Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was hardly a flop, raking in $867,855,601 since its March premiere, but the film hasn’t exactly been the roaring success that the company hoped for either. As the second installment of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had to do some serious heavy lifting to catch up with Marvel and unfortunately, not all of DC’s risks paid off. Although most critics lauded the debut of Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck’s interpretation of Batman, not even the Amazonian Princess and the Dark Knight could save us from the cringeworthy performance of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and whatever the hell happened with Doomsday.As a result, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice currently sits pretty on Rotten Tomatoes with a stunning score of 27% — Sure, that’s not ideal, but the rest of the company’s upcoming films will save the day, right?While the hype surrounding this years Suicide Squad remains positive, it seems that all is not well within the DCEU. Rumors of in-house fighting came to a head recently when director Seth Grahame-Smith announced that he was abandoning the movie adaption of ‘The Flash,’ leading many to speculate that the DCEU is in serious trouble. Grab your cape, pull your underwear on over your jeans, and join us as we try and save our beloved DC heroes from the same fate that befell the likes of Catwoman and Jonah Hex on the big screen. Trust us. We owe it to ourselves to ensure that never happens again.
Let’s start with the basics: Don’t make a bad film.
This might sound a tad obvious, but some of the scenes that made it into the final cut of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice should have been laughed out of the writers’ room on day one. Honestly though, who thought it would be a good idea to create Doomsday by mixing Lex Luthor’s blood, the corpse of General Zod and some alien gunk that the government just left lying around? The less said about the big “Martha” revelation at the end of the big fight, the better.Both Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice certainly have their strengths too, don’t get us wrong, but considering the amount of money, time and sheer expectation placed on these films, DC should be doing a better job of things.The likes of Batman and Superman are iconic characters that have been loved and celebrated for decades. Come on guys, they deserve more than this.
On the plus side, Gal Gadot has nailed the role of Wonder Woman in a way no one expected, and Jason Momoa certainly has the potential to end the Aquaman ridicule once and for all — Well, maybe.
Superhero movies, and even blockbusters in general, are butt-numbing affairs these days and the first two installments of the DCEU are no exception. Both Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice clock in at around two and a half hours each, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, Captain America: Civil War shares the same running time, making it the longest Marvel movie yet, but the two films fill this length in very different ways.
While Captain America: Civil War takes a streamlined approach, logically progressing the action-filled plot with regular beats that advance the story, the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are haphazardly thrown together in what sometimes seems to be an almost random order of events. The first half of the film struggles to find its tone, veering between Batman’s story of vengeance, Superman’s newfound status as a religious deity of sorts, and Lex Luthor’s (seriously, what was he actually doing?).Man Of Steel was better in this respect, possessing a more direct story arc with clearer character motivations, but there are still those who question why exactly Jonathan Kent had to die, and it’s hard to deny that the final battle was drawn out for an unnecessarily long time. Hopefully, little things like editing and pacing will be given more priority for the likes of Justice League and The Flash.
DC fans like myself were overjoyed when the company announced plans to extend their cinematic universe beyond Man of Steel, incorporating iconic heroes such as Wonder Woman and Green Lantern into the mix, but it’s hard to deny that the process has seemed somewhat rushed since then, perhaps in an attempt to keep up with Marvel’s vast filmography.
Saying that though, one of the highlights of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the chance to finally see the likes of Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg and Wonder Woman onscreen for the very first time, despite the brevity of each cameo.No one is saying that all four of these heroes need a solo film dedicated solely to their origin — audiences have become tired of this trope — but DC need to ensure that the eventual Justice League team up feels organic with plot development that moves beyond the obvious “Oh no, there’s a bad guy — Let’s team up!”
I am usually the first person to defend Zack Snyder; Watchmen was incredibly underrated, Sucker Punch was aesthetically stunning and Man Of Steel was a vast improvement on Superman Returns, but it’s starting to become clear that he’s not right for the DCEU as a whole, or at least shouldn’t be given this much power.
It’s one thing to ask Snyder to direct a movie or two, but with the confirmation that he’s also set to helm the two-part Justice League movie, there’s a sense that the DCEU could be in risk. After the critical derision of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it no longer seems a smart move to give him the keys to the entire kingdom. If Snyder continues on this path, he may become a bigger threat for our heroes than Darkseid could ever be.
Good job Supes.
Many of DC’s detractors have argued that the company should strive to make their stories lighter in tone, often citing the humor of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as an example of how to achieve this best, but of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with developing more mature comic book movies.
The problem for the DCEU right now is that it’s too busy being serious all the time to actually have any fun. Even the darkest of comic book stories contain moments of humor, bleak or not, but films like Man Of Steel are too dour, too sour-faced for mainstream audiences raised on the original comic book versions of these characters.Funnily enough though, DC actually has a fantastic record of balancing the light and dark within their material, just not within their cinematic output. The executives in charge of the DCEU should look no further than the TV exploits of Arrow and The Flash for inspiration, two extremely popular shows that contain moments of darkness and tragedy while still featuring extremely fun and likable heroes.Yes, even Oliver Queen cracks the odd smile when he’s not cracking a few skulls.
Well, sort of —
Fans of the DCEU are likely to be tired of constant comparisons to Marvel’s fun tone and their universe building approach, but there’s a solution to both problems that can be encapsulated in one single word:
Multiverse.By bringing characters together from both their TV and movie canons, DC could theoretically appease fans across the board, appealing to a wider demographic while breaking new ground cinematically. The company already set precedent for this recently with the Supergirl/Flash crossover that established heroes could traverse between the separate worlds. Such a risk would help differentiate the DCEU from Marvel and could even lead to a movie adaptation of the iconic storyline Crisis On Infinite Earths somewhere later down the line. The main issue with this though is that the company would then run the risk of making things too complex, particularly for audiences unfamiliar with the original source material. It’s like they say though: “You can’t make a cinematic universe without breaking a few inter-dimensional barriers.”
After Marvel established their cinematic universe with the likes of Thor and Iron Man, they began to take gambles with lesser-known characters such as Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy, which ultimately paid off in a huge way.
The DCEU is still relatively new, so it makes sense to focus on the heavy hitters such as Batman and Superman to start with, but further down the line, they could easily do the same. More obscure characters such as Zatanna, Booster Gold and even mature Vertigo properties like Animal Man or the Doom Patrol could be incorporated into the DCEU.Fortunately though, the one upcoming DCEU movie that holds the most potential right now is Suicide Squad, a bold move for the company that looks like it’s set to pay off and could even move towards repairing the damage done to the DCEU’s reputation by Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.If DC continue to take chances like this, then the DCEU still has the potential to become a viable cinematic universe that could rival or even surpass Marvel, while still appealing to the comic book fans who followed the exploits of Batman and Superman since childhood.Don’t mess this up DC. You don’t want to make Affleck sad again
Ben’s clearly full of ideas.