premiere.
“He suggested they begin a new division called DC Black, separating itself from the current crop of DC films. It was also a way of differentiating from Marvel.” (Via @empiremagazine) pic.twitter.com/zyWxQXrkMQ
— Johnny Sobczak (@JohnnySobczak) July 10, 2019
“DC Black” exists already as a comic branding. DC Black Label was launched last March and was touted as a place where DC Comics would unleash their “top talent on standalone, often out-of-continuity projects featuring [their] most iconic characters.”
Joker will serve as a proving ground, according to Phillips, an experiment that will lay the foundation for DC films’ future:
“I said ‘Let JOKER be the first, then let’s get f****** great filmmakers to come in.’ Instead of trying to live in the shadow of the beast (MCU), let’s do something they can’t.”
What “they can’t” do (as in Marvel), or won’t, is be grounded and realistic by staying away from the green screen and visual effects. Phillips mused about filming in the Bronx for Joker and prefers the energy that came with it:
“The energy you get from an actor is different on 179th Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx than if we did that with green screen, which, by the way, I don’t even know how to do s*** like that. There’s not one green screen in this movie.”
Increasingly with the employment of green screen, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has generated billions and is a juggernaut with 23 films and counting to its credit. It will be hard to rival them or even catch up.
DC tried with its Extended Universe headed by Zack Snyder and failed. The reset button was hit after Justice League and the new recipe, executives boast, favors small budgets, directors, and character-driven stories — a list that sums up Todd Phillips’ Joker.
Smaller budgets and the promise of a high return has been a calling card for many small studios since the days of Roger Corman. Hellboy and Tom Jane Punisher producer Lionsgate and Superman IV backer Cannon Films each carved a place in Hollywood for themselves based on the approach.
It’s also a tactic used by WB currently with respect to James Wan’s Conjuring-verse highlighted by the Annabelle doll.
As for Marvel v. DC, other directors downplay the idea. James Gunn went to work for them on The Suicide Squad and, looking like he jumped ship initially, stated the feud, or “war,” doesn’t exist.