Written by John Hussey
I’ll be the first to admit that I really hated the idea of the DC Extended Universe when it was first conceived. I didn’t want to watch Man of Steel simply because (back then) I couldn’t stand Superman because I found him to be an overpowering dull character. Then when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was announced I was ready to slam my head against the wall. I really love Batman, he’s my favourite superhero of all times, but to see him shoehorned into a Man of Steel sequel seemed like the most pathetic excuse to quickly catch-up with Marvel Studios and their successful shared universe.
I mean, it’s a simple fact that after Marvel Studios brought out Avengers Assemble the rest of Hollywood shat their pants because they realised they had a threat on their hands and needed to quickly jump on the bandwagon to create the next best shared universe. Though it hasn’t reached that point yet, Hollywood still tries desperately to conceive a better idea (though the Godzilla and King Kong shared universe looks good) with DC Comics and Warner Bros. Pictures rolling up to tackle Marvel Studios head-on.
It’s a massive shame that DC Comics was so late to the party. I think the sad part is they waited far too long to create their shared universe, and because of this Warner Bros. grew scared and wanted to compete. This was the first major problem. They didn’t plan out their films carefully enough. All they wanted was numbers, failing to grasp the simple fact that Marvel Studios steadily built-up their universe before making riskier moves, such as producing Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, followed by Netflix deals to produce a series for The Defenders.
Man of Steel is without a doubt the best overall film so far within the DC Extended Universe because it works as a film, having a decent narrative, clear character development, and a well structured three act system. After that the films were more bothered about setting things up. It has to of course be noted that Marvel Studios made this mistake first by having Iron Man 2 a massive advertisement for Avengers Assemble, which I completely hated upon my first viewing.
Things were beginning to feel rushed and this affected the overall quality of the films. To give Batman v Superman it’s due credit, it sort of did well with setting up its universe, having a decent battle between Batman and Superman, and granting us with our first big-screen appearance of Wonder Woman. But the motivations for the characters were all wrong and by the end of the film we had Superman dying in order to stop Doomsday. This is a storyline that should’ve happened at the end of Man of Steel 3, not his second outing.
Batman v Superman was definitely at its best when it came to Batman and it really did well at establishing his new grittier appearance, but the problem lied with the convoluted narrative which ultimately created an unrealistic reasoning behind the heroes conflict, making their battle somewhat pointless. Warner Bros. clearly threw all their eggs into one basket and expected things to run smoothly, thus becoming shocked when their massive film didn’t do so well. It says a lot when a film with “Batman v Superman” in the title fails at the Box Office.
Then came Suicide Squad, which realistically should’ve been a bigger success due to its unique concept. It was introducing a shit ton of DC villains never before seen on the big-screen, with Hayley Quinn being the major highlight. What went wrong with this film was director David Ayer getting screwed over and having his version of the film being stripped apart to create a version that Warner Bros. believed to be better. Ultimately they got it wrong (once again) and ended up with another mixed bag.
Granted, Suicide Squad isn’t a massive flop compared to Batman v Superman because many casual viewers loved it. I know loads of people that rave about this film, seeing it as a fun and entertaining experience, whilst seeing these awesome characters come to life in a near perfect manner. But the problem clearly lies in the greater perspective when you have a narrative that is all over the place (even more so than Batman v Superman). It’s clear Ayer wanted it one way, whilst Warner Bros. wanted it another way, making your experience rather confusing as you feel like your witnessing two different identities battling it out for control.
Warner Bros. made the stupid decision of determining the fate of Suicide Squad based on the reaction to a trailer, which isn’t the best way to determine your demographic. I think Suicide Squad needed to be funnier due to Batman v Superman being so deep and gritty, but it also needed to retain its seriousness and be more edgy with its storytelling. Also it was a dumb move to have Enchantress as the villain because it just made so sense, making the presence of Task Force X rather redundant. It would’ve been more satisfying (and sensible) to have The Joker play a greater role and maybe even be the villain, making for a more compelling narrative, especially when it came to Harley’s loyalty.
I’m with a lot of fans at the moment in thinking that Wonder Woman and Justice League will determine the fate of the DC Extended Universe. These films have to succeed in order to regain the loyalty of the fans. The daft part is I wouldn’t say the DC Extended Universe is a total failure because there are elements already established that I enjoy and feel there are signs of promise, but I can’t deny that there’s a real problem with consistency and quality. Apart from Man of Steel there hasn’t been a consistent film. The last two films are riddled with problems both in front and behind the camera, and these problems are making fans feel uneasy.
It’s not too late for Warner Bros. to turn this around and the next two films may, or may not do that, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But where does the franchise go afterwards? Every week I’m hearing nothing but negative reports from behind-the-scenes which makes me worry that the DC Extended Universe might not even have a future. Like I said, the franchise isn’t completely bad, it just has some structural problems which can easily be fixed. I mean we’re only three films in so far. But unfortunately the damage may already have been done.
Warner Bros. are in a state of panic and are trying to rush together these half-baked ideas in order to stay on schedule but the more this happens the more likely they will keep failing. It was said that Ben Affleck would become more hands on with the franchise and help shape the characters, with him going as far as writing, directing and starring in The Batman, but things became shaky after he decided to leave the director’s seat. More and more this franchise has lost directors rather than gain them. At the rate things are going the DC Extended Universe will have to have something drastic done to it in order to turn things around.
This leaves me to consider the numerous possibilities that Warner Bros. have in order to save their franchise. The first one is to simply change the higher-ups. They clearly don’t have a clue what they are doing and continue to make stupid business decisions based on making a profit. That’s not what they should be concentrating on. They should be concentrating on bringing out solid films that respect their source material. I mean compare the Film Division to the Television Division and you’ll quickly notice the different attitudes, which makes me more pissed off that the DC Extended Universe doesn’t share the same enthusiasm and quality as the Arrowverse.
Another solution could be that DC Comics follows in Marvel’s development plan and creates there own film studio. This would help them out big time as they would retain creative control over all their products and be able to control the quality and adaption process, similar to Marvel Studios. At the moment they have little, to no control over film distribution of their characters, similar to Marvel when it comes to the X-Men and Fantastic Four over at 20th Century Fox. I know it wouldn’t be an easy decision to make but I certainly believe that their reputation would quickly rebuild without the constant interference of Warner Bros.
Then there’s the very drastic route of rebooting the franchise. Now this could be incredibly risky considering the DC Extended Universe is only three films in, and would show how weak Warner Bros. are by quickly ejecting their product in share panic over critical reception. Plus, there’s the extreme possibility that simply rebooting the franchise, whether it be a soft reboot or the full shebang, straight away after the failure of the previous films won’t change fans’ opinions.
They would need definitive proof that under new leadership the DC Universe can be transferred onto the big screen with ease, showcasing a clear understanding on how to adapt the source material, successfully build a shared universe, which will ultimately create a proper competitor for Marvel Studios. But with all this in mind it’s still a massive gamble meaning their starting film is going to have a rough sell and will be under a lot of pressure to succeed.
This means that Warner Bros. may need to destroy any ideas of competing with Marvel for the foreseeable future until they have a clear game-plan thought out, to which when it is announced they can safely assure fans that this time round they have learnt from their mistakes and their new film universe will be the perfect opposite to Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other-hand if DC Comics did what I said above and then they rebooted the DC Extended Universe then maybe a time gap wouldn’t be necessary as the faith will already be established.
Fans will be aware that it is DC who are in the creative chair and like Marvel will be able to produce content without outside interferences. It’s the same as Marvel fans being aware of the difference between a Marvel Studios film and a Marvel film that just has their label slapped on the front. There’s a clear difference in quality, and maybe DC Comics can do the same.
Or instead of concentrating on the live-action films, concentrate on the animated films. It’s clear that the DC Universe Animated Original Movies franchise has built-up quite the reputation over the years and has delivered many great films, with some of them even adapting DC Comic’s greatest graphic novels such as Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: Year One. I know that’s kind of biased only naming Batman titles, but you get the point.
Maybe if Warner Bros. gave these films more attention, a larger budget, and better animation then they could be a bigger success and showcase that DC Comics isn’t a joke and can still produce quality products. But then the worry would be that the animated films will begin suffering from the same treatment as the live-action films due to becoming a mass production line for the benefit of Warner Bros. banking accounts.
Then there’s the really harsh approach of simply pulling the plug on the DC Extended Universe and give full control to Warner Bros. Television Division. It’s fair to say that they know what their doing and the Arrowverse has only got better and better after each expansion. Now we have Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and DCs Legends of Tomorrow, along with the online animated series Vixen, with Constantine soon to be joining.
Since 2012 the Arrowverse has delved into the multi-verse theory, time travel, and even had multiple crossover events, with the recent “Invasion” three-parter establishing the television equivalent of the Justice League and the fans love this. With the recent addition of Superman it’s fair to say that the Arrowverse is doing well for itself but unfortunately it’s selfishly being held back by the Film Division who own certain rights to characters, meaning we may never see Batman join the Arrowverse which is completely stupid. End the DC Extended Universe and allow the Arrowverse to truly expand with its universe. Give the fans what they want!
And as a last resort (which is unlikely to happen) hand DC Comics over to Disney. You might think I’m completely mental for even daring to suggest such an idea, but hear me out. I know it would seem rather ludicrous having DC Comics and Marvel under the same banner but considering that Disney also owns Star Wars it’s not a massive leap. Besides, I’m considering the beneficial future for all comic-book fans. Look at how Marvel fans are getting brilliant film after brilliant film. Heck, look at how overwhelmed the Star Wars fans are with all the goodies that get flung at them year in and out.
So maybe instead of having these two opposing factors continue to be enemies have them come to the agreement, “Enough with the petty bullshit competition! We’ll do our thing, and you’ll do your thing. Let us both just concentrate on pleasing the fans and making everyone happy.” With Marvel and DC Comics under Disney’s wing maybe we’ll finally see the end of this pointless war between the two fandoms and everyone can just enjoy each other’s films and complement how good both of them are. Everybody wins!! But what am I kidding, this is a massive pipe-dream and I’m simply talking out of my arse. Sigh!
Anyway, I know this was a random topic but considering all the news at the minute with the slow crumbling of The Batman it seemed idle to have my say on the situation. So do you agree with me about whether or not the DC Extended Universe is a failure? And do you like my suggestions to improve the future of DC Comics? Let me know in the comment section below!