Over the past seven years, ever since the debut of Man of Steel (2013), Warner Bros. has been building a cinematic universe featuring DC characters. To date, this universe includes: Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Wonder Woman (2017), Justice League (2017), Aquaman (2018), Shazam! (2019) and Birds of Prey (2020).
Some of these films have worked. Some have not.
In the case of Justice League, in 2021 the film is getting a reworking/updated edition to fix the film’s many problems. This will arrive in the shape of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, aka The Snyder Cut, and will hope to deliver something more interesting than what landed in 2017.
In addition to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, at the end of this year (COVID-19 restrictions permitting) Wonder Woman ’84 will make its theatrical debut, which will add another entry to the universe. Beyond this film, The Suicide Squad is currently in post-production, and there is talk of a Black Adam film starring Dwayne Johnson, as well as a Flash movie (featuring Michael Keaton), and an Aquaman spin-off.
Does this excite me? Mildly, yes – especially when it comes to Michael Keaton – but not in the way it should.
Seven years on from Man of Steel, if this inter-connected universe ended tomorrow, I can’t say I would be that bothered.
For me, the best DC movie to be released in the last few years was Joker (2019) – the stand-alone, Oscar-winning picture that had nothing to do with any of the movies mentioned above.
Joker was a self-contained movie, which didn’t worry about adhering to a wider universe. It turned up, said what it needed to say, impressed critics and audiences alike, and made big bucks for Warner Bros.
Next year, we will see the arrival of The Batman – yet another standalone film. The Batman will feature Robert Pattinson in the title role, and it will do its own thing, irrespective of Joker or the other aforementioned DC films.
If I’m honest, I’m far more excited about The Batman than I am about seeing the current DC movie universe extended beyond Wonder Woman ’84 and The Suicide Squad. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see Wonder Woman ’84 and The Suicide Squad, but I really don’t care either way about much more beyond this.
I’ve previously talked about what I believe works and what doesn’t work in Warner Bros’. ongoing series of DC movies. During my previous discussion I suggested that it might be time to create a live-action version of the DC Universe Animated Original movie series – a series of unconnected movies based around iconic DC stories. I still believe this to be true.
Give us adaptations of classic comic book tales. Spread the stories over one, two, or (at most) three films, then move on.
Take Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy – three movies which exist independently of any other DC movies. The films – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – entertained audiences, had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and were then put to rest.
Do I long to see more from Nolan’s world? Of course.
But am I glad that it ended after three films, to make it a truly epic comic book movie experience? Absolutely.
Can we not have more of this type of film making? Why does everything have to be a cinematic universe?
I get why Warner Bros. is keen to continue a shared universe – Disney/Marvel Studios have made billions of dollars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it’s clearly a money maker. The problem is, while Warner Bros. is making money from the DC movies, the films are just not hitting the mark.
Warner Bros. has had financial success, this isn’t in dispute, but let’s be clear here, the connected DC movies are just not working the way they should.
Elements work, and there have been some improvements – Shazam! was a highlight in 2019 – but as a whole the decisions that are being made are alienating the fans. Heck, many didn’t even show up to the theatrical release of Birds of Prey, and that film starred the incredibly popular Harley Quinn!
For my money, Warner Bros. should concentrate on standalone films or trilogies, focusing on individual characters with one actor/actress taking on the role for each movie. Make the casting outstanding, then finish the story and move on.
Do this with Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash etc and push for short term success rather than a long game. This might also allow for some lesser known heroes to step into the spotlight, and possibly a few more risks too.
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