SPECIAL REPORT | 'WandaVision' helped Marvel throw down the gauntlet, and it may just be too heavy for DC

The series has set the benchmark when it comes to creating successful miniseries. So much so that, Marvel would implicitly be sweating over the reception for its upcoming string of shows. Sadly, this makes life just that harder for the folks at DC


                            SPECIAL REPORT | 'WandaVision' helped Marvel throw down the gauntlet, and it may just be too heavy for DC
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision on 'WandaVision' (Marvel Studios)

That 'WandaVision' has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes shouldn't come as a surprise. The Disney+ series is the second piece of Marvel Studios content belonging to the Phase 4 slate, and is tied with 'Thor: Ragnarok' for the fifth most-viewed Marvel title. And mind you, the series still has a good three episodes to go before ratings jump further. Tanking is not on option. 'WandaVision' was never meant to fail and the brains at Burbank ensured that the minute a dead Vision found himself as one of the central characters in the series.

'WandaVision' is a genuinely delightful sitcom in its own right. After months of watching the posters and various trailers it would be easy to assume that 'WandaVision' would simply parody several eras of sitcom television before getting to the more familiar superheroics in the face of fragmenting reality.

The series has set the benchmark when it comes to creating successful miniseries. So much so that Marvel will implicitly be sweating over the reception for the upcoming string of shows — 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier', 'Loki,' and 'Hawkeye'. Not to sound like a broken record but the quirky series with generous doses of suspense, humor and horror might even overshadow Uatu's story-telling in 'What If...?'

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Sadly, this makes life just that much harder for the folks at DC. The short-series in the form of their Arrowverse shows — 'Batwoman', 'The Flash', 'Supergirl', and the ever-adored 'Arrow' along with 'Titans' to name a few were their best bets to vault, or at least be on par, with whatever Marvel had to offer. And now with the imminent delay of some of their shows, no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that screeched production to a jarring halt, it does appear the perennial Marvel vs DC war has seen the former go up 1-0.

This is the year of the miniseries and Marvel still has a bunch of shows set to release later. And right up after 'WandaVision' is the Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan-starrer 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' in March, that overlaps with 'The Flash' Season 7, all but ready to steal Barry Allen's thunder or lightning speed in this case. The DC fandom can pretty much dismiss what has been said as big talk, except, they know it isn't. Stats don't lie and an Observer report says the Elizabeth Olsen-centric show is in the top .2% of shows in the US and around the world.

'WandaVision' is a genuinely delightful sitcom in its own right (Disney+)

 

'WandaVision' was actually 24.5% more in-demand in the US, and has ranked in the top 15 shows in worldwide demand. Deadline reported that the first 24 hours of the double-episode release saw 53 million views online. "That’s in a league with 'Avengers' and 'Fast & Furious' franchises following a Super Bowl drop in a day,” entertainment social media monitor RelishMix told the site.

Compare this to a show like 'Titans' that saw a new breed of dysfunctional superheroes come to light. Parrot Analytics reported the audience demand for 'Titans' is 34.8 times the demand of the average TV series in the US in the last 30 days. Pipping this was 'WandaVision' with 41.1 times the demand.

Throw some more shows in the mix— 'Batwoman' (23.1), 'The Boys' Season 2 (15.3), and even 'Arrow' (19.7). Of course, Stephen Amell's masterclass performance as the Green Archer will still draw 'Arrow' aficionados to check into Netflix for some nostalgia-inducing moments, but for now, none of these seem to be the ones that would beat 'WandaVision' in the demand category.

Impact on the Marvel vs DC battle

Schooled. As simple as that. DC forayed into the world of short series in 2012 and then launched a string of shows, each with the promise of being better than the other. And with all due respect, they were. The pilot season of 'The Flash' was given a healthy 88% by critics according to Rotten Tomatoes, while 'Supergirl' tied for the same a year later when it made its debut with Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El.

However, what they probably never saw coming was Marvel's plan of getting some of its secondary heroes some major screentime in the form of these shorts. With Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man receiving trilogies in addition to playing major and massive roles in the 'Avengers' quadrilogy, these miniseries make perfect sense to round up the character arcs of some lesser-known, but vital characters in Wanda, Vision, Bucky Barnes, Hawkeye, and Loki.

A still from 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' (The CW)

 

And then there's that attention to detail. An average human mind can concentrate for 20 minutes before thoughts and distractions keep flooding in. So far, 'WandaVision' makes no attempts to digress from the actual plot and keeps viewers rapt. Perhaps this was a leaf they picked from the book of 'The Mandalorian' creators Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau, and it seems to be working well for them so far.

Also, it's almost like the world has seen 'WandaVision' as Part 1 with roughly 2.5 hours of content. Part II starts from February 12 and then extend for the next couple of weeks. In all, it beats the logic of having to wait for 23 episodes to get over. Again, there's nothing against the chaps at DC who have made some brilliant strides with some interest-piquing content, but Marvel, for now, is ahead using the miniseries mantra as a platform and build on the success it has achieved.

Can DC ever win?

They can. If they take Marvel's approach. For starters, not skimping on the budget would take them a long way. There aren't hard figures that are available, but 'The Flash' reportedly spends an estimated $3 million per episode. 'WandaVision' with more CGI costs roughly $25 million. Good things don't come cheap and this is a classic example.

To be quite honest, comparing storylines is unfair and never should be. Irrespective of the franchise, the superheroes and baddies from both camps have a loyal comic readership and fanbase for multiple reasons. In this case, it's about how badly DC wants to vault over Marvel.

The audience demand for 'Titans' is 34.8 times the demand of the average TV series in the US (Netflix)

 

None of Marvel's approaches are highly classified secrets. They simply do not do a half-baked job. They had their share of failures and seem to have learnt from it. Big budget, big names, and some very talented personnel in the writing room puts them well over their competitors.

What does this mean for Marvel?

A winning run. Their content pieces are like a championship NFL team that have managed to build a winning squad to make sure the trophy remains in their cabinet for the next couple of years. With some major blockbusters in the offing, the miniseries serve as the perfect fillers while the MCU continues unparalleled dominance. 'WandaVision' has simply combined Marvel's tried-and-tested elements with immense fan service to push DC aside for the forseeable future.

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