It’s no secret that Warner Bros.’ run of DC Extended Universe movies has struggled to connect with audiences over the past five years and while the series as a whole has pulled in a hefty chunk of change – $3.7 billion dollars and counting – let’s be honest, the DCEU isn’t what it should be. And it’s a big shame.
Currently, The Hollywood Reporter is running a story which suggests a big shake-up is on the cards under the watchful eye of Walter Hamada, the President of DC Entertainment-based film production at Warner Bros. In the article, the site quotes one source as saying “(Hamada) walked into a shitshow, and he’s trying to clean it up.”
The article goes on to highlight all the forthcoming projects that may or may not make it to the big screen, including the oft-discussed Joker movies (plural), the Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey movie, a Batman film (that probably won’t include Ben Affleck) and The Flash standalone picture. That last one is now being rumoured to be a Back to the Future-style movie, which edges closer to the lighter side than the dark.
A Back to the Future-style Flash movie sounds pretty fun, right? I genuinely hope so, because as much as I love DC characters, I don’t love the DCEU movies.
I really liked Man of Steel (2013) on my first viewing and still think it’s a great movie after additional viewings. The final act is a bit of a mess, but overall I think the film works pretty well and Henry Cavill is a great Superman.
I don’t like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). On my first viewing I thought it was OK. Not great, but OK. On the second viewing – the extended version no less – I picked up on all the flaws and found it to be tedious at best.
Suicide Squad (2016) was a series of missed opportunities resulting in a film that worked great as a two-minute trailer, but not as a feature-length movie. As for Justice League (2017), well that was too much of a hybrid piece from two directors that it was only ever going to be OK at best…. and that’s what is was.
Wonder Woman is the only film that has really hit the mark when it comes to critical reception, commercial success and a general good feeling amongst audiences. It’s not my favourite of the five DCEU films, that’s Man of Steel, but I can see why Wonder Woman is the most popular with everyone else.
For the record, my only real issue with Wonder Woman is the fact the film suffers towards the end because of a fudged finale. Sure, Man of Steel has a fudged finale too, but the whole CGI showdown with Ares is just too reminiscent of the Batman V Superman bash ’em/crash ’em/monster ending for my liking and it weakens the movie a touch.
Ultimately, while there are elements of the DCEU movies I like, there’s not a great deal I love. I feel like so far, the series has taken characters I enjoy in comics/TV shows etc and has presented them on screen in a way that simply doesn’t work for me and doesn’t work for the characters as a whole.
So, what does work?
For me, Wonder Woman works and Gal Gadot is PERFECT in the role. I look forward to seeing Wonder Woman 1984 and I hope the actress and the character become the driving force for this series.
Henry Cavill’s Superman is also fine with me. I think Cavill inhabits the role very well, especially considering the uneven material he’s been given so far.
Bat-fleck – aka Ben Affleck’s Batman – is also worth keeping, as I think Affleck has done a good job. He’s not my favourite onscreen Batman (not even close), but I think this is largely because the material is holding him back, as it is with Cavill.
As for the rest of the DCEU, I’m not sure the rest of it is worth salvaging. I don’t want to lose all the leg work that’s been put in so far, I really don’t want to lose Gadot or Cavill, but I just don’t know how far this series can go on without some significant changes.
The real problem here seems to be the tone and the writing of these films, which has been off since the very early days. This was addressed with Justice League, but it felt all a little too late.
Maybe a reboot is the only way forward.
Alternative to a reboot
If the forthcoming Flash movie manages to rework the current DCEU timeline, via some time travel shenanigans (as is being predicted), then a soft reboot can and probably will be initiated. This would allow the current films to remain part of the same series, while sweeping changes could be made to rework the characters.
On the comic book page, this type of reboot has previously worked well for DC via all the ‘Crisis‘ comics that are regularly wheeled out to do a bit of housekeeping. These comics reset the universe as a whole, but retain the best bits along the way.
Could this work on screen too?
For me, this is perhaps the best option, but I’m not sure how I feel about it, or if ultimately it will prove successful. What if Warner Bros./DC Entertainment initiate this kind of solution and then Gadot, Cavill and the like simply finish up their contracts and move on? A universe rebooted to retain the best bits… and then those best bits move on.
The other option is for WB/DC to create a live-action version of their successful DC Universe Animated Original series of movies. This universe mixes connected stories with unconnected stories and is basically a multiverse of the DCU allowing various different versions of the same character to co-exist.
If this option was chosen then the five existing movies in the DCEU could remain canon, but future films could simply go off in their own direction. This sort of thing has been hinted at before, in the rumours of the two Joker movies (one set in the DCEU and one not), but will WB/DCE really take this option?
Would general audiences accept various different universes and different continuities? It works for the animated movies, but would it be too far of a stretch to suggest these films are mostly watched by comic book fans rather than general audiences?
The final option would be to just cut ties with the DCEU altogether. Let Wonder Woman 1984 play out, let this year’s Aquaman arrive and then just stop. Say goodbye to the elements that work in order to (hopefully) create something better moving forward.
The big question is, can the DCEU be reworked? And if it can’t then should we just bid it farewell in its current form and just move on?
I wish I knew the answer.
In my mind, the series needs a major change and it needs that change fast. As a comic book fan and a DC fan my interest in the DCEU is waning and it will soon get to the point where I lose interest altogether and move on until something new takes its place.
Of course, movie studios don’t cater purely for me, so if the DCEU continues as it is and others enjoy it, then who am I to ruin it? However, decisions need to be made – the way it currently exists lacks direction and clarity and hopefully that will be something that becomes the main priority moving forward.
But what do you think?
If you had the choice, would you keep the DCEU as it is? Would you scrap the DCEU in its present form and replace it with something different? Or would you keep parts of the DCEU and erase things that don’t work? Thoughts please.